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Are dog owners liable for their dog’s bites?

On Behalf of | Jul 5, 2023 | personal injury |

If you or someone you love has been bitten by a dog, you may wonder what your legal rights are and what steps you should take to protect yourself. Dog bites can cause serious physical and emotional injuries, as well as financial losses due to medical bills and lost wages.

Maryland dog bite law

Maryland follows the rule of strict liability for dog bite cases. This means the owner of a dog is automatically responsible for any injuries or damages caused by their dog, regardless of whether they knew or should have known that their dog was dangerous or had a history of biting.


There are exceptions to this rule.

First, if the victim provoked the dog or was trespassing on the owner’s property, then strict liability may not apply. Second, if the dog was not running loose or off-leash at the time of the attack, then the strict liability may not apply.

If these exceptions do not apply, then the owner is liable for the full extent of the victim’s damages. This includes medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, scarring, disfigurement, etc.

Strict liability versus negligence

However, strict liability does not mean that the owner is the only one who can be held accountable for a dog bite. In some cases, other parties may have been negligent.

Negligence means that someone failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent harm to others.

For example, a landlord who knew or should have known that a tenant had a dangerous dog and did nothing to remove or restrain the dog could be negligent. Similarly, a dog walker who let go of the leash or a veterinarian who failed to properly secure a dog could be negligent.

Negligence claims may involve more evidence and arguments than strict liability claims. They may also allow for more compensation if there are multiple liable parties or if the owner has insufficient insurance coverage.

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