Maryland Dog-Bite Law Creates Rebuttable Presumption of an Animal Owner’s Liability

Dogs are man’s best friend, but sometimes these animals can cause serious harm to individuals when they get aggressive, attack, or bite them. While many people do not consider dogs to be a risk, Maryland dog bites are so common that there is a body of law in the state specifically allowing those hurt by someone else’s dog to sue dog owners for negligence. This does not mean that every dog is a danger, but it is important to be aware of your legal rights when dog bites occur.

For an example of a legal case resulting from a dog bite, take a recent state appellate court opinion. According to the court’s written opinion, the dog bite occurred when the plaintiff’s five-year-old son visited his neighbors’ house to play with their daughter. Their neighbors had two dogs, and usually would put them in crates or in the other room when the son came over to play. But one time, the dogs were not put away, and the five-year-old returned home at some point with a bite on his leg from one of them. The next day, the plaintiffs found out that it had been over a year since the dog had been vaccinated for rabies. The child was treated for his injuries, and also had to receive a series of rabies shots.

Maryland Code section 3-1901 covers personal injuries and deaths caused by a dog. Importantly, Maryland creates a system of strict liability. While some jurisdictions are a bit more lenient for dog owners, and may make the plaintiff prove in court that the owner knew that the dog had vicious or dangerous tendencies (and was likely to attack), Maryland imposes a stricter standard. According to state law, in actions against dog owners for personal injury or death caused by a dog, it is enough to show “evidence that the dog caused the personal injury or death.” Presenting this evidence creates “a rebuttable presumption that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities.”

So, in the case above, showing evidence that the dog’s bite was caused by a dog—for example, the child’s own statement, pictures of the wound, and medical examination notes—can create the presumption the owners are liable, and the owners then have the burden to prove otherwise. While this is a plaintiff-friendly standard, the legal pleadings and rules of evidence can make this more complicated than it seems, so many Maryland dog bite victims choose to go through the process with a dedicated personal injury attorney.

Call a Maryland Dog Bite Attorney Today to Discuss Your Case

If you have been injured by someone else’s dog, do not assume that there is nothing you can do to recover. Maryland has an entire body of law dedicated to recovering when you are injured by someone else’s doing—including negligence in handling their dog. Call the Maryland dog bite attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, today for help understanding your legal rights and options moving forward. Our attorneys can help you get the compensation you deserve from the dog owners. Call us today at 800-654-1949.

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