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When is a dog owner responsible for injuries that their animal causes?

On Behalf of | Jan 18, 2024 | Injuries

cute sheltie dog on couch

Dogs are among the most popular companion animals in Maryland. They are also one of the only animals that people regularly rely on for work. Dogs can assist by providing security support or helping manage livestock on a farm. They can benefit families by providing entertainment, opportunities for exercise and companionship.

Unfortunately, they are also a source of injury risk for members of the general public. Any dog could potentially become aggressive. Canines of all breeds, ages and sizes occasionally attack humans and may cause massive injuries when they do so. Those injured by dogs might worry about paying for their medical care and other expenses. When is an animal’s owner responsible for the injuries it inflicts on another person?

Maryland has a strict liability statute

In some states, a dog has to display aggression at least once before it attacks and injures someone for the owner to have liability for the incident. One-bite rules reduce the economic risk associated with animal ownership, but they leave victims of dog bite incidents in very difficult situations.

Maryland, thankfully, has a different approach. In Maryland, there is a strict liability statute for canine owners. Anyone who owns a dog is theoretically liable whenever their dog attacks and injures another person even if it has never displayed aggressive tendencies before.

Of course, there are still a few limitations on the liability of a dog owner. For someone to bring a claim after a dog bite incident, they need to have lawfully been at the location where the incident occurred. Those trespassing on someone else’s property may not have the right to hold the dog’s owner accountable for the injuries it inflicted on them. The same is true of those who intentionally instigated the dog to attack them or who broke the law immediately prior to the incident. If a dog encounters an assault in progress, for example, it may become aggressive toward the human it perceives as a threat.

Barring trespassing, intentional provocation or illegal activity, a dog’s owner is typically liable for any injuries it causes to other humans. People can initiate a lawsuit against the animal’s owner. That lawsuit could lead to a payout from their homeowners or renters insurance policy. If they do not have proper coverage, then the animal’s owner may be directly financially liable for the incident.

Ultimately, learning about Maryland’s dog bite laws, and seeking legal guidance when necessary, may benefit those who have had the misfortune of encountering an aggressive animal.