Dog Bites – A Personal Injury Case

Anyone can be the victim of a dog attack.  You could be jogging in your neighborhood or walking your own dog on a leash.  Your child might be playing in your yard or at a neighbor’s house.  Dog bites and dog attacks are serious, and victims have rights under South Carolina law.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 800,000 dog bites or attacks each year in the U.S. that require medical attention.  More than 50% of victims are children, with 26% of them needing medical treatment.  Children are especially vulnerable, and their injuries are among the most dangerous.

Who is liable?

Victims in South Carolina can recover damages under SC Law 47-3-110.  Enacted in 1986, this law covers dog bites and other dog-related injuries.  The law states that when a person is bitten or attacked by a dog while in a public place or is lawfully on private property, including the property of the dog owner, the owner of the animal is liable for damages.  South Carolina is a strict liability state.  There is not a “one bite” rule as used in some other states.  In other words, the dog’s owner does not have to know in advance of the attack that the animal is dangerous or had a propensity to attack people.

Dog owners in South Carolina are expected to keep their animals on their property and restrained when they are not on their private property.  Dog owners are liable even if the dog was in the care of another person at the time of the attack.  The law is generally on the side of the victim.  The victim is not required to prove that the dog owner was negligent or somehow did not take reasonable precautions to prevent the attack.  The statute applies as long as the victim did not provoke or harass the animal.  However, the owner may escape liability if the victim was illegally trespassing.  This exception does not apply to mail carriers, utility workers, delivery persons, law enforcement, or others who are just performing their jobs or duties.

What compensation is covered?

The victim’s medical bills are covered under the law.  The statute is not limited to dog bites.  If the dog attacks and knocks the victim down, injuries sustained from the fall are also covered.  Injuries may include punctures, lacerations, fractures, infected wounds, facial injuries, disfigurement, and death.  The dog owner is liable for the victim’s general loss of income and time off from work.  The law also allows compensation for pain, suffering, and emotional distress.  Lawsuits must be filed within three years of the injury.

What to do after a dog bite

  • Wash the wound with soap and water to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Seek medical attention
  • Report the attack with 24 hours to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.  Physicians who treat victims must report the attack to county health departments so that the animal can be quarantined and tested for rabies.

Homeowners insurance may cover dog bites under liability coverage.  However, some dog breeds may be excluded, and medical costs may exceed the policy limits.  If you or a family member have been the victim of a serious dog attack, contact the office of Ryan Montgomery Law to speak with an experienced Personal Injury attorney.