Every year, we read reports about how pit bull terriers attack people in Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland. Although pit bull owners say these dogs can be docile, statistics reveal the number of attacks committed by this breed far outweighs injuries caused by other dogs. Lawyers are frequently asked if victims can sue if they were bitten by a pit bull in Baltimore.

Dog bite injuries can be serious and even deadly. They carry many potential complications like the danger of infections and secondary health issues. You are more likely to be bitten by a pit bull in Baltimore than you realize. Only a fraction of these cases ever appear on the local news. Our Baltimore dog bite injury lawyers are here to explain the liability of dog owners if you were injured after being bitten by a pit bull in Maryland.

Baltimore Pit Bull Dog Bite Statistics

In 2019, a woman new to the Evergreen Lawn neighborhood of Baltimore reported a random and vicious pit bull attack. A report on CBS News noted the victim required four hours of surgery for serious wounds to her legs. The woman was putting out trash when two pit bulls appeared in an alley and attacked her legs, causing deep tissue damage. The attack was unexpected and unprovoked. It’s fairly common for powerful pit bulls to attack in pairs.

The incident highlights the potential to be bitten by a pit bull in Baltimore or another city. According to research from Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 4.7 million dog bites occur each year in the United States, and 800,000 of those bites result in medical care. This means a dog bites 1 out of every 69 people. Injury rates are highest among children aged 5 to 9.

Why Are Pit Bulls Considered More Dangerous than Other Breeds?

A 13-year study of canine attacks found the number of fatal maulings by pit bulls far outstripped that of any other breed. Pit bulls are powerful dogs. Many breeds were used for fighting in past centuries.  Pit bulls caused the deaths of 284 people over the study period, accounting for 66 percent of fatalities. The figure is even starker given that pit bulls account for just 6.5 percent of the US dog population. The second most dangerous dog breed is the Rottweiler. These dogs caused 45 fatal attacks. German Shepherds attacked and killed 20 people. The study contained some surprising findings. Labrador Retrievers, a breed of dog not associated with aggression,  were linked to nine fatal attacks.

Although smaller dogs are not associated with fatal attacks, some of these breeds frequently bite people, particularly children.

The ASPCA in a policy statement suggests pit bulls are not necessarily more dangerous than other breeds and factors such as the level of socialization by owners are important in the animal’s development. The pit bull terrier is a descendant of the original English bull-baiting dog—an animal that was bred to bite and hold large bulls and even bears.

The baiting of large animals was outlawed in the 19th century. However, dog fighting continued and the big bull-baiting dogs were crossed with more nimble terriers to create the ideal creature for dogfighting.

The ASPCA noted some dogs were selected for fighting and other pit bulls were meant to be family pets. They were “noted for their gentleness, affection and loyalty.”

Pit bull is a loose term. Specific breeds include the American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier and any combination of these dogs.

The merits or otherwise of the pit bull continue to be the issue of debate. However, as Baltimore dog bite lawyers, we are well aware of the terrible injuries put bulls can inflict on people during an attack.

Potential Injuries Caused by a Pit Bull Dog Bite

All dog injuries are potentially serious. However, certain characteristics of the pit bull mean attacks by these dogs may cause more severe injuries and deaths.

Selective breeding gave pit bulls enormous jaw strength. They also have a hold and shake bite style. This can cause extreme damage to victims and the ripping and severing of tissues. Pit bull attacks have been compared to shark bites.

Dog attacks commonly cause hand injuries, arm injuries, and lower leg injuries. Facial injuries can leave permanent scarring. Dog bites can cause puncture wounds and deep tissue damage.

Dog bites can also cause infections. These may be more serious than the bite wound itself. Aside from rabies, the potential for serious infection from a dog bite is very high. Dog bites send bacteria deep into tissue. he majority of dog bites get infected. Common bacteria involved in such infections include Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Pasteurella. Always seek medical treatment immediately after a bite.

Can You Sue the Owner if You Were Bitten by a Pit Bull in Baltimore?

Maryland allows dog bite claims under certain circumstances. The law was strengthened in 2014. Victims of dog bites now have greater rights to sue the owners of dangerous dogs. Although Maryland has better animal bite laws than many other states, they are still complicated. It’s advisable to hire a lawyer to help you through this legal minefield.

In the past, Maryland used the “one-bite rule” for dog bites. This meant a victim could only sue a dog owner if the owner knew the animal had an inclination to be violent. The rule could prevent people who were attacked by a dog not previously known to have violent tendencies from recovering compensation. It was also easy for the owner to claim he or she had no idea the dog would attack.

An exception was made for pit bulls when the Maryland Court of Appeals considered a pit bull attack in the 2012 case of Tracey v. Solesky.  

The judges made an exception to the “one-bite rule” when the dog that carried out an attack was a pit bull or a pit bull cross. The court ruled the owner was liable to pay compensation to a victim as long as they knew their dog was a pit bull or a pit bull cross. The court ruled it was no longer necessary to prove that the owner knew the particular pit bull was dangerous.

The 2012 case removed pit bulls from the “one-bite rule.” However, the former rule and the Tracey case were superseded by a new law in 2014. Maryland imposed limited statutory strict liability on the owners of all domestic dogs.

Evidence that the dog caused a personal injury or a death establishes a presumption that the owner knew or should have known the dog was dangerous. In other words, the one-bite rule is no longer relevant. The presumption can be challenged. Rather than the victim proving that the dog had aggressive tendencies before the attack, the owner must show the dog lacked aggressive tendencies before the attack. This is a difficult thing for a dog owner to do.

Although the change in the law makes it easier for victims of dog bites to sue owners in Baltimore, there are limits.

The law points out the liability of an owner for a death, injury, or another loss is limited by the victim’s behavior. If you stray onto a property, you may be judged to be a trespasser and unable to claim compensation. A victim who goads or provokes a dog may also lose out as well as someone committing a criminal act. You should anticipate a dog owner trying to use an excuse like this and hire a dog bite lawyer to fight untrue claims.

Can You Sue a Landlord for an Attack by a Tenant’s Dog?

In some instances in Baltimore, a landlord has been successfully sued over bites from a tenant’s dog. The owner of an apartment complex, for example, may be liable for an attack by a dangerous dog kept by one of the tenants. If the landlord knew a dog was dangerous and failed to take action, he or she could be liable for an attack as well as the dog’s owner.

Anybody who “harbors” a potentially dangerous domestic animal can be held liable for an attack, even if they do not own the animal. If the landlord is aware of the presence of a dangerous animal, action should be taken.

How Much Money Can You Recover for a Pit Bull Dog Bite in Baltimore, MD?

If you are bitten by a pit bull or another dog in Baltimore, you may be able to make a recovery from the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy. Although our attorneys cannot advise you on how much you will recover, these payouts rose dramatically in recent years. The amount of money you will be entitled to depends on the severity of your injuries and the impact they will have on your future. There are two main types of damages you can claim after a Baltimore dog bite – economic and non-economic. People who are attacked by dogs may face physical injuries and extreme psychological trauma.

Dog bites and other injuries related to animals accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners’ liability claim dollars paid out in 2017, amounting to almost $700 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm, the largest writer of home insurance policies in the United States. The average cost per claim rose a staggering 90 percent from 2003 to 2017.

the number of dog bite claims rose to 18,522 in 2017, compared to 18,122 the previous year. Victims are securing more money for dog bite injuries. The average cost per claim increased by 11.5 percent in just 12 months. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims was $37,051 in 2017, compared with $33,230 in 2016.

Baltimore Dog Bite Injury Lawyer Offering Free Consultations

Few things are as traumatic as a being attacked by a vicious dog. The animal may belong to a family member or a friend, or you may be subject to a random attack by a dog that a careless owner let loose on the streets of Baltimore. Many dog attack victims are children and their injuries are terrible. If a dog attacked you or your child, please contact our experienced Maryland dog bite lawyers as soon as possible at (410) 834-3803.