Each year, American dog ownership goes up. Dog owners should be aware that caring for a pet comes with new responsibilities. Dogs should be taken care of, but it is also an owner’s obligation to keep others safe during their pet’s interactions with people.
Sometimes, dog attacks happen during these meetings, and when they do, South Carolina has a firm set of dog laws in place to ensure the owner is held accountable. Different levels of injuries and damages can be associated with dog bites which may increase the complications of filing insurance claims or lawsuits. An experienced South Carolina personal injury attorney can clarify the legal process and assist in recovering the compensation you deserve.
Dog Owner Liability
Dogs have gotten the reputation of man’s best friend for good reason. In most cases, dogs become part of the family and never show any aggressiveness, but any dog can be prompted to attack under the right circumstances. In certain situations, some dogs do become a serious threat to public safety.
The annual data from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that more than 4.5 million Americans suffer from a dog bite each year. More than half of these attacks involve children, and a fifth of the attacks require medical attention.
By South Carolina law, if a person is not trespassing or provoking a dog when they are bitten, the dog’s owner is strictly liable for the victim’s injuries. The laws of the state and municipalities are clearly designed to protect human beings from dangerous domestic animals. If someone suffers an unprovoked attack, there is probable cause to initiate a lawsuit against the dog owner.
History of South Carolina Dog Bite Laws
Over the years, South Carolina dog bite laws have evolved. One of the biggest changes took place in 1986. Previously, the state dealt with dog attacks using judicial precedent or treating specific court decisions as the authority when deciding similar cases that came after it. All dog attack cases, regardless of differing factors, were resolved with precedent.
In 1986, specific laws concerning domestic pets were adopted by South Carolina’s state legislature. Under the new code of laws, the term strict liability describes how dog owners will be held liable for damages their dog inflicts while attacking a victim in most circumstances.
This new legislation distinguished South Carolina from other states that follow a “one-bite rule.”
The One-Bite Rule
The one-bite rule contends that dog owners should not be liable the first time a dog bites someone because there is no way of knowing if the dog is dangerous until an attack happens. Strict liability takes a hard line in holding the owner liable for damages if a person was bitten:
- In a public place
- Lawfully on private property
The owner is liable even if the victim was invited to the dog owner’s property and the dog bites them while they are there. Strict liability also goes beyond the dog owner and holds anyone liable who had possession of or was in control of the dog when it attacked.
Often, the attacking dog is familiar to the victim. A dog belonging to friends, neighbors, or family members can still bite. This should not be a deterrent in seeking damages. Typically, the dog owner’s homeowner or renter insurance covers dog attacks.
Exceptions to Strict Liability
As with all laws, it is not always cut and dried. There are exceptions when a dog bites such that the dog owner may not be held liable. Exceptions may include:
- If the dog’s owner can prove the dog was provoked or harassed by the person who was attacked, including evidence of:
- Throwing rocks
- If the person attacked sustained injuries while trespassing on private property without permission from the property owners (mail carriers and delivery personnel are exempt from needing permission)
- If the dog is performing duties in the capacity of law enforcement
There are certain circumstances when a police dog’s handler may be liable for damages after a dog attacks. These situations may include:
- If the dog attacks due to an unlawful command
- If the dog was not properly trained or certified
- If the police dog or officer’s actions violate the law enforcement agency’s written policy
- If the attack constitutes excessive force
Dog Bite Damages
Damages suffered from a dog bite can vary. A dog attack can trigger an avalanche of both financial and non-financial losses. Financial losses may include:
- Lost income from missed work
- Diminished earning capacity
- Medical expenses
Non-financial losses may include:
- Emotional trauma
- Pain and suffering
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies usually cover events like fire, theft, weather damages, or protecting policyholders if someone is injured on their property. Many policies also include liability coverage for dog bites, leaving the dog owner to pay for any damages exceeding the coverage’s limits.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In worst-case scenarios, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed to recover damages. Compensation can never repair a tragedy, but it helps deal with the financial burden associated with catastrophe.
Contact a South Carolina Dog Bite Lawyer Today
When pursuing a personal injury claim against a dog owner after an attack, obtaining legal representation is not required. However, you can strengthen your claim when you speak with the skilled South Carolina dog bite attorneys at the Shelly Leeke Law Firm. They can help you maximize the compensation you receive in a dog bite injury case.
There are a few reasons to hire a lawyer:
- We provide free consultations, with no obligations, to review the circumstances of a case.
- Insurance companies often have legal teams with deep resources on retainer.
- Insurance companies usually attempt to offer the lowest possible settlement.
- Studies show that victims with legal representation receive higher settlement offers.
- Dog bite attorneys know the ins and outs of the legal process and how to settle a claim quickly and efficiently with the best results.
You substantially increase the chances of recovering the compensation you both need and deserve when you make the decision to seek a skilled attorney. If you are a loved one has been injured by a dog bite in South Carolina and needs assistance, contact the attorneys at Shelly
Leeke Law Firm today for a complimentary case evaluation.