Nearly 37 percent of homes in the United States have at least one dog. If you add those dogs to the number of dogs in shelters, there are approximately 70 million dogs in the country. While many of those animals provide loving companionship, there are instances where dogs, for various reasons, bite people.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Of those victims, 20 percent require medical attention. Because of how common dog bites are, they account for one-third of all homeowner’s liability insurance claims and cost in excess of $700 million dollars per year.
Dog bites are often sensitive matters. It can be difficult to hold the owner responsible for their dog’s actions if that owner is a friend or family member. At Belsky & Horowitz, our Baltimore dog bite lawyers understand how to handle these cases in a way that eases the process for you, so you can focus on your recovery.
If you’ve been bitten by a dog, you should understand your legal rights. Before we take a look at laws and liability, let’s look at the dangers a dog bite victim faces.
The Dangers of Dog Bites
Dogs bite people for a variety of reasons. Most often, the action is triggered by stress. It’s crucial to remember that it’s not a dog’s breed that determines whether it will bite, but rather the dog’s history and behavior. Children are at the highest risk for dog bites because of their size and tendency to act compulsively towards animals.
Minor dog bites can be painful and are at the risk for infection if not properly cleaned right away. The wound should be washed with soap and water and bandaged properly. If the area becomes persistently painful or hot, medical attention should be sought right away.
Severe dog bites often result in deep wounds that may require stitches or surgery. Some wounds may even result in permanent scarring. Medical attention is often necessary right away. Just like minor bites, severe wounds are susceptible to infection if not properly cared for.
There are a variety of diseases a person can contract from a dog bite. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 18 percent of dog bites become infected with bacteria. There are over 60 different kinds of bacteria living in dogs’ mouths, which can result in the following diseases:
- Capnocytophaga bacteria
If you are bitten by a dog in Baltimore, it’s important to understand the dog bite laws in Maryland, so you know your rights.
Dog Bite Laws in Maryland
Dog owners and dog bite victims should familiarize themselves with the state laws regarding dog bites and liability in Maryland. Overall, dog owners have a responsibility to make sure their dog is not a hazard to other people, animals, or property. Individuals around dogs have the responsibility to not abuse or provoke the animals.
According to Statute 3-1901, dog owners can become strictly liable for any personal injuries an individual sustains after a dog attack, even if they did not know their dog would act out aggressively. Once a dog has bitten someone, that animal is considered potentially dangerous. Dogs who have attacked other dogs while unprovoked also fall under this classification.
If strict liability does not apply, the dog owner may still be responsible for the actions of their dog under the legal theory of negligence.
Determining Liability in Dog Bite Cases
Dog bite liability is also established in Statute 3-1901. The owner of the dog is liable for any injuries, deaths, or personal property damage caused by their dog while their dog is running at large. This means that the dog is not properly contained in a yard.
There are instances; however, when the owner is not liable for their dog’s aggression. If the dog bite victim was attempting to trespass or commit a criminal offense on the property of the owner, commit a criminal offense against any person, or was teasing, tormenting, abusing, or provoking the dog, they cannot hold the owner liable for the dog’s attack.
In order for an injured party to collect damages for a dog bite claim, they must be able to prove the owner of the dog, or the individual who has custody of the dog, acted negligently. In Maryland, the victim must be able to present the following four elements:
- Duty refers to an owner’s responsibility to protect individuals from their dog.
- Breach refers to the owner neglecting their duty.
- Causation refers to the actions that lead up to the dog bite event when the owner breached their duty.
- Damages refer to what the dog bite victim has lost as a result of the attack. Damages typically include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In some dog bite cases, victims can seek compensation for the depreciation of their property value because of the dangerous animal.
Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Claims in Maryland
The statute of limitations for dog bite claims in Maryland is determined by Maryland’s personal injury law. You have three years to file your lawsuit after being attacked. The time officially starts on the day you sustain the bite.
If you fail to take action and miss the deadline, it’s likely you will be prohibited from filing a lawsuit. This also means you will render yourself ineligible for compensation.
Seeking Legal Representation from a Baltimore Dog Bite Lawyer
Often times, that compensation you receive after a dog bite will be covered by homeowner’s policies or renter’s insurance policies. It can be difficult to negotiate and settle with insurance companies because insurance policies can be incredibly broad when it comes to dog bite cases. If you reach this point, you may benefit from seeking our legal advice.
If you’ve been injured as result of a dog attack, our Maryland dog attack lawyers are prepared to represent you. We will help you understand your legal rights, so you can seek the compensation you deserve to cover the financial burdens you’re experiencing as a result of the attack. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.