Dog Bites In Maine – What You Need to Know

dog bites in MaineAlmost 79 million Americans own at least one dog. Although many dogs are quite harmless, there are still many that have the propensity to attack, and are responsible for almost 5 million dog bites every year.  These attacks can be a result of the animal being provoked, and sometimes even when they are not.  Maine, like most other states, has imposed liability guidelines for when a dog bites a human. That’s why dog bites in Maine are taken very seriously.

Children are at a greater risk of a dog attack than adults due to their loving and innocent nature and their curiosity to pet dogs.  But when you mix a small child with a dog who has the ability and desire to attack, it can create a serious set of circumstances.  In fact, one in every 6 dog attacks require a doctor’s care.  Unfortunately, some victims are not so lucky.

When a dog attacks a person, the victim has a right to receive compensation for the attack.  This compensation originates in either the dog owner’s homeowner insurance policy, renter’s policy, or personal assets.

In some situations, someone other than the owner of the dog could be held liable.  One instance would be if the dog was under the care of another individual who had control over the animal.  Another would be if the dog’s owner is under the age of 18.  Even if a dog were on someone’s property, other than the owner, and they did not take some type of action to have the dog removed, they could be held liable for injuries that someone receives.  Common law states that in the event of an injury, anyone who keeps a dog is equally as responsible as if they were the dog’s owner.

Some states are referred to as “One-bite states”.  This means that unless the animal is provoked, the owner cannot be held liable if the animal delivers a single bite to a victim.  You could call it a warning bite.  If the liability can be based upon some other grounds, then the owner can be held responsible and compensation could be pursued.  Maine, however, is not a “one-bite state”.

Dog Attack Statutes

It is important to understand the legal parameters involving dog attacks.  These are put into place not only to protect the general public, but to serve as guidelines in dog bite cases.  They are also meant as a warning to encourage dog owners or keepers to maintain control of their animals at all times.

One particular statute which deals with negligence is called the Negligent Liability Statute.  In this statute, when a dog owner’s negligence results in a dog attack, the owner or keeper is liable in civil court for damages received.  The only exception is if the victim is deemed to be at fault for the attack.

There is also a statute known as the Dangerous Dog Statute.  According to it’s guidelines, a dog is considered dangerous when it bites a person that is not trespassing on property owned by the owner/keeper or causes the person to fear injury from the animal.

The statute also details the dog owner’s liability in the event of an attack.   Deemed as a civil attack, the owner/keeper can be fined $1,000.  A judge may also require that the animal be muzzled or restrained, either indoors or outdoors, in some type of enclosure.  If the injury sustained is serious enough, the judge may even require that the animal be destroyed.

In addition, the owner/keeper may be required to pay restitution for any damages that they incurred.  Failure to comply with any of the orders set forth by the judge could hold the owner/keeper to be held liable for three times the amount of damages that should be recovered.

The last statute is the Strict Liability Statute.  It states that when a person is injured by a dog that is located off of the owner or keeper’s property, the owner or keeper, whomever is responsible for care at the time, is liable for damages.  If the injured party is found to be at fault, the amount of damages for physical injury cannot be reduced unless a judge determines that more of the fault lies with the victim than the owner/keeper.

Regardless of the circumstances and the location of the attack, the authorities may require an investigation be made to determine if the attack was an isolated incident or if the animal has a history of attacking others.  This information can also be used by the judge to determine liability and whether the dog should be considered dangerous to the public.


The law states that a dog bite victim is entitled to receive compensation for their injuries.  But what can they be paid for?  Below is a list of applicable expenses.

  • Any applicable medical expenses, including medication
  • Medical expenses for future scar reduction
  • Damage to clothing
  • The expense of replacing broken glasses
  • Loss of earnings
  • Any future disability
  • Psychological counseling as a direct result of the attack
  • Any future disability

There are even instances where an injury party could receive additional types of compensation.  Examples that can be included in this category are job retraining and loss of earning capacity for the future.

When a dog owner is uninsured

There are instances where someone is attacked by a dog whose owner clams that they do not have assets or insurance that will pay for damages.  If this happens, it is important that you investigate to see if they are telling the truth.

Dog owners will deny coverage or adequate holdings simply because they do not want to have to use them to pay for damages.  If this occurs, you must file suit in order to get accurate answers to their assets and coverage.  It will probably be necessary to talk to the insurance company about coverage limits.  If no insurance exists, the owner could be forced to pay damages out of their pocket or have some of their assets liquidated in order to satisfy the suit.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general, not specific, information about Maine law. The publication of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between the author(s) and the reader(s).

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