Being attacked and bitten by a snarling dog can be a frightening experience that often leaves its mark on a victim for years to come, both physically and psychologically. Most dogs are friendly and a pleasure to be around, but a dog that is poorly socialized and not properly trained can pose a threat to the public if left unrestrained. Responsible pet ownership is the key to avoiding bites, and irresponsible owners can often be found liable for damages their dog causes if it bites a person without provocation. An experienced Baltimore personal injury lawyer can help fight for this compensation.
Dog Bite Statistics
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that more than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs in this country every year, 800,000 of whom will seek medical attention, with 386,000 requiring emergency care.
- Half of the dog bite victims are children.
- During the period from 2005 to 2015, 360 people in the United States were killed by dogs.
- More than 64 percent of fatal dog attacks were by pit bulls.
- One-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims result from dog bites or injuries caused by dogs.
- Every year, the insurance industry pays over $1 billion in dog-bite claims
- The average payout on a dog bite injury claim in the United States is $32,072.
Damages You May Potentially Recover in a Dog Bite Claim
As with other personal injury claims, there are three types of damages that you may potentially recover:
- Economic damages, including medical costs, lost earnings, and other expenses directly related to the injury that can be proven with bills, receipts, credit card statements, and employment records.
- Non-economic damages, such as pain, suffering, mental anguish, and other damages affecting your quality of life.
- Punitive damages, which are less common, but can be awarded to you by a jury when the dog owner has exhibited extremely reckless disregard for your life, health, and well-being― for example allowing a game-bred pit bull that has attacked people in the past to roam freely in an area where children play—intended not to compensate the victim but to punish the defendant and deter further occurrences.
Pursuing a Dog Bite Claim in Maryland
Although Maryland does not have a specific dog bite statute, there are different legal theories that can be applied in a dog bite injury case in Baltimore or throughout the state. The doctrine of limited strict liability is often applied to dog bite claims. Under strict liability, it is not necessary to prove negligence, only that the dog was at large and a bite occurred causing damages, unless the dog’s owner can prove that he did not know, or there is no way he should have known, that the dog had the propensity to bite. Under the “one bite” rule, if a dog has ever bitten anyone, its owner can be held strictly liable for any bite that occurs afterward. Pit bulls are always assumed to be dangerous under the law.
Another legal theory that may be applied in a dog bite injury case is negligence. This means that the owner of a dog owes a duty of care to the public and may be held liable for any bite that occurs as a result of the owner’s breach of the duty of care. For example, if the dog’s owner fails to control a dog that may have the propensity to bite or allows it to roam freely in violation of a leash law, this can be +construed as negligence. Various types of evidence may be used to prove negligence, such as statements of witnesses, physical evidence, and even statements made by the dog’s owner.
All this having been said, there are some circumstances under which a dog bite victim will not have a case to recover compensation for damages:
- The victim was trespassing.
- The victim was in the process of committing a crime.
- The victim was deliberately provoking the dog.
If you were bitten by a dog and found to have contributed in even the slightest way to your injury, under Maryland’s doctrine of contributory negligence, you will be precluded from recovering money on a dog bite claim. If the victim was a child under the age of five, however, the defense of contributory negligence does not apply.
Finally, in some cases the owner of a property where a dog bite occurred can be held liable under the doctrine of premises liability. The owner or manager of any property where the public is invited or allowed is responsible for maintaining that property in a safe condition. Failure to do so by either eliminating the danger, protect those lawfully on the property from the danger, or provide warning of the danger may incur liability on the owner’s part if an injury occurs. The key in this situation is “lawfully.” A trespasser may not be compensated. A landlord may, in some cases, be held liable for damages by a tenant’s dog.
Why You Need a Lawyer for Your Maryland Dog Bite Claim
As you can see, there are many variables in the State of Maryland that may affect your right to recover compensation, and your success will often depend largely on the ability of your attorney to structure your arguments and counter defenses the defendant raises in a persuasive manner. For experienced legal counsel when you or a family member has suffered a serious dog bite injury in Baltimore and the surrounding area, a top choice is the law firm of personal injury attorney G. Randolph Rice, who has the extensive knowledge and record of success in pursuing dog bite claims that will give you the best chance of winning the award you deserve.
Get a Free Consultation from our Seasoned Baltimore Dog Bite Injury Attorney
Call Randolph Rice Injury Lawyers today for the skilled legal counsel you need when you or a family member has been bitten by a dog. Your initial consultation is free and without obligation. You have no upfront expenses, and only pay us after we win money for you. Call us in Baltimore or Lutherville today! (410) 694-7291