Dog attacks represent some of the most gruesome personal injuries that are suffered, particularly where a child is involved (as is often the case). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S. Almost one in five of those who are bitten (a total of 885,000) require medical attention for dog bite-related injuries. Children are especially at risk for dog attacks. It is important to teach children to be safe around dogs to prevent these catastrophic events from occurring.
Some states have a strict liability dog bite statute that states that the owner of a dog is liable for damages inflicted by his/her dog if it bites a person who is either in a public place or lawfully on the dog owner’s property (invitee or guest). The dog owner is liable regardless of whether the dog had ever been vicious before and regardless of whether the owner had reason to believe it would behave in a vicious manner. The dog does not get “one free bite.”
Under Maryland law, however, it must first be shown, in order to render the owner liable for damages to one bitten by his dog, that the dog had a vicious propensity, and second that such vicious propensity or inclination was known to its owner. But the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensity need only be such as to put him on his guard and to require him as an ordinary prudent person to anticipate the act or conduct of the dog resulting in the injury for which the owner is sought to be held liable. The owner’s knowledge of the propensity of the dog may be, and most generally is, acquired from its conduct and behavior, although such knowledge may be acquired from other persons, and in some cases the knowledge of others is imputed to the owner.McDonald v. Burgess, 254 Md. 452 (1969). In essence, the vicious dog’s owner is an insurer of the dog.
If a stray bites you, you have little legal recourse because you must file your claim against a dog’s owner or keeper. Your municipality is not responsible for the dog, even if you have called the animal warden several times to pick up the stray.