What Happens if My Dog Bites Someone?

What Happens if My Dog Bites Someone?

Photograph of a small dog biting a person's fingerHas your dog bitten someone in Maryland? If so, it’s time to familiarize yourself with Maryland’s laws regarding dog bites.
Maryland views dog bites in a way that’s different from other states. While Maryland views dog bite incidents as civil cases, they can also be tried as criminal cases if your dog is considered dangerous. As such, dog bites can carry heavy penalties for dog owners whose dogs have injured other people.
In other words, when your dog bites someone, you not only have civil liability; you also become criminally liable for your pet’s actions.
Learn more about civil liability, criminal liability, and your dog’s fate after it bites someone in Maryland. Read to the end to learn your potential defenses following a dog bite incident.

Civil Liability

Dog bites are personal injury cases in Maryland, and like any other personal injury case, victims can pursue their claims by proving another party’s negligence and how it led to their injuries.

In Maryland, negligent parties will typically be the owners of the dogs. In other words, if your dog injures someone, the victim can sue you for injuries and damages.

The victim can file a personal injury claim after proving your ownership of the dog. As a result, you will be on the hook to compensate the victim for injuries, any property damages resulting from the incident, and any fees associated with calling an animal control officer to the scene.

Besides these, you may also have to compensate the victim for the following:

  • Rehabilitative treatments
  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages

In short, It’s in every Maryland dog owner’s interest to keep their dogs on a short leash. Doing so is even more crucial in this state due to the criminal liability that comes with a dog bite.

Criminal Liability

In Maryland, dog bites are also criminal cases. They are criminal cases insofar as owners are presumed to know of their dog’s dangerous propensities. So, when a dog bites someone, the law presumes that the owner knew of the dog’s tendency to attack but chose to do nothing. In the eyes of the state’s laws on dog bites, the dog owner willingly allowed the incident to happen.

The court may file a criminal case against you if your dog has already bitten someone in the past. The prosecutor may invoke your dog’s classification as a dangerous dog and your failure to keep the dog on your property.

If convicted, you can expect severe penalties. The court may charge you with a misdemeanor, requiring you to pay a hefty $2,500 fine. Worse yet, you may face imprisonment, especially if the victim sustained severe injuries or died as a result of the attack.

What Will Happen to My Dog After it Bites Someone?

For the most part, nothing will happen to your dog. However, the state will classify your dog as a dangerous dog.
Once Maryland makes this classification, any subsequent attack by your dog will almost certainly result in a criminal conviction. As mentioned earlier, a criminal conviction can mean you paying a hefty fine or spending time in jail.

Is There a Way to Reduce My Liability?

You can reduce your civil liability if you can prove any of the following:
Your Dog Bit Someone Who Was Trespassing on Your Property
Indeed, you will be liable if your dog bites a guest who entered your property. However, it’s a different story for trespassers.
You will not be liable if your dog attacks someone who entered your property without your permission. Trespassers cannot claim compensation, no matter how severe the dog bite injuries are.
Your Dog Attacked Someone Who Was Committing a Crime on Your Property
You will also not be liable if your dog bites someone committing a crime on your property. For example, imagine that your dog attacked someone who was threatening you with a knife in your home. In this scenario, you will not be at fault for injuries sustained by your attacker.
Your Dog Attacked After Someone Provoked it
In this scenario, the principle of comparative negligence takes effect. Comparative negligence is when another person shares liability for their injuries. By tormenting or provoking your dog, the injured person is either mostly or fully at fault for their injuries. As a result, you will be less liable.

Has Your Dog Bitten Someone in Maryland?

Being liable for a dog bite comes with serious consequences. To stave off civil and criminal charges, you need experienced legal representation.

Protect yourself from liability. Call us or contact us today if your dog has bitten or attacked someone in Maryland.