Many people love dogs, and many dogs are very affectionate with other people and have pleasant interactions. Unfortunately, some dogs may not be so gregarious or affectionate with people they do not know. Additionally, a dog could become frightened and lash out and bite you. Dog bites can be serious injuries that, if untreated, can lead to severe medical complications. Among one of the most dangerous complications is a bite that becomes infected. An infected wound caused by a dog bite can spread through the body and lead to a much more dire medical situation.
If you were bit by a dog and the bite became infected, you absolutely can sue the dog’s owner. You can still sue for your injuries even if the wound did not become infected. It is very important that you seek medical attention after a dog bite since if it does become infected and you did not seek medical attention, that could be used to hurt your case.
If you got bit by a dog and are considering legal action, call (410) 694-7291 to have our Baltimore dog bite injury lawyers from Rice, Murtha & Psoras examine your case.
Dog Bite Laws: An Overview
In many states, there are dog bite laws that impose what is called “strict liability” on the dog owner. “Strict liability” means that the plaintiff only needs to prove that the injury happened for the defendant to be liable. This is very different from the ordinary burden of proof, where the plaintiff must prove that the defendant caused their injury. In a dog bit context, this means that a dog owner will be liable for injuries caused by their dog, even if they had no idea that their dog was prone to biting people.
Dog Bite Laws in Maryland
Maryland has specific laws regarding lawsuits for dog bites. It is one of the states that has an assumption that the dog owner knew their dog was dangerous if it bites and injures an individual. However, there are some circumstances that will exonerate a dog owner from their dog’s conduct. When our Maryland personal injury lawyers examine your case, we can work to present your case in the best light possible so that you have the best chance of getting the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Rebuttable Presumption of Danger
Maryland dog owners are responsible for their dog’s conduct under Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art., § 3-1901(a). Maryland is a state that has a rebuttable presumption that the owner knew their dog was dangerous if the dog bit and injured someone. A “rebuttable presumption” essentially means that the court will assume something to be true until proven otherwise. In the case of a dog bite, the defendant must offer evidence that the dog was not dangerous to defeat this presumption. This is the opposite of what is usually required in a personal injury case – the plaintiff demonstrating that the defendant caused their injury.
It is also important to note that the breed of the dog is irrelevant to this presumption. Some people may be under the belief that only stereotypically “dangerous” breeds, like rottweilers or pit bulls, are presumed to be dangerous. This is incorrect. All dogs that bite someone are presumed to be dangerous by the court.
However, there are exceptions to the rebuttable presumption that a dog is dangerous. Under Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art., § 3-1901(c), certain circumstances can exonerate a dog’s behavior. If a dog bites you while you are committing a criminal act on the dog owner’s property, committing any other crime against a person, or hurting/provoking the dog, the animal is not presumed to be dangerous because it was reacting to your conduct. For example, a dog that bites someone who breaks into their owner’s house with a crowbar will not be presumed dangerous.
Infected vs. Non-Infected Dog Bites in Maryland
Essentially, there is not much legal difference between a dog bite that is infected and a dog bite that is not, legally speaking. Of course, an infected wound is much more serious and can lead to many more medical complications, but in the court of law, they are handled more or less the same way. What is likely to be influenced the most would be the damages you ask for or are rewarded in court. Damages for an infected dog bite will likely be higher than damages for one that is not infected.
It also does not matter whether the dog owner expected the bite to be infected or not. In law, there is something called the “eggshell skull rule.” Essentially, this means that the defendant is responsible for whatever injuries to the plaintiff they caused, regardless of how serious they expected the injuries to be. The name comes from the idea that if you hit someone on the head and they have an eggshell for a skull, their injuries are going to be severe indeed. So even though you did not know their skull was eggshell, you are responsible for their injuries.
However, what can hurt your case is neglecting to get medical treatment for a dog bit that becomes infected. If you do not get a dog bite treated and it gets worse, it may be seen as irresponsible on your part, and there is a chance it could hurt your case. For example, if a friend’s dog bites you and you do not seek medical help for fear that the dog may be put down, there is a chance opposing counsel will use that fact against you in court.
Speak with Our Maryland Dog Bite Injury Lawyers Today
Rice, Murtha & Psoras’s Aberdeen personal injury lawyers are ready to review your situation for free when you call (410) 694-7291.