Every year in the United States, roughly five million people are bitten by dogs.
About twenty percent of those bites are severe enough to need medical attention, and 39 people died in 2017 from dog bites.
Dog bites are reported more frequently in North Carolina than in many states that are more populous.
Are you able to sue a dog owner if you or a family member is bitten?
Fortunately, there is some recourse available owner.
Most people have heard that every dog gets one bite.
That concept has been established by law in North Carolina.
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Dog owners in North Carolina are strictly liable for injuries caused by their pets when certain conditions are met. When those conditions are satisfied, no proof of negligence is required in a suit against the owner. The conditions are:
- The dog has already been identified as a “dangerous dog,” and:
- The dog has injured a person or damaged property.
A “dangerous animal” is defined as one that has previously killed or seriously injured a person without provocation, is kept and/or trained for the purpose of dog fighting, or has been classified by local animal control authorities as “potentially dangerous.” A dog may be identified as “potentially dangerous” after it has had its “one bite.” The “one bite” may not even be a bite. Attacking and/or killing another animal or behaving in an aggressive manner toward a person are all behaviors that will also result in being identified as “potentially dangerous.” Aggressive actions might include snapping and showing teeth, jumping on people, leaping at someone, or chasing people.
Once a dog has been classified as a dangerous animal by meeting one of the three criteria, the owner can be strictly accountable for injuries caused by the dog. The owner’s liability extends to indirect damages, including injuries sustained in a fall when being chased by the dog. If the dangerous animal damages property, the owner is also responsible.
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If a person is bitten by a dog that does not fall into the “dangerous dog” designation, he may still sue the owner for damages if the dog was over six months old and was running loose after dark.
There are some exceptions to the strict liability law. The owner can escape liability if he shows that the injured person was willfully trespassing on the owner’s property, attempting to commit a crime, or attacking or taunting the dog. A person is willfully trespassing only if he is aware he is on the property, however. A child who wanders onto the dog owner’s property by mistake would not be a willful trespasser.
Violating local animal control regulations can also trigger strict liability. For example, some localities prohibit certain breeds that they have identified as dangerous.
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Report any bites or hostile actions to the dog owner and to the local animal control agency. If the dog has a record of aggressive tendencies, the local animal control authority may require the owner to restrain or muzzle the dog. Local authorities will also know if the dog has already been reported, triggering the strict liability rules.
Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover dog bites but may limit their exposure. The homeowner’s insurance will pay for damages up to the policy limit. Anything beyond that would be the owner’s responsibility.
Call a local dog bite attorney if you or a relative has been injured by a dog. The lawyers at Campbell & Associates have represented dog bite victims in North Carolina for many years, and know exactly how to get you the settlement you deserve. Call us at 704-769-2316 for a no-cost case evaluation.