If you’re injured by a dog, what you need to know about the new dog bite law

On April 8, 2014, Governor O’Malley signed and approved a new law dealing with how injuries caused by dog bites would be handled in Maryland.  In order to gain a full understanding of the changes in the law, it is beneficial to discuss why the legislature changed the law in the first place.  Put simply, the frequency of serious pit bull attacks in Maryland sparked the change.

In a case called Tracey v. Solesky, 427 Md. 627 (2012), the highest Court in Maryland changed the old dog bite common law as it applied to pit bulls and pit bull mixes.  To be sure, the mauling that occurred, in that case, was horrible and the victims were children.  That said, the purpose of this piece is not to give an opinion on the pit bull controversy, but to educate on the changes in the law.

Baltimore Personal Injury Lawyer: Dog Bite Law-The old law prior to Tracey v. Solesky

pit bull liability

Pitbull are powerful animals, but now the same standards apply to all breeds of dogs. Owners are now strictly responsible for their behavior and must prove that their dogs are not dangerous.

The old law stated that the owner of a dog is not liable for injuries caused by the dog unless it is shown by the injured person that the dog is vicious and that the owner had knowledge that the dog was vicious prior to the attack.  Essentially, this law made Maryland a “One Bite Rule” state.  Hence, an injured person had to show that the owner knew his dog was vicious because it bit someone before and the dog did it again, without this showing the injured person could not recover.

Baltimore Personal Injury Lawyer: Pit Bull Liability- Tracey v. Solesky

The Court in the Tracey case changed that rule as it applied to pit bulls and pit bull mixes.  It recognized the frequency and serious nature of pit bull attacks in Maryland and ruled that in a case where a pit bull or pit bull mix caused the injury and the owner (or landlord) knew or had reason to know their dog was a pit bull or pit bull mix, the owner (and/or landlord) are strictly liable. Under Tracy, pit bull liability is automatic, regardless of whether or not you (the owner) knew or should have known about the dangerousness of the dog.

This ruling and change of law outraged pit bull owners and others.  Thus, the legislature changed the law again and essentially reversed the CourtThe new and current law is a compromise between the two extremes above, and to the chagrin of non-pit bull owners it applies to all dogs.  The law now states that if an injured person shows that a dog caused their injury, the owner is liable.  However,  the owner gets a chance to prove that they did not know or have any reason to know that the dog was vicious or dangerous.

Baltimore Personal Injury Lawyer: The bottom line

If you get attacked by a dog, the dog bite law now says the owner must prove that the dog was not vicious or dangerous.   If you or someone you know is attacked and injured by a dog bite, do not hesitate to call EN Lawyers.  You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.