Last month, a family was enjoying a day at Meadowood Park in Brooklandville, Maryland. Their 2-year-old daughter reached out to pet what she thought was a friendly chocolate lab when the dog suddenly attacked her. The toddler needed 20 stitches on her right cheek. In the chaos and due to the urgent need to take their daughter to the hospital, the family did not stop and get the owner’s information. Now, the child must undergo multiple painful rabies shots and will likely require plastic surgery. Though, doctors informed the parents there is still a chance the child might have permanent scarring.
Younger children are most often dog bite victims simply because they are less likely to recognize aggressive dog behavior and more likely to impulsively pet dogs without asking the owners if the dog is friendly. Because many children are eyelevel with the dog, they often receive neck and facial injuries during a dog attack. Many experience long-term emotional trauma and PTSD.
Maryland has a statute of limitations for dog bite cases and allows dog bite victims up to three years to bring the case to a civil court. If the dog bite victim misses this deadline, they will be barred from ever filing a lawsuit against the dog owner for any disfigurement or emotional trauma resulting from the dog attack.
The dog bite statute in Maryland was significantly changed in 2014. Under these new rules, if the owner of a dog “running at large” attacks someone, the owner can be held “strictly liable” for all injuries or damages that result from the dog attack. “Strict liability” means dog bite victims only need to prove two things. The first being that the injuries were caused by the dog. The second thing dog bite victims must prove is that the owner knew the dog had aggressive behavior.
Maryland additionally allows dog bite victims to file lawsuits based on the state’s rules of negligence. This means the dog bite victim must prove the dog owner failed to take reasonable care, which caused the dog bite. For example, if the owner cannot control the dog or if the dog was not leashed, the dog owner could be held liable for negligence.
According to the Baltimore County Health Department, the city receives up to 2,000 dog bite or scratch reports each year. If you or your child suffered dog bite injuries in an attack, it is important to first, seek medical care. The second step is to contact a dog bite attorney to review your rights in the situation.
Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, L.L.P. is a personal injury law firm that fights for dog bite victims in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland.