By and large, dogs are loyal companions and when well-trained present little danger to those whom they come into contact with while out in public. However, each year hundreds of people are bitten or attacked by a dog. For the most part, these Maryland dog bite injuries are the result of irresponsible dog owners who fail to provide their pets with the necessary care or supervision. However, some dogs are naturally more aggressive and may attack passersby without warning.
As a general rule, a dog owner can only be held liable for injuries caused by their animal if they knew or had reason to know that the animal was dangerous. Historically, Maryland applied the “one bite” rule, meaning that an owner was only presumed to know of a dog’s propensity for violence if the dog had bitten (or attempted to bite) someone in the past. However, in 2014 the Maryland legislature changed the state’s dog-bite liability statute.
Currently, Maryland employs a strict liability framework when determining if an owner can be held liable for injuries caused by their dog. This means that a dog bite victim will not need to establish that the owner was negligent in any way or knew of their dog’s propensity for violence. Under Maryland Code § 3-1901(a), evidence that a dog attacked another person creates a “rebuttable presumption that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities.” Thus, under § 3-1901, an owner will be presumed to be liable for the injuries caused by their animals unless the owner can provide evidence that they did not know of the dog’s dangerous propensities.