Every year in the United States, almost five million people are attacked by dogs.
Approximately twenty percent of those bites are serious enough to require medical care, and 39 people died in 2017 from dog bites.
Only thirteen states have more reported dog bites every year than North Carolina.
If you are injured by a dog, can you collect damages from the dog’s owner?
The short answer is yes, but you ought to know the conditions under which an owner may be sued.
The “one bite rule” describes the circumstances under which a pet owner may be held liable for bites.
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Dog bites in North Carolina are covered by a strict liability law. If certain conditions are met, an owner will be held liable for any injuries caused by a dog, regardless of whether the owner was negligent. Those conditions are:
The dog has been classified as dangerous.
After being classified as dangerous, the dog injures a person or damages property.
A dangerous dog is one which:
- Has previously killed or harmed a person without provocation
- Is being trained or kept by the owner for dog fighting
- Has been recognized by local authorities as “potentially dangerous.”
The “potentially dangerous” classification is where the “one bite” rule comes into play. A dog is designated as potentially dangerous after the local animal control authority has received a report that the dog has bitten a person, killed an animal, or acted in an aggressive manner toward a person, Aggressive behaviors may include snapping and showing teeth, jumping on people, lunging at someone, or chasing after people.
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An owner will be responsible for injuries or damages caused by a pet that has been identified as a dangerous animal. The owner will be liable for injuries resulting from bites, but will also be liable for indirect injuries resulting from an attack. If someone is being chased by the dog and falls, for example, the owner will be responsible for injuries sustained in the fall. The owner will also be responsible for property damage caused by the dog.
Even if the dog has not been designated as dangerous, the owner may be accountable for damages caused by an adult dog running loose after dark.
The owner may avoid liability in some instances. The owner may not be liable for damages caused by a dog to a person who is trespassing on the owner’s property, attempting to commit a crime, or taunting the dog. The trespassing, in order to trigger the exception, must be willful. A lost child, for example, is not willfully trespassing, and the owner will be responsible if his dog bites the child.
Animal control regulations can vary in different localities. Some cities place restrictions on certain breeds, and some prohibit so-called dangerous breeds like pit bulls completely.
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If a dog bites or attacks you, make sure to file a report with the local animal control board. If the dog has been previously reported for aggressive tendencies, the local animal control authority may require the owner to restrain or muzzle the dog. In addition, the existence of previous reports will trigger the strict liability rules.
Homeowner’s insurance policies may cover dog bites, but policies typically limit the amount of coverage. In a lawsuit against the owner of the dog, the owner may be responsible for any damages over the limit of the policy.
If you have been hurt or bitten by an aggressive dog, speak with a local attorney who can advise you of your rights under North Carolina law. The lawyers at Campbell and Associates have represented many dog bite victims in North Carolina and can help you get the settlement you deserve. Our consultations are always free. Call today at 704-769-2316 to talk to one of our dog bite experts.