Dog Bite Injury Attorneys in Maryland, D.C. & Virginia
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Victims of dog bites in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia are entitled to seek compensation under the policies of intentional tort, scienter, and negligence with the assistance of a dog bite lawyer. The District of Columbia tends to have a diverse jurisdiction, and there is not a dog bite statute. However, a victim does not have to prove scienter if he or she is bitten by a dog while the dog is at large and if it is at large due to the owner’s negligence.
If you or someone you love was bitten by or injured by a dog, Ashcraft & Gerel can help you determine if you are eligible for legal compensation. If so, our experienced dog bite injury lawyers can help you seek fair compensation and work to hold the negligent dog owner or other parties accountable.
Dog Owner Negligence
In terms of dog bites, negligence is considered a lack of ordinary care—in other words, the absence of the type of care that a reasonably careful person would exercise under similar circumstances. If a dog owner’s conduct in a given situation does not measure up to the conduct of an otherwise careful individual, the person is considered negligent. For instance, allowing a stray dog into a children’s daycare center is negligent. Negligence that leads to a dog attack renders the negligent party legally liable for the victim’s compensation, so long as the victim is blameless.
The "Scienter" Rule
Scienter is a traditional doctrine that renders a person liable for any harm inflicted by a domestic pet. Scienter is the Latin word for “knowingly” and also refers to the one-bite rule and common law strict liability. This law applies to dog bites in that a victim may recover compensation from the dog owner, keeper, or harborer if the dog has previously bitten a person or acted as though it wanted to and the owner was aware of the previous conduct.
Scienter has evolved from the notion that when an animal of a typically harmless species, such as a dog, commits harm or damage, the owner will not be held liable unless the owner is actually aware of the animal’s dangerous nature. Also, owners may assume that their domestic animal will behave accordingly. But, if the animal is considered to be “ferae naturae,” or rather, an animal that because of its species is usually dangerous, the owner has an obligation to keep the dog under control and will not get “one free bite.”
This common law doctrine of scienter, therefore, imposes liability for harm inflicted by a domestic pet. In terms of dog bites, the doctrine of scienter enables a dog bite victim to recover compensation from the keeper or owner of the dog who is aware that the dog has previously bitten someone. Scienter is actually a ground for liability in every U.S. state, and it may impose liability on someone other than the dog’s owner.
Under the contributory negligence doctrine, victims may not receive any compensation if his or her conduct caused the accident, no matter how insignificant that conduct was. In other states, the doctrine of comparative fault is adopted, which compares the victim’s legal responsibility to that of other parties, and rewards compensation to victims in direct proportion to that comparative responsibility.
If you've been attacked by a dog, Ashcraft & Gerel can meet you at home, in the hospital, or at one of our many office locations in Washington D.C., Silver Spring, Baltimore, Landover, Rockville, Fairfax, and Manassas.
Dog Bites & the One Bite Rule
In Washington, D.C., a person who is bitten by a dog can bring a lawsuit against the owner of the dog regardless of whether or not the dog was at large at the time of the bite. If the dog was at large, the victim could bring a negligence claim. However, if the dog was not at large, the victim can bring the claim under the district’s one-bite rule.
The courts hold that the statute requires an injured person to at least establish the owner’s negligence. The victim has to show that the dog owner failed to use reasonable care to prevent the bite; however, if the victim was bitten while the dog was not at large, for example, if the dog was leashed or on its owner’s property, the victim has to prove owner negligence. This applies not only in cases where the owner is careless, but also that the owner was aware of the dog’s vicious tendencies. Commonly, this rule is referred to as the one-bite rule, and it has proved rather controversial.
Dog Bites & Criminal Liability
One particular way that a victim can prove vicious tendencies in a civil lawsuit is by showing that the dog has been classified as potentially dangerous or dangerous as set out under the law. Owners of potentially dangerous or dangerous dog breeds are legally required to meet a higher standard for registering, keeping, and restraining their dogs. Otherwise, they may face criminal penalties if they fail to do so.
Under the district’s code of Section 8-1906, it is stated that a dog owner who has a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog who does not meet their responsibilities under the code can be convicted of a misdemeanor and incur a maximum penalty of $500 as well as up to 90 days imprisonment for their first offense and up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for a second offense.
Since civil and criminal cases operate somewhat differently—a dog owner can face both civil liability and criminal penalties concurrently if their dog bites another person.
A civil claim in the district can be directly filed by the victim who is seeking monetary damages for lost wages, medical bills, and any pain and suffering incurred. The district may further fine a dog owner up the amount of $10,000 if a dog is potentially dangerous or dangerous and it causes serious injury or death. The fine or punishment is typically assessed over and above any other financial damages awarded in a civil lawsuit.
How to Prevent a Dog from Biting Someone
Dog bites, as any owner should be aware of, can result in expensive lawsuits and insurance claims.
However, multiple measures can be taken to prevent a dog from biting, such as:
- Keeping the dog healthy, well exercised, and well fed so that it is less likely to have behavior problems like biting.
- Neutering or spaying the dogs; male dogs have a propensity to roam and are far more likely to engage in aggressive behaviors than those who are neutered. Female dogs may be aggressive during their reproductive cycle if they are not spayed.
- Dogs should be supervised when outside and kept on a lead and under control at all times, and they should be muzzled if considered a dangerous dog breed.
- The law requires dogs to be leashed to prevent them from approaching other people and animals.
- Some dogs bite due to fear, so it is important to socialize a dog and teach it how to interact with humans and animals alike from as early on as possible.
- Try to never leave young children unattended with dogs, even if they are familiar with one another. Children tend to scurry about and move quickly, which may excite the dog into biting or attacking.
What to Do If Your Dog Bites Someone
If your dog does bite someone, the first step is to control and secure the dog. The bite victim could be afraid of the dog, and the dog may be over-excited. Be sure to give your name and contact details to the bite victim. You may also be required to show proof of the dog’s vaccinations, so be sure to keep those up to date and the information at hand. The incident should be reported to animal control.
Quarantine does not mean that a dog will be taken away from the owner or killed. If the dog remains healthy during that time frame, the bite victim will not be required to have a rabies injection and the dog will be released from its quarantine. However, if the dog falls ill or is lost, Animal Control must be notified immediately. The total number of days that a dog is quarantined will depend on what it bites and whether or not its vaccinations are up to date. Such responsibility falls under the owner’s legal duty of care.
What to Do If You Are Bitten By a Dog
If you are the victim of a dog bite, it is important not to risk any further injury. Make sure to do the following:
- Ask the owner for their name and contact details and try to remember the dog’s description
- Wash the wound for a few minutes with soap and water
- Report the dog bite to animal control
- Get medical attention from the closest emergency facility or doctor
- Contact an experienced dog bite lawyer
If you feel threatened by any dog, try to avoid shouting and remain calm. You should stand still and not run away or turn. When the dog leaves, you should calmly back away but if you fall, curl into a ball and use your hands to protect your neck and head. Any dog can bite, it is up to the owner to practice their duty of care to keep other people safe.
Do You a Need Dog Bite Lawyer?
Whether you have been hurt by a dog bite or you are the owner of a dog that has bitten someone, the experienced dog bite lawyers at Ashcraft & Gerel will help to defend your case. Call to schedule a complimentary consultation with an experienced dog attack attorney today.
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