Dog Bite Attorneys
If you are a loved one has been bitten by
a dog, the injury can be severe. In
addition to having medical bills, you may have lost time from work and need
compensation to make up for what you have lost.
Hiring the right attorney is a critical step in piecing your life back
together following a significant injury.
the dog is known to be dangerous, the owner will be legally responsible for a
bite that occurs when the dog is not on the owner’s property, or when the dog
bites someone who is on the owner’s property with the permission of the
owner. If the person bit was trespassing
on the owner’s property at the time, whether knowingly or inadvertently, the
owner will not be held liable, unless the injured party can show willful and
wanton misconduct on the part of the owner, or that the owner somehow entrapped
the injured person.
In a negligence case, the plaintiff
pursues a claim based on the traditional elements of negligence. You can read more about general negligence
claims here: http://www.baldwinbriscoe.com/sd/pgs/Negligence.aspx. A negligence claim requires that the
plaintiff prove that the defendant failed to exercise the degree of care that
is required of the ordinary person standing in the defendant’s shoes. This might include a situation where the
defendant failed to have the dog on a lease where required. In a negligence claim, the plaintiff must
show that the owner knew or should have known that the dog could attack. It is not necessary however, that the
plaintiff prove that the dog has previously bitten a person.
The duty that is owed to a plaintiff
depends on the nature of the relationship between the plaintiff and the person
owning or controlling the dog.
Invitee. An invitee is an
individual who is on the property for a purpose related to the landowner’s
business. A patron in a store is an invitee. A landowner or tenant
has a duty to use reasonable and ordinary care to keep the property safe for
invitees to protect the invitee from injury caused by any unreasonable risk
that the invitee, exercising ordinary care, would not discover.
Licensee. A licensee is an
individual who is a social guest. The owner owes a licensee a duty to
exercise reasonable care to warn the licensee of any dangerous conditions that
are known to the owner, but not readily discoverable.
Bare Licensee. A bare licensee is a
person that is on the property, but for his or her own purposes. For a
bare licensee, the duty on the landowner is only to refrain from willfully and
wantonly injuring the bare licensee and refrain from creating new, undisclosed
sources of danger without warning the licensee.
Trespasser. A trespasser is a
person on the property without permission. A landowner owes no duty,
except to refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring him.
Statutory Presumption pertaining to
Owner’s Knowledge. In 2014, the Maryland
legislature passed a statute that creates a rebuttable presumption that the
owner knows of a dog’s dangerous propensities where the dog causes injury or
death. The effect of the statute is that
the burden of proof on this issue is shifted from the plaintiff to the
defendant. The defendant must prove that
he or she didn’t know that the dog was dangerous. The new law did away with the distinction
between pit-bulls and other types of dogs.
This law makes it easier for plaintiffs to prove negligence claims, but
does away with strict liability.
Although the new law creates a
presumption in favor of the plaintiff, the presumption may be rebutted by the
owner and the plaintiff carries the ultimate burden of proof on the issue.
Defenses to Dog Bite Liability
Trespass. Under Maryland law, a person committing a
trespass or criminal offense on the dog owner’s property cannot recover if
bitten. This includes committing or
attempting to commit a criminal offense against a person. Maryland law also
prohibits a plaintiff from recovering where the plaintiff was teasing,
tormenting, abusing or provoking the dog.
Contributory Negligence. If the owner can prove that the injured
party was at least partially responsible for the bite, the victim will not be
able to recover.
Statute of Limitations. Maryland dog-bite cases generally must be
brought within three years of the date that the plaintiff was injured. If you do not bring your claim within three
years of the injury, the defendant will not be held responsible for your
injury. There are some limited
exceptions to this rule.
Who pays for dog bite injuries?
In many cases where a dog has injured a
person, the injury will be paid for by an insurance company covering the
property where the bite occurred or the owner of the dog. This may be a homeowner’s policy or a
renter’s policy and it may not matter whether the dog bite occurred on the
insured’s property or somewhere else.
In other cases, the financial
responsibility may rest with the owner, landlord, or tenant, of the dog that
bit the victim or the owner of the property where the dog bit occurred. For a landlord to be held legally
responsible, the injured party must prove that the landlord was aware of the
presence of the vicious dog and that the landlord had an opportunity to exert
some control over the dog.
If you or a loved one has been injured by
a dog bite, contact Baldwin & Briscoe to discuss your case. There is never a fee for consultations
involving personal injury claims. The
information contained on this page is provided as general information and does
not constitute legal advice. Only a
licensed attorney who is familiar with the specific facts of your case can
provide legal advice.
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