People often think there won’t be any insurance coverage available if they’re attacked by a dog, but typically that isn’t the case. Homeowners’ and renters’ insurance will cover a dog attack, even if it didn’t occur right in the home or the rented property. If you’re injured or attacked by another person’s dog, homeowners’ generally will provide coverage in that situation. Our attorneys help clients secure the accommodation they deserve when harmed by another’s dangerous dog.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), 70 percent of American households own a pet with 69 million owning a dog. At some point in our lives, we will likely encounter a dog, whether in the home of a friend or acquaintance, or while out in public. Most of us don’t worry about being bitten or attacked by a dog, as most pet owners take the proper precautions to train and control their dogs.
When they don’t, however, dog bites can cause serious harm and trauma. DogsBite.org reports that about 1,000 people require emergency care each day for dog bite injuries, with over 14,025 hospitalized each year. They also note that the average hospital stay for a serious dog bite injury is $18,200 – 50 percent higher than other injury-related hospital stays.
Maryland dog owner responsibility
Dogs are, generally, great pets. However, with an irresponsible owner, dogs can also be dangerous animals. Under Maryland law, dog owners have certain responsibilities, both for the safety and well-being of the animal and for the public at large. These responsibilities include:
- Rabies vaccination for dogs aged four months and older
- Dog license for animals six months of age and older
- Food, water, and protection from the elements if confined outdoors
- Dog may not be a public nuisance or disturbance
- Dog may not run at large or off-leash
Finally, dogs may not pose a public safety threat. A dog is a public safety threat if they cause a severe injury to a person, bite someone, or severely injure or kill another domestic animal.
A quick history of dog bite liability in Maryland
Up until around 2013, the courts stated some breeds of dogs were inherently dangerous and some insurance companies actually excluded them from coverage in the event they bit someone. These included breeds like Pit Bulls, Akitas, Rottweilers, Siberian Huskies, German Shepherds, Wolf Hybrids, Doberman Pinschers, and more. Due to pressure from animal owners and activists, the Maryland Legislature passed a law requiring homeowners insurance companies to disclose any “breed discrimination” in their policies.
Are dog bites covered under homeowners’ insurance?
Yes. Pets are covered under homeowners’ insurance in Maryland, but as a liability, not as property. In fact, DogsBite.org reports that, nationally, homeowners’ insurance paid out $854 million in liability claims related to dog bite and attack injuries in 2020.
Liability means when a dog injures a person or damages that person’s property, homeowners’ or renter’s insurance should cover the bills. This insurance should even kick in if the dog injures you when the dog is not on the owner’s property. So, if a dog owner is walking their dog, or if it’s running loose off their property, and it attacks you or your child, their homeowners insurance policy is still active – even if the bite didn’t happen at their particular home.
What are the different types of dog bite injuries?
Dog bites are never “just a bite.” They can lead to an entire range of injuries and complications, including:
- Lacerations, cuts, and tears
- Broken and fractured bones
- Puncture wounds
- Rabies and tetanus
What should I do if I’m bitten by a dog in Maryland?
Under Maryland Code 3-1901, the “owner of a dog is liable for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by the dog, while the dog is running at large.” However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. An owner may not be liable if you were:
- Committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal act on the owner’s property
- Committing or attempting to commit a criminal act against any person
- Teasing, abusing, or provoking the dog
If a dog otherwise bites or attacks you, the first thing you should do is contact the homeowner to determine if they have home or renter’s insurance to cover your injury. As the owner of the animal, it’s their responsibility to address every issue regarding the dog attack, including showing proof of rabies vaccination and dog license.
Seek medical attention as soon as possible for serious or deep wounds. Dog bites can easily become infected. Watch any dog bite or scratch for symptoms of infection, like redness, swelling, or pus around the wound. You may also need a tetanus vaccination as well as other treatments depending on the dog’s vaccination status.
In some cases, you may find the dog owner or homeowner uncooperative. In cases like these, it’s best to get a Maryland personal injury attorney involved. An experienced attorney can contact the insurance company on your behalf and get started on filing a claim so you can get the compensation you need for your medical expenses and pain and suffering.
Maryland’s laws regarding dog bites have changed over the years – but our commitment to helping our clients is as strong as ever. At Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A., we have represented injury victims throughout Maryland for over 35 years. If you or a loved one were attacked and injured by a dog, we want to help. To learn more about our services, or to speak with an experienced dog bite attorney, please call 410-730-7737 or fill out our contact form. We serve multiple offices throughout Maryland.