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When are dog owners liable for biting a person or animal?

On Behalf of | May 20, 2020 | Dog And Animal Bites |

Dogs can make great pets and many people in Maryland own dogs. Each dog is unique though regardless of their breed or size. Some are very gentle, some are calm, some are very active, some listen well and others do not. Some dogs are also more aggressive towards other people or animals than others as well. The dogs may be great with their owners, but can be mean to other people when they come on their property or they are out in public.

Dogs do bite other people and other dogs or animals from time to time. Dogs of all sizes and breeds can also cause significant injuries when they do attack others. It is important that the victims of the dog bites are compensated for their injuries and in order to do this people need to know when the owner is liable for their dog’s actions.

Running at Large

The law in Maryland states that first there is a presumption that a dog owner knew their dog was dangerous if it causes injuries by biting another person. It then creates strict liability for the owner if the dog was running at large when the attack occurred. Strict liability means that the victim does not need to prove the owner was negligent, the owner is liable for damages no matter what if the dog was running at large.

There are limited defenses to this law though. First is that the owner could potentially rebut the presumption that the dog was dangerous by demonstrating that they had no reason to believe that the dog would harm anyone, which could be difficult. The dog owner may also be able to escape liability if the victim was trespassing or committing a crime on the owner’s property when the victim was bit; was assaulting, robbing or committing another crime against the owner; or if the victim was provoking, teasing, abusing or doing other actions causing the dog to defend itself.

Dangerous Dogs

There are other instances when dog owners may be liable though. Even if the dog was not running at large at the time of the attack, if a dog has previously been deemed a dangerous dog by law. If a dog has been deemed dangerous, the owner is required to keep the dog confined inside the home; in an enclosed kennel if outside, even in their yard; or on a leash and have a muzzle on the dog as well. If the owner does not follow these rules, they could still be liable for an attack even if the dog is not running at large at the time.

While dogs are great pets, they are still animals and have certain instincts. For the most part dogs are safe and do not harm others, but this is not true for every dog. There are many people who are the victims of dog bites in Maryland and suffer significant injuries as a result. These victims could be entitled to compensation from the owner depending on the circumstances. Experienced attorneys understand when owners are liable and may be able to help ensure people receive what they deserve.

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