Help for Dog Bite Victims throughout Maryland
Animal Attack Attorneys in Baltimore, Howard County and throughout the state
When an animal owned by another person causes injury to you, it is important that you have an attorney who understands what it takes to successfully recover compensation from the animal’s owner. To protect your rights after you have been injured by another’s animal, it is necessary to conduct an investigation to determine who owns the animal, who owns the property it came from, whether the animal has been vicious in the past, and whether the party responsible for the animal has insurance. It may also be necessary to attend and give testimony at a hearing held by an animal control agency. The Maryland personal injury attorneys at Plaxen & Adler, P.A. are experienced in conducting these types of investigations to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve from the owner of an animal that has caused injury to you. The law in Maryland regarding people injured by another’s dog has also recently changed.
The evolution of dog-bite law in Maryland
Up until 2012, in order for you to recover compensation from the owner of a dog that had bitten or injured you, it was necessary to prove that the dog owner knew that the dog had vicious propensities prior to the dog injuring you. This was commonly known as the “one free bite rule” because the first victim of a dog had a very difficult time making their case absent proof that the dog had been vicious in the past. It was even more difficult to hold a landlord responsible for injuries caused by their tenant’s dog, as you had to show:
- That the landlord had some degree of control when it came to dogs in the leased premises (such as a “no-pets” provision),
- That the landlord knew about the dog and knew the dog was dangerous, and
- The landlord had the ability to fix the dangerous condition by not re-letting the premises to the tenant because of the dog.
This created a very high standard to hold a landlord liable for a dog attack committed by a dog owned by their tenant.
In 2012, the law was drastically changed, but only for pit bull owners and landlords who rented to tenants who owned pit bulls. In the case of Tracey v. Solesky, the Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court, changed the law as it applies to pit bulls. The Court ruled that when a pit bull injures someone, the owner is responsible even if they had no prior knowledge that the dog was dangerous. This is known as strict liability. The ruling also applied strict liability to landlords when a pit bull owned by a tenant injured someone. This decision was criticized by animal groups as “breed discrimination” as it singled out pit bulls. Plaxen & Adler, P.A., and many other victims’ advocates encouraged the Maryland General Assembly to change the law to apply strict liability to all dog breeds, so that the problems with pit bulls being singled out would be eliminated while still protecting victims of dog bites.
Maryland’s current dog bite law
The General Assembly refused to pass a law applying strict liability to all dogs, instead passing a law that created a middle ground between the old “one free bite” law and the strict liability imposed by Tracey v. Solesky. The new law, which went into effect April 8, 2014, creates a rebuttable presumption that the owner of a dog that bites or attacks someone knew or should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities prior to the attack. A rebuttable presumption means the injured person no longer has to prove that the dog owner knew or should have known their dog was dangerous, as is established by the law. The dog owner, however, is allowed to present evidence to rebut the presumption that they knew or should have known that their dog was dangerous prior to the attack.
The new law also returned the law regarding landlords being held responsible for their tenant’s dog to the pre-Solesky law, which is difficult to meet and is discussed above. It also creates strict liability for a dog owner whose dog injures someone while running at large, meaning running loose off of the owner’s property. Tracey v. Solesky remains in effect for any injuries involving pit bulls that occurred between April 27, 2012 and April 7, 2014.
Does homeowners insurance cover dog attacks?
Dog attacks on postal carriers
Television, movies and advertisers have been making the joke about dogs chasing after mail carriers forever. But what may seem like a harmless joke is a very serious matter. According to the Centers for Disease Control:
- Around 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year
- 20% of all dog bites warrant serious medical attention
- Of that 20%, about half of the victims are children
- In 2012, more than 27,000 people needed reconstructive surgery because of a dog bite
- Adults who own at least two dogs are five times more likely to be bitten than the average homeowner without dogs
The Baltimore Sun published an article stating during the fiscal 2013 year, 46 mailmen and –women were bitten by a dog in Baltimore City alone. In the Baltimore region, the number rises to 61. Across America, there were more than 5,500 victims of dog bites.
Maryland laws require that dogs be restrained, trained to obey a command or on a leash. Dog owners who do nothing to prevent their dog from attacking could be held liable if their pet attacks a mailperson, and the Postal Service can refuse home delivery if a letter carrier feels threatened by your pet.
Baltimore dog bite lawyers you can trust to protect your rights
If you have been injured by a dog, you need an attorney who understands how the law has changed and what needs to be done to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Call the experienced Maryland animal attack attorneys of Plaxen & Adler, P.A. at 410.988.4449 or fill out our contact form to learn more.