Millions of dog bites are documented in the United States every year.
One-fifth of reported bites require medical care, and in 2017, 39 people died from dog bites.
Only thirteen states reported more dog bites than North Carolina in 2017.
If you or a family member is bitten by a dog, can you file suit the owner?
The answer is yes, under some circumstances.
The circumstance under which a dog owner is liable for injuries is frequently called the “one bite rule.”
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The North Carolina law addressing dog bites is a strict liability law, meaning that, when certain conditions are met, the owner may be accountable for injuries caused by a pet without specific evidence of negligence. Strict liability applies when the dog harms someone or causes property damage after being identified as a “dangerous animal.”
A “dangerous animal” is defined as one that has previously killed or seriously injured a person without being provoked, is kept and/or trained for the purpose of dog fighting, or has been recognized by local animal control authorities as “potentially dangerous.”
A dog could be classified as “potentially dangerous” after it has had its “one bite.” The “one bite” may not even be a bite, though. Attacking and/or killing another animal or acting in a threatening manner toward a person are actions that will also result in being identified as “potentially dangerous.” A dog that chases or dashes at people, snarls or growls, or regularly jumps on people may be considered aggressive and potentially dangerous.
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The owner of a dog that has been designated as a dangerous animal will be held accountable for any damages caused by the dog. The owner will have to pay for injuries from bites, and for secondary injuries, such as injury from a fall when running away from the dog. The owner is also required to pay for any property damage.
Even if the dog has not been classified as dangerous, North Carolina law makes a dog owner responsible for bites or injuries if the dog is over six months old, and is running loose after dark.
There are some exceptions to the strict liability law. The owner can avoid liability if he proves that the injured person was willfully trespassing on the owner’s property, attempting to commit a crime, or assaulting or taunting the dog. The owner will still be accountable for injuries to an innocent trespasser, like a child who stumbles onto the property inadvertently.
The strict liability law may also be applied to a dog owner who disregards local ordinances. In some counties, 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 habits. Local authorities will also know if the dog has previously been reported, triggering the strict liability rules.
Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover dog bites but may limit their exposure. You may sue the dog’s owner for the full amount of your damages, but you may only recover from the insurance company for their policy limit. Any excess over and above the policy limit would be the responsibility of the owner.
A local dog bite lawyer will advise you of your rights if you have been bitten or injured by a dog. The attorneys at Campbell & Associates have represented dog bite sufferers in North Carolina for many years, and know exactly how to get you the compensation you are entitled to. Call us at 704-769-2316 for a complimentary case evaluation.