Each year in the United States, nearly five million people are bitten by dogs.
About twenty percent of those bites are serious enough to require medical attention, and 39 people died in 2017 from dog bites.
North Carolina ranks 14th in the number of dog bites in the United States.
If you or a family member 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 pets.
Dog Bite Lawyer In Charlotte
The North Carolina statute covering dog bites is a strict liability law, meaning that, when certain conditions are met, the owner may be responsible for damages caused by a pet without specific proof of negligence. Strict liability applies when:
- The dog has been determined to be a ‘dangerous dog”.
- The dog causes injury to a person or damages property.
A “dangerous dog” 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 identified by local animal control authorities as “potentially dangerous.” The “potentially dangerous” designation is where the “one bite” rule comes into play. If a dog has previously bitten a person, attacked or killed another animal, or acted aggressively toward a person, it can be considered potentially dangerous. Aggressive actions might include snarling and showing teeth, jumping on people, lunging at someone, or chasing people.
An owner will be liable for injuries or damages caused by a pet that has been classified as a dangerous animal. The owner will be liable not just for bites but will be responsible for injuries caused if the dog knocks someone down, or if the dog chases someone and the person falls. The owner will also be liable for property damage caused by the dog.
Charlotte Legal Professionals For Animal Attacks
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 more than six months old and was running loose at night.
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 assaulting or tormenting the dog. Willful trespass means that the person must know that he is on the owner’s property. A lost child, for example, is not willfully trespassing, and the owner will be liable if his dog injures the child.
Animal control regulations vary in different localities. Some cities regulate certain breeds and some ban so-called dangerous breeds like pit bulls altogether.
Dog Bite Attorney Near Me
If you have been bitten or injured by a dog, report the bite to the owner and to the local animal control authorities. If the dog has a history of aggressive behavior, the local animal control authority may require the owner to restrain or muzzle the dog. Local authorities will also know of the dog has previously been reported, triggering the strict liability rules.
Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover dog bites but may limit their coverage. You may sue the dog’s owner for the total amount of your damages, but you may only recover from the insurance company for their policy limit. Any excess beyond the policy limit would be the responsibility of the owner.
If you have been injured or bitten by an aggressive dog, talk to a local attorney who can advise you of your rights under North Carolina law. The attorneys at Campbell & Associates will work hard to see that you are fully compensated for your damages from a bite or encounter with an aggressive dog. Call us for a free consultation at 704-769-2316.