Dog bites are an all too common problem, with more than five million reported yearly.
About twenty percent of those bites are severe enough to need medical treatment, and 39 people died in 2017 from dog bites.
Compared to the other states, North Carolina ranks 14th in the number of dog bites, higher than some states with much greater populations.
Can the owner of a dog be held accountable for injuries caused by his dog?
Fortunately, there is some recourse available. Most people have heard the phrase, “every dog gets one bite.”
In North Carolina, the “one-bite” rule is actually a law.
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The North Carolina Dog bite law places strict liability on dog owners, meaning that, when certain conditions are met, the owner may be liable for injuries caused by a pet without specific evidence of negligence. Strict liability applies when:
- The dog has been determined to be a ‘dangerous dog” and
- The dog causes injury to a person or damages property.
A dog may be identified as dangerous when it has killed or seriously harmed a person, is being trained for dog fighting or has been determined by the local animal control agency as “potentially dangerous.”
The “potentially dangerous” classification is where the “one bite” rule enters into play. After a dog has bitten someone without being provoked, it can be classified as “potentially dangerous.” The “one bite” may not even be a bite, however. Attacking and/or killing another animal or acting in an aggressive manner toward a person are habits that will also result in being classified as “potentially dangerous.” Examples of aggressive behavior might be chasing people, intimidating people by snarling or baring its teeth, or trying to knock someone down.
Once a dog has been identified as a dangerous animal by meeting one of the three criteria, the owner can be strictly responsible for injuries caused by the dog. The owner will have to pay for injuries from bites, as well as for ancillary injuries, such as injury from a fall when running away from the dog. The owner will also be responsible for property damage caused by the dog.
Harrisburg Dog Attack Attorneys
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.
The strict liability law does not apply when:
- The injured person was willfully trespassing on the owner’s property
- The injured person was trying to commit a crime, or
- The injured person was intentionally provoking the dog. The owner will still be liable for injuries to an innocent trespasser, like a child who wanders onto the property accidentally.
Animal control ordinances vary in different localities, and violation of local ordinances can trigger strict liability. For example, some localities regulate certain breeds and some ban so-called dangerous breeds like pit bulls altogether.
Dog Bite Lawyer Near Me
Report any bites or hostile behavior to the dog owner and to the local animal control agency. The animal control agency may require an owner to restrain or muzzle a dog that has been known to display aggressive tendencies. Your local animal control agency will have a record of past complaints about the dog, which will help you if prove liability.
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.
A local dog bite lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights if you have been bitten or injured by a dog. The lawyers at Campbell & Associates will strive to see that you are fully compensated for your damages from a bite or encounter with an aggressive dog. Call us at 704-769-2316 for a free case evaluation.