Speaking for all of the lawyers at this firm, we love dogs. Dogs bite people because their instincts sometimes compel them to bite. It is not the dog's fault. But their owners and caretakers are responsible for making sure that a dog with does not bite an unsuspecting victim. Compensation should be provided to victims when dog owners do not meet that obligation.
According to the CDC, nearly 5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Most are insignificant. Approximately 1,000 people go to the emergency room every day from dog bite injuries. Many of these people are the dogs' owners or others who negligently handled the dog or otherwise assumed the risk of their injuries.
But many dog bite victims are innocent victims, often children who would not know of the dog's vicious propensities. Incredibly, dog bites are ranked 5th on the list of reasons children end up in the emergency room and, far too often, the bites on children are on the child's face.
- Get answers to top 10 questions about bringing a dog bite claim in Maryland
Under Maryland law, a dog owner may be liable for injuries caused by the dog under two alternate theories of liability: negligence or strict liability, the latter arising from the owner's knowledge of the animal's propensity to cause harm. Said differently, it is the dog owner's responsibility to restrain an animal for public safety whether you are on public or private property.
There is a myth that will no go away that Maryland is a one-bite state. This means that if the dog has never bitten anyone before, there is not liability for the dog owner. Let's clear this up with an unequivocal statement: Maryland is not a "one bite" state where a dog must have previously bitten someone to bring a claim.
In fact, under Maryland dog bite law, there are some breeds of dogs that are known to be so aggressive that no prior propensity to bite is required for that particular breed of dog. Pit bulls are the most obvious example. These are essentially strict liability claims. In other words, the plaintiff's lawyer must show that the dog was aggressive by nature and that the injuries were the result of the dog bite. To hold an animal's owner strictly liable, the dog bite victim must offer evidence that the owner knew, or should have known, of the propensity of the dog to cause the harm that was caused.
That is not the only possible claim. There also may be a negligence claim against the dog's owners if they knew or had reason to know of the animal's vicious propensity or where the owner has acted negligently in controlling his animal (including, violation of leash laws).Who Pays For the Injuries in a Maryland Dog Bite Lawsuit?
Generally, homeowner's policies and some renter's insurance policies will cover strict liability and negligence in dog bite cases in Maryland. This holds true even if the dog is not on the homeowner's property.Common Insurance Company Defenses
Many insurance defense lawyers handling dog bite cases in Maryland are incorrectly convinced that a dog must have bitten someone before to create liability. This is a common defense. But it is just one factor to be considered.
Other defenses are that the victim provoked the dog (which sometimes happens and it is a good defense if true), was a trespasser (which raises the bar on the claim) or that the victim was otherwise negligent or assumed the risk that the dog might bite. These defenses can typically be defeated with good lawyering. But with insurance companies, it is almost invariably a battle to get to a reasonable settlement without a trial.How Much is My Dog Bite Case Worth in a Settlement or at Trial?
The median (not average) dog bite verdict in Maryland over the last 23 years is $24,600. Ironically, when the average outcome when you include settlements into that data is only an additional $61: $24,661.
Our law firm handles dog bite cases. But we do not handle the smaller cases represented by these numbers. If our firm agrees to handle your dog bite case, it is because we believe your settlement or verdict will be substantially higher than the median numbers cited above.Sample Verdicts
Here are some sample verdicts in dog bite cases in Maryland:
- 2012, Maryland: $27,619 Verdict. A minor female is playing in her front yard when she is mauled by a neighbor’s pitbull. The dog had escaped from a nearby house and caused permanent dog bite injuries to the young girl’s face, arm, and leg. Plaintiff claims that defendant failed to control her animal and keep it on her own property. Defendant denied liability. The Baltimore City jury that heard that case did not but it and awarded a $27,619 verdict.
- 2011, Maryland: $70,000 Verdict. A plaintiff is on a walk with his dog. The defendant’s dog escapes from the fenced in yard and began making threatening motions towards the plaintiff. After a brief scuffle between the animals, the plaintiff is bit on the hand and taken to Prince George’s Hospital where he requires surgery. Plaintiff demands compensation for his injuries and pain and suffering. He claims that defendant knew or should have known about his dog’s violent propensities and failed to keep it in his own yard. Defendant denies liability and argues that the victim’s own dog was responsible for the bite. The Prince George's County jury awarded $70,000 to the victim.
- 2011, Maryland: $110,000 Verdict. A mailman is on the job and delivering a parcel to defendant’s home when a pit bull terrier breaks through the front door and attacks him. The dog mauls the mailman for over ten minutes and inflicts carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve and tendon damage, as well as PTSD. Additionally, the mailman has scarring and lost income earning capability. The mailman sues the dog's owners and the apartment renters, claiming they did not properly restrain their animal. The renting company is granted a motion for summary judgment because the owners misrepresented their pets as boxers. The judge declares the owners to be in default and awards the victim $110,000 in damages.
At the risk of being repetitive, our lawyers handle only serious dog bite injury cases. But if we do accept your case, you can be sure our firm will fight to get you the money you deserve for your injuries. If you or your child have been injured from a dog bite in Maryland, call a lawyer at 800-553-8082 or get a free on-line consultation on your dog bite claim.More Resources
- Dog Bites and Homeowners' Insurance
- Deposition of defendant whose dog chased causing a motorcycle accident and permanent injuries (see the police report)
- Learn more about "dog chased me and caused an accident" type cases
- Get an Overview of Premises Liability Cases in Maryland
- New Maryland Law (2011 dog bite case defended by State Farm)
- What Is the Value of My Case? (guide to determining the value of your injury case)
- More on valuing dog bite case
- There Are a Lot of Dog Bites in Baltimore City
- New 2014 Study: Dog Bites are on the Rise
- Do you have a dog bite injury case? Call our law firm at 800-553-8082 and speak with a lawyer to discuss your claim or click here for a free consultation.