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Maryland Lawmakers Debate New Dog Liability Law

In 2007, a 10-year-old Towson boy was mauled by his neighbor’s pit bull. That case ended up in the Court of Appeals five years later where it was determined that pit bull owners are liable for the actions of their dogs even if there is no prior evidence that their dog is dangerous. The ruling made it possible to hold landlords accountable for dogs that live on their properties as well. This decision had a sudden impact on pit bull ownership in Maryland, including an increase in the number of landlords who refuse to allow pit bulls on their premises.

According to a news report in The Washington Post, lawmakers in Maryland are in the process of undoing that 2012 decision. Similar bills have been passed in the House and the Senate that would allow pet owners to avoid liability if they can prove that their dogs showed no signs of violence before the incident. Once the House and Senate agree on a single bill, it will go to Governor Martin O’Malley for final approval.

Proponents of the proposed bill say that it rebalances the rights of victims, pet owners, and landlords. Those opposed, however, believe that it could actually hurt the victims by preventing them from receiving compensation for their injuries if the dog has a clean record.

When and if this bill gets to the governor’s desk, his decision will have a significant impact on dog bite victims and their families. This is an important issue because dogs injure thousands of people each year. According to Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services, emergency rooms in Maryland were visited 4,880 times in 2010 for dog-bite related incidents. In 2011, 233 dog bite victims required hospital admission for their injuries in addition to their emergency treatment. That is a significant increase from 181 people who were admitted for dog bite injuries in 2005.

If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a dog attack in Maryland, it will be necessary to review the current laws that will affect your ability to receive fair compensation. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, financial compensation may be available for the resulting medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. Please contact an experienced Maryland dog bite lawyer to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.

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