Maryland(301) 453-5656
Virginia(703) 429-0888

What Is An Overview Of Dog Bite Laws In The Areas You Practice?


Laws vary widely regarding dog bites and animal attacks, jurisdiction by jurisdiction. In Maryland, a dog owner may be held liable if his dog bites or attacks someone and causes injury based on negligence. This would require showing that the owner knew or had reason to know of the dogs’ vicious propensity and then failed to use reasonable care in controlling his dog, thereby causing injury. Maryland has also enacted a statute that provides for strict liability in certain cases. By statute, the owner of a dog can now be held liable for any injury to another person or property caused by the dog when the dog is running at large. Many local jurisdictions also have enacting ordinances regarding dog ownership and liability to others.

Under Virginia law, a person is legally liable for a dog bite or attack if the person’s negligence or violation of an animal control law causes or results in the animal causing injury. For example, in Virginia, dog owners are required to know their dog’s propensities and to prevent foreseeable harm. If the owner knows or should know that his dog might cause injury, he has a duty to use ordinary care to prevent injury to others. If the owner fails to perform this duty, then he is considered negligent. Often, a case may turn on whether a particular breed of dog is known to have vicious propensities toward other persons or animals or whether the dog has previously bitten or attacked another animal or person, placing the owner on notice of those vicious or dangerous propensities.

In many local jurisdictions in Virginia, there are county or city ordinances against allowing a dog to run at large. These are typically referred to as leash laws. If the dog owner has allowed his dog to run at large in violation of the law, he can be deemed negligent and responsible if the dog bites or attacks someone.

In Washington D.C., a dog owner is legally liable if he is negligent in controlling his dog and the negligence results in injury by a dog bite or dog attack. The owner is required to use reasonable care. The District of Columbia also has a leash law which forbids a dog owner from allowing his dog to run at large. If the dog is running at large in violation of the law, the dog owner cannot win a case in court just by arguing that he or she had no idea the dog would cause injury.

Who Can Be Held Liable In A Dog Bite Injury Claim?

In a dog bite injury claim, the dog owner or individual responsible for controlling the dog may be held liable if that person is negligent. Homeowners’ insurance is most often a source of compensation for such claims. If a dog attack occurs in connection with the operation of a business, the business owner’s general business liability insurance may be a source of compensation.

Who Should I Contact Regarding A Dog Bite Incident?

If you are injured by a dog, first of all, you should contact the police or Animal Control for the jurisdiction where the dog bite or dog attack occurred. That will typically trigger an investigation, where a file will be opened. Authorities will normally require the dog owner to produce the dog’s vaccination records to make sure that the dog has been vaccinated against rabies. The investigation may also reveal whether there have been previous complaints involving the dog. If a hearing is held by Animal Control, which often is the case, it is very important that the injured person appear and provide testimony. It is prudent to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney before giving testimony.

Is The Amount Of Damages Going To Be Determined By The Severity Of The Injury From A Bite?

The amount of damages will be determined by the severity of the injury. In dog bites or dog attacks, the injured individual may be compensated for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages may include past and future medical expenses, past and future loss of income, and incidental monetary expenses that have been incurred. Non-economic damages may include past and future pain, mental suffering and emotional harm, scarring and disfigurement, and anxiety and embarrassment. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for animal attacks to result in scarring and disfigurement, as well as post-traumatic stress associated with the incident itself. As a result, psychological harm can be a highly significant factor in determining the amount of damages. As in all personal injury claims, consideration must be given to the degree of negligence of the offending individual, as well as the viciousness of the attack itself.

Is It Advisable To Negotiate With The Insurance Company Without An Attorney In A Dog Bite Case?

It is important to keep in mind that regardless of whether or not an insurance adjuster is courteous or rude, his or her goal is to avoid a payment or minimize payment on the claim. Any statements made to the adjustor by the injured party, even inadvertently, may undermine the claim. In most cases, it is advisable not to engage in negotiations directly with the adjustor.

An experienced personal injury attorney can help level the playing field For example, on the dog bite cases that we handle, we will typically analyze the details of the incident in light of applicable law, attempt to investigate the history of the animal, attempt to obtain witness testimony concerning past practices of the owner and past conduct of the animal, interview witnesses concerning the event as well observations of the injured party before and after the attack, and assemble relevant medical information and opinions concerning the client’s injuries. We also survey verdicts of similar cases in the jurisdictions in which a lawsuit might be brought Armed with such information, counsel is normally in better position to obtain a greater recovery and more just result, whether through negotiation or litigation.

For more information on Dog Bite Claims, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (301) 453-5656 today.

Steve H.Drone

Attorney Steven H. Dorne

Attorney Steven H. Dorne is an accomplished lawyer who practices in state and federal courts in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. He brings more than 30 years of experience and a long record of success to each case. His law practice is distinguished by careful preparation and thorough analysis of each case.

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