Dogs are beloved pets. When they bite, it can cause a serious injury. When a dog bites, don’t blame the dog! It is not the dog’s fault. But sometimes it is the owner’s fault. Speaking for all the lawyers at Bruckheim & Patel, we love dogs. Dogs bite people because their instincts sometimes compel them to bite. Their owners and caretakers are responsible for making sure that their dog does not bite an unsuspecting victim.
If you are attacked and bitten by a dog, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. A personal injury complaint against the dog owner for a dog bite is typically handled under the dog owner’s home insurance policy. Dog bites can cause serious and often permanent injuries. These cases can often have high settlement value due to the penetrating and crushing nature of a dog bite injury. It is important to retain a Maryland or DC Dog Bite Attorney to help you recover damages for your injuries.
Maryland Dog Bite Law
Under Maryland law, a dog owner may be liable for injuries caused by the dog under two theories of liability: negligence or strict liability. For a negligence claim, the plaintiff must show that the dog owner knew or had reason to know of the dog’s vicious propensity, or where the owner acted negligently in controlling the dog, such as violating the “leash law” by allowing the dog to roam free off the owner’s property.
Under a strict liability claim, the plaintiff must show that the dog owner knew or should have known of the propensity of the dog to cause the harm that was caused. If the dog has a history of being aggressive or a history of bites, then the plaintiff can easily prove a strict liability claim. Even if the dog has no history of bites, a dog bite victim still can pursue a claim against the dog owner. There is no “one free bite” rule in Maryland.
Maryland dog bite law does list some breeds of dogs that are known to be aggressive. This means that a plaintiff does not have to prove propensity to bite for the particular dog breed. Pit bulls are one example. Pit bulldog bites are strict liability claims.
Insurance companies will defend dog bite claims with one of these defenses:
- The dog had never bitten anyone or been aggressive previously.
- The plaintiff provoked the dog.
- The plaintiff was a trespasser.
- The plaintiff was negligent or assumed the risk of a dog bite.
A Maryland dog bite attorney can evaluate a plaintiff’s claims and any potential defense to help maximize the value of your claim.
DC Dog Bites
Unlike Maryland, DC has no dog bite laws. But there are laws in place that require dog owners to supervise and remain in control of their dogs (DC § 8–1808). This means that even if a dog bite occurs outside of the owner’s presence, the owner can still be held liable. (DC § 8-1812).
Civil lawsuits involving dog bites in D.C. are typically brought under the legal theory of negligence. To show negligence, plaintiffs must successfully prove the following four elements:
- Duty – The dog’s owner owed a legal duty to keep control of their dog.
- Breach – The dog’s owner failed to control the dog with reasonable care.
- Causation – The failure to use reasonable care resulted in the owner’s dog causing injury.
- Damages – The plaintiff was injured and suffered losses.
The types of damages a dog bite victim can pursue compensation for include medical bills, injury-related expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.