Dog attacks can be nasty events with unforeseen financial consequences. Victims and their families often have to face these consequences alone, sometimes at the expense of their livelihoods. By contacting a South Carolina dog bite lawyer from Shelley Leek Law Firm today, victims of dog bites can take the first steps in recovering what was in medical bills and more.
What Victims Can Do After an Accident
Dog bite victims generally have a couple of different options. One such option is an insurance claim with the insurance company of the dog owner, which could potentially mean a quick, easy payout. Despite this, insurance companies typically lowball victims to settle the matter as fast as possible – sometimes refusing to do so altogether.
Additionally, victims are able to sue the dog owner or on-duty caretaker for damages. This is especially useful in cases in which insurance companies refuse to cooperate, or the dog owners try to deny any wrongdoing. In these cases and more, a South Carolina dog bite attorney is absolutely critical.
How a Dog Bite Lawyer Helps Victims
A dog bite lawyer can fill a number of important roles for their clients in order to ensure they receive the help and compensation that they are entitled to as victims. In fact, hiring an attorney can increase the amount of damages the victim could receive in a lawsuit as they will factor in less evident damages to the compensation, such as pain and suffering or lost income – damages that otherwise would not be paid out by a quick insurance settlement.
There are a number of specific tasks that lawyers do for their clients in order to ensure a smooth, comprehensive case:
- Investigating the incident, in addition to the dog’s history
- Gathering eyewitness statements and testimonies
- Reconstructing the accident and drawing specific details with the help of experts
- Negotiating with insurance companies
- Proving negligence and liability
One of the primary goals of lawyers in pursuing a dog bite case is proving liability. By establishing liability, the plaintiff is able to prove to the court that it was the responsibility and fault of the dog owner or handler that led to the attack, ultimately making them responsible for the damages.
Every state works slightly differently in how it assigns liability. Depending on the state, this is commonly done under the doctrines of negligence, negligence per se, scienter, and intentional tort. One of the most common ways that negligence is proven in South Carolina is statutory liability, which makes dog owners strictly liable for damages suffered by a person who has been “bitten or otherwise attacked.”
Yet, as is the case with many states, liability can also be based on scienter, commonly known as the “one bite rule.” In short, the one-bite rule states that should a dog have an unusually dangerous tendency or history of biting people, the owner or keeper of the dog is liable for damages. However, while other states such as North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia have one-bite rules or mixed law, South Carolina only adheres to statutory strict liability.
Defenses will typically take a number of commonly-traveled routes in order to clear themselves of responsibility, thereby avoiding compensation payouts. An experienced lawyer from Shelley Leeke Law Firm will be able to recognize these potential defenses and refute them, further increasing your options for compensation.
- Provocation: A common defense in dog bite cases, provocation basically alleges that the victim of the dog bite did something in order to cause the dog to attack. This could include teasing or cornering the dog, causing it to feel threatened.
- Trespassing: In some cases, trespassers are found to be in violation of the law prior to when the dog attack occurred, clearing the dog owner of responsibility. In any case, experienced lawyers are often able to recover damages using the limited legal protections afforded to trespassers.
- Assumption of risk or comparative negligence: The final, commonly used defense in dog bite cases is that the victim was at least partially responsible for the incident. This might be the case if they were given adequate warnings or other similar scenarios.
South Carolina Dog Bite Injury Law
All states enforce statutes of limitations that vary based on the type of incident that occurs. These statutes play a crucial role in establishing a time limit for victims to initiate a legal claim. To ensure compliance with this deadline, it is essential to contact attorneys as soon as possible, in part because some cases require extensive investigation and preparation before they can be presented in court. In South Carolina, the statute of limitations pertaining to dog bites falls under the “personal injury” category, granting victims a three-year window from the injury’s occurrence to file a claim.
How to Help Your Attorney Maximize Compensation
Following a dog bite incident, it is important to prioritize the care of your injuries and ensure a safe environment. Once you have confirmed that the victim is out of harm’s way and stabilized their injuries, gather as much information as possible:
- Photographs of the scene: Whenever possible, capture images of the location, the injuries, the dog involved, any damaged clothing, and property. Document any visual evidence that may indicate the owner’s negligence.
- Documentation: Preserve any documentation associated with the case, such as police reports and medical records. Additionally, request the owner to provide documentation confirming their dog’s vaccination against rabies.
- Relevant information about the dog owner: Obtain the owner’s full name, address, and details regarding their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.
- Witnesses’ details: Gather the names and contact information of any individuals who witnessed the incident.
South Carolina Dog Bite Lawyers Advocating for Victims
Dog attacks can be a physically, financially, and emotionally taxing experience for victims. Reach out to a South Carolina dog bite attorney from Shelley Leeke Law Firm today to learn more about your legal options after a dog bite. Contacting an attorney is the first step in maximizing your chance of recovering damages for your injuries.