Millions of dog bites are reported in the United States each year.
Many bites are serious enough to require a doctor’s care, and a few are fatal.
North Carolina ranked 14th in the number of dog bites in the United States in 2017.
If you or a relative is bitten by a dog, can you sue the owner?
The answer is yes, under certain circumstances.
North Carolina, like many states, has a “one bite rule” for dangerous animals.
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Dog owners in North Carolina are strictly accountable for injuries caused by their pets when certain conditions are met. When those conditions are met, no proof of negligence is required in a suit against the owner. The conditions are:
- The dog has already been classified as a “dangerous dog,” and:
- The dog has injured a person or damaged property.
A dog is identified as dangerous in any one of three circumstances:
- The dog has killed or seriously harmed a person.
- The dog is being kept or trained for dog fighting.
- The dog has been classified by local authorities as “potentially dangerous.”
A dog can be classified as “potentially dangerous” after it has had its “one bite.” A dog will be identified as “potentially dangerous” if it has bitten a person, no matter how severe the bite was. If may also be classified as “potentially dangerous” if it has attacked or killed another animal, or acted aggressively toward a person. If a dog regularly chases people, threatens people by snarling or baring its teeth, or tries to knock someone down, it might be classified as “potentially dangerous.”
The owner of a dog that has been designated as a dangerous animal will be held responsible for any damages caused by the dog. The owner will be liable not just for bites but will be accountable for injuries caused if the dog knocks someone down, or if the dog chases someone and the person falls. The owner is also required to pay for any property damage.
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Even if the dog has not been classified as dangerous, North Carolina law makes a dog owner accountable for bites or injuries if the dog is over six months old, and is running loose after dark.
The owner of a dog can avoid liability if his dog bit someone who was willfully trespassing, attempting to commit a crime, or abusing the dog. A person is willfully trespassing only if he knows he is on the property, however. A child who wanders onto the dog owner’s property by mistake would not be a willful trespasser.
The strict liability law may also be applied to a dog owner who violates local ordinances. In some localities, so-called dangerous breeds like pit bulls are outlawed.
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If you have been bitten or injured by a dog, report the bite to the owner and to the local animal control authorities. The animal control agency may require an owner to restrain or muzzle a dog that has been known to display aggressive behaviors. Local authorities will also know if the dog has already been reported, triggering the strict liability rules.
Most homeowner’s insurance policies include dog bites but may limit their exposure. If your damages surpass the amount allowed by the homeowner’s policy, the dog owner will be accountable for any excess.
Call a local dog bite attorney if you or a loved one has been injured by a dog. The lawyers at Campbell & Associates have represented dog bite sufferers in North Carolina for many years, and know exactly how to get you the settlement you are entitled to. Call us today at 704-769-2316 to arrange a free consultation with one of our dog bite experts.