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Dog Bite Personal Injury Cases in Maryland

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.  

Dog bite injuries usually usually a direct result of penetrating trauma of sharp teeth in combination with the crush delivered to any structures in vicinity of the bite. Compensation for these injuries should be provided to victims when dog owners do not meet that obligation of taking the reasonable steps that would prevent an attack.  Our law firm handles dog bite cases in Maryland on behalf of victims and their families. 

dog bite

According to the CDC, nearly 5 million people are bitten by dogs each year.  Most are insignificant. Approximately 1,100 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. As a country, we spend $1 billion a year in medical costs from animal attacks.  More American die in animal attacks than by terrorism (but neither are particularly likely). 

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.  Children who have facial scarring from dog bites are more likely to be the victims of teasing, bullying, social isolation, depression and eating disorders. 

Dog bite cases often have high settlement values because their is usually insurance to cover the loss and the injuries are often severe.  Our lawyers see a lot of dog bite cases where the victim suffers penetrating and crushing injuries that extend down to the bones, severing vessels and arteries, and tearing away flesh and muscle.  The result is often swelling, ecchymosis, and devitalized tissue from the dog's teeth and tears, avulsions, and lacerations from the strength of the bite.  

Maryland Dog Bite Law

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 no 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. Homeowner's insurance policies are must more expansive than insureds and victim believe.  You would be amazed at how broad these policies are when it comes to dog bite cases. 

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 Dog Bite Settlements and Verdicts

Another way to get a better feel for the settlement value of dog bite cases in Maryland is to look at sample settlements and verdicts.  You can't calculate an average payout looking at sample verdicts and settlements.  But the do give you a better idea of the range of settlement values.  

  • 2017, Greenbelt: $545,000 Verdict. A 7-year-old girl is bitten by a pit bull owned by her parent's landlord.  She has five surgeries, permanent scars on legs, and, not surprisingly, post-traumatic stress from the attack.  She is awarded $270,000 for her pain and suffering $275,000 for her past and future medical expenses. (A pretty light award given the scope of the child's injuries.)
  • 2012, Baltimore: $27,619 Verdict. A minor female is playing in her front yard when she is mauled by a neighbor’s pit bull. 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, Upper Marlboro: $70,000 Verdict. A plaintiff is on a walk with his dog. The defendant’s dog escapes from a fenced yard and began making threatening motions towards the plaintiff. After a brief scuffle between the animals, the dog bites plaintiff's hand. He goes 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, Upper Marlboro: $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.
One complication our lawyers seem in these cases that is both awful and a driver of settlement values is infection.  The dog can pass to the victim a virulent bacteria that can cause a potentially deadly infection. The result can be to loss of function and disfigurement to the affected areas.   

Calling a Lawyer For Your Dog Bite Injuries

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 online consultation on your dog bite claim.

More Resources
There are also a number of medical journals that have taken an close look at some of the issues our attorneys see in dog bite litigation:
  • Essig G, et al (2019):  Dog bite injuries to the face: Is there risk with breed ownership? A systematic review with meta-analysis, Int. J. Pediatr. Otorhinolaryngol, Volume 117, February 2019, Pages 182-188.  There is a convention wisdom out there from some dog owners that all breeds of dogs are the same.  They just are not.  The study shows the frequency of bites and severity of bites very by breed. There are dogs that have higher risks for both.  Common sense tells us this, too. Injuries from mixed breed dogs and, yes, pitbulls, were more frequent and severe. German shepherds, terriers, and rottweilers were also on high on the more likely to bite list.  (Dalmatians, pointers, Great Danes, Pekingeses, and spitzes are on the unlikely to bite list.)
  • Nilson F,  et. al (2018): The effect of breed-specific legislation on hospital treated dog bites in Odense, Denmark – a time series intervention study, PLoS One, 13 (1–8) (2018), p. e0208393.  Breed-specific legislation has no apparent effect on dog bite injuries.
  • Golinko MS, et al (2016): Characteristics of 1616 consecutive dog bite injuries at a single institution, Clin. Pediatr., 2016, pp. 1-10. "Pit bull bites were implicated in half of all surgeries performed and over 2.5 times as likely to bite in multiple anatomic locations as compared to other breeds."
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