Dogs are popularly known as man's best friend. With over 54 million households owning a dog in the United States, dogs are one of the most popular pets that people have. In general, dogs tend to be loyal, kind, and loving companions.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are 5.4 million dog bites reported in the United States each year. The injuries from these bites can be minor and require no medical care or they can be considerably more serious resulting in long term hospital stays or even death. Recently in California a nine year old boy was killed when he was attacked by three pit bulls. The dogs had shown no previous signs of aggression.
If you or a loved one are bitten by a dog, the owner of the pooch can be held liable for your injuries. The standard the law requires in order to recover damages differs depending on the state that you are in. States follow either the 'one bite' rule or impose strict liability for dog bites. States that follow the 'one bite' rule will only hold an owner liable if the owner knew or had reason to know that their dog was may bite someone. If the owner knew their dog was dangerous and failed to take any precautionary measures, then he or she may be held liable. Alaska, Kansas, and Mississippi are all states with 'one bite' rules.
Other states apply strict liability to dog bite claims. Strict liability means that a person can be held liable regardless of whether or not that person was negligent. This means that in states which apply strict liability to dog bites, if you own a dog and the dog bites someone, injuring that person, you will be liable to the injured party. Arizona, Connecticut, and Nebraska all have statutes imposing strict liability on owners for dog bite injuries.
Until 2014, Maryland followed the 'one bite' rule. In April 2014, this rule changed when Governor Martin O'Malleysigned a law that created a new standard for liability. The new standard is similar to strict liability. The first section of the statute states that the owner will be presumed to have known or should have known about their dog's dangerous propensities. The burden is on the owner to prove that they had no previous knowledge that their dog was vicious. In addition, the legislature imposes strict liability on the owner of a dog 'at large' who injures another person or another person's property. However, there are exceptions to this: if a person is trespassing or provoking the dog then the owner may not be held liable for the dog bite. Finally, if you are seeking to bring a suit against someone who is not the owner of the dog (such as a dog walker or pet sitter), negligence standards will be used instead.
Being bitten by a dog can be a traumatic and difficult experience. If man's best friend turns on you or a loved one, you have the right to seek compensation from the owner. At Gilman & Bedigian we have been fighting for injury victims for years. Please do not hesitate to contact our office today.