Dog bites are an all too common problem, with more than five million reported every year.
About twenty percent of those bites are serious enough to need medical treatment, and 39 people died in 2017 from dog bites.
Compared to the other states, North Carolina residents receive more than their share of dog bites each year.
If you or a family member is bitten by a dog, can you sue the owner?
The answer is yes, under certain circumstances.
The circumstance under which a dog owner is responsible for injuries is often called the “one bite rule.”
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North Carolina law provides for strict liability for dog owners in certain circumstances. This means that, in many cases, a dog owner will be automatically accountable for injuries caused by a dog, even if he is not negligent. Strict liability applies when a dog injures someone or causes property damage after being classified as a “dangerous animal.”
A dog may be identified as dangerous when it has killed or seriously injured a person, is being trained for dog fighting, or has been determined by the local animal control agency as “potentially dangerous.”
A dog could be classified as “potentially dangerous” after it has had its “one bite.” If a dog has bitten a person or acted in a hostile manner toward a person, it is considered to have had its “one bite,” and can be officially classified as “potentially dangerous. A dog that chases or charges at people, snarls or growls, or regularly jumps on people may be considered aggressive for purposes of the “potentially dangerous” classification.
An owner will be accountable for injuries or damages caused by a pet that has been identified as a dangerous animal. The owner will have to pay for injuries from bites, as well as 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.
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.
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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 taunting the dog. Willful trespass means that the person must be aware that he is on the owner’s property. A lost child, for example, is not willfully trespassing, and the owner will be responsible if his dog injures the child.
Animal control ordinances vary in different localities, and violation of local ordinances can trigger strict liability. For example, some cities regulate certain breeds, and some ban so-called dangerous breeds, like pit bulls, altogether.
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Always report any dog bite to the owner and to your local animal control agency. The animal control agency may require an owner to restrain or muzzle a dog that has been known to exhibit aggressive tendencies. Your local animal control agency will have a record of previous problems about the dog, which will help you prove liability for your injuries.
A claim against a dog owner for injuries will ordinarily be covered by his homeowner’s insurance policy. The homeowner’s insurance will pay for damages up to the policy limit. Anything beyond that would be the owner’s responsibility.
If you have been injured or bitten by an aggressive dog, consult a local lawyer who can advise you of your rights under North Carolina law. The attorneys at Campbell & Associates will strive to see that you are fully recompensed for your damages from a bite or encounter with an aggressive dog. Call us today at 704-769-2316 to arrange a free consultation with any of our dog bite experts.