There are several ways to recover damages against the owner of a dog who injures a person in North Carolina. The first is by proving that the owner of the dog was negligent in some way, for example, that the owner had some reason to believe that the dog could cause harm and still allowed the dog to interact with people.
The “one bite rule” is a way in which negligence can be established. Essentially, the owner of an animal is not responsible for injuries inflicted by their animals until the owner has a reason to believe that the animal might be dangerous.
The “one bite rule” actually does not necessarily require the animal to have bitten anyone; the animal must only have shown itself to have aggressive tendencies. Aggressive behavior might also involve chasing people, growling, or knocking someone down. Once the animal has bitten someone or behaved aggressively and the owner is aware of the aggressive behavior, the owner is responsible for any injuries caused by the animal, either by a bite or indirectly, such as tripping and falling while being chased by the animal.
Liability Of The Owner
Even if an animal has not had its one bite, the owner may still be held responsible for injuries caused by an animal. North Carolina law calls for strict liability for animal owners in some circumstances. For example, if the owner has violated animal control laws, he may be held responsible for injuries caused by his animals even without prior aggressive behavior, if the injury was a direct result of the violation.
For example, North Carolina law prevents animals over 6 months old to be loose at night without the owner or another person in control of the animal. If an animal gets loose at night and causes injury to someone, the owner is automatically liable for the injuries. If the animal has been labeled as “potentially dangerous” by a local animal control board, strict liability also applies. An animal can be considered potentially dangerous if it has been bred or trained for fighting, has been determined to be a “dangerous breed,” or if the animal had shown aggressive tendencies in the past.
The “aggressive breed” designation, in North Carolina and elsewhere, has been controversial, with owners of pit bulls, Rottweilers, among others, arguing that not all dogs of a certain breed are necessarily dangerous. Nevertheless, the owner of a dog which has been determined to be an aggressive breed is not protected by the one bite rule and will be responsible for any injury caused by the animal.
When The Owner Is Not Liable
There are some circumstances in which an animal owner might not be held responsible for injuries, even after the animal’s “one bite.” If the person is willfully trespassing on the owner’s property, in which the animal is safely contained, the owner is not responsible if the animal bites or injures the trespasser. If the injured person was found to be harming or taunting the animal, the owner may not be responsible if the animal retaliates.
Contact Us Right Away
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a dog bite situation, please contact us immediately at 704-769-2316.