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I Was Bitten by a Dog – Do I Have a Claim?

| Category: Dog Bites | June 14, 2024

Dog bite cases are often the source of ridicule, but the reality is that a dog attack can result in serious injury, and in some cases, death. Earlier this month, a woman was killed by stray dogs in Baltimore. A 58-year-old man was attacked by pit bulls in May. A 5-year-old girl was attacked by two German shepherds in April. These cases highlight just how dangerous dogs can be and the severity of the injuries the victims may suffer. If you or someone you love has been injured in a dog attack, a personal injury lawyer can help you hold the dog’s owner accountable. 

Maryland Dog Bite Laws Are Complex

Maryland law is somewhat complex when it comes to holding dog owners liable. Depending on the circumstances of your case, one of two standards could apply: 

  • A negligence standard; or
  • A strict liability standard

The Negligence Standard

As with any other injury claim, a dog owner can be held liable if they fail to take due care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to others. When it comes to dog bite claims, however, there is an important distinction: there is a rebuttable presumption that the owner knew or should have known that the dog was potentially dangerous or vicious if the dog caused injury or death to another person. 

A rebuttable presumption means that the owner must prove that they had valid reasons to believe that their dog was not dangerous. In other words, the burden of proof for liability is shifted to the dog owner. 

The Strict Liability Standard 

A strict liability standard is one where you only have to prove that the other person caused you harm. You do not need to prove negligence or intent. In the context of a dog bite claim, the strict liability standard is applied when a dog is “running at large.”

For example, if you were bitten by an unleashed dog while at the park, the strict liability standard may apply. As a result, the fact that you were injured would, by itself, be enough to hold the dog’s owner accountable. 

That said, there are exceptions to the strict liability rule: 

  • You were attempting to commit a criminal offense against the owner; 
  • You were attempting to commit a criminal offense against another person; or
  • You were tormenting, teasing, abusing, or otherwise provoking the dog. 

Of these three exceptions, the third is the one that is most often raised by dog owners and their insurance companies. They will try to argue that the victim was provoking the dog by acting in an aggressive or threatening manner toward the dog. A skilled personal injury lawyer will be able to overcome whatever defenses the dog owner raises. 

The Circumstances of Your Case Are Important

The circumstances surrounding the incident can have a significant impact on how your case proceeds. For example: 

  • If you were attacked by the dog while on the owner’s property or when the dog was on a leash, the negligence standard will probably apply. This means that the dog’s owner will have to prove that they had good reason to believe their dog wasn’t dangerous and they should therefore not be held liable. 
  • The strict liability standard will likely apply if the dog was running loose and was not on the owner’s property. This case will likely be easier to prove. 

Mastering the facts will be vital to the success of your claim. For this reason, we recommend that you contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. 

You May Be Entitled to Compensation

If you are injured by someone else’s dog, you may be entitled to compensation for the following: 

  • Your medical bills, particularly any medical expenses that are not covered by insurance such as copays and deductibles. 
  • Your lost income if you are unable to work while recovering from your injuries. 
  • Your pain and suffering. 

Keep in mind that you may be entitled to compensation for emotional or psychological trauma in addition to your physical injuries. Many dog attack victims experience PTSD and severe anxiety that may require treatment or counseling. A personal injury lawyer can ensure that you receive all of the compensation you deserve. 

Contact The Law Offices of Thomas E. Pyles if You Have Been Injured in a Dog Attack

We love dogs, but we also believe that dog owners should be held accountable when their dogs cause serious harm. If you have been injured by someone else’s dog, contact us today at 301-705-5006 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.