Dog bites are an all too common problem, with more than five million reported each year.
About twenty percent of those bites are severe enough to need medical treatment, and 39 people died in 2017 from dog bites.
We love our pets in North Carolina but dog bites are more common here than in many more populous states.
If you or a relative is bitten by a dog, can you take legal action against the owner?
In some situations, an owner will be accountable for injuries resulting from a bite or attack.
North Carolina, like many states, has a “one bite rule” for dangerous dogs.
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North Carolina law creates strict liability for dog owners in certain circumstances. This means that, in the right circumstances, a dog owner will be automatically liable for injuries caused by a dog, even if he is not negligent. The owner is subject to the strict liability law if his dog injures someone or causes property damage after previously being identified as a “dangerous animal.”
A dog may be classified as dangerous when it has killed or seriously injured a person, is being trained for dog fighting or has been classified by the local animal control agency as “potentially dangerous.”
The “one bite rule” illustrates how a dog can end up with the “potentially dangerous” classification. A dog will be classified as “potentially dangerous” if it has bitten a person, no matter how serious the bite was. If may also be identified as “potentially dangerous” if it has acted in a threatening or aggressive manner toward a person. Threatening actions might include snarling and showing teeth, jumping on people, leaping at someone, or chasing people.
The owner of a dog that has been designated as a dangerous animal will be held liable for any damages caused by the dog. The owner will be responsible not just for bites but will be accountable for injuries caused if the dog knocks someone down, or if the dog chases someone and the person falls. The owner is also required to pay for any property damage.
Even when the dog has not been identified as dangerous, North Carolina law makes a dog owner liable for bites or injuries if the dog is more than six months old, and is running loose at night.
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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 his property, trying to commit a crime, or assaulting or taunting the dog. The owner will still be liable for injuries to an innocent trespasser, like a child who wanders onto the property inadvertently.
Violating local animal control regulations can also trigger strict liability. For example, some counties prohibit certain breeds that they have identified as dangerous.
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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 agency. If the dog has a record of aggressive behavior, the local animal control authority may require the owner to restrain or muzzle the dog. Your local animal control agency will have a record of past complaints about the dog, which will help you establish liability. Homeowner’s insurance may cover dog bites, but most policies place a cap on damages. If your damages surpass the amount allowed by the homeowner’s policy, the dog owner will be responsible for any excess.
Call a local dog bite lawyer if you or a family member has been 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 deserve. Call us today at 704-769-2316 to set up a free consultation with one of our dog bite experts.