How Strict Liability Applies in Maryland Dog Bite Cases

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.

Under subsection (b), when a dog is “at large,” meaning off leash, the owner of the dog will be strictly liable for any injuries caused as a result. This creates true strict liability, and in this situation the presumption is irrebuttable unless the animal’s owner can establish that the victim was trespassing, teasing, or provoking the animal.

Subsections (c) and (d) provide for non-owner liability and liability based on traditional theories of negligence. These types of claims are less common and are more difficult to prove than strict liability cases brought against an animal’s owners, but may still be successful depending on the surrounding circumstances.

Have You Been Attacked by a Vicious Animal?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured by a vicious dog or other domestic pet, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland dog bite case. At the Maryland personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC we represent injury victims in all types of personal injury claims, including Maryland dog bite cases. To learn more, and to discuss your case with a dedicated and experienced advocate, call 410-654-3600 to schedule your free consultation. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we can assist you in collecting the compensation you deserve.

More Blog Posts:

Court Rejects Government’s Claim of Immunity in Recent Police-Chase Accident, Maryland Accident Law Blog, September 24, 2018.

Maryland Does Not Allow Dram Shop or Social Host Liability, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 1, 2018.


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