Dog Bite Lawsuit Guide in North Carolina

Many recent dog bite cases have been in the news, some resulting in the mauling and death of innocent children and adults. In many cases, the dog that attacks a victim has never attacked anyone or bitten anyone before. Dog bites can cause devastating, painful, and long-term injuries. When dogs bite children, those vulnerable victims may need extensive surgery and suffer disfiguring scarring for the rest of their lives. Understanding North Carolina's dog bite laws can help you protect yourself and pursue the compensation you need and deserve.

Does North Carolina Have a Dog Bite Statute?

Under North Carolina law, no specific statute addresses dog bites. However, that does not necessarily mean that dog owners are entirely off the hook for injuries that their pets cause. Even without a specific dog bite law in place, there are still legal remedies that may be available to victims of dog bites. For example, if a dog owner was negligent in controlling or restraining their animal, and that negligence resulted in someone being bitten, the victim may have grounds to sue for damages.

Common Law Liability

Victims of dog bites may be able to recover compensation through the common law in North Carolina. To succeed, the plaintiff must present evidence that the dog that bit them had previously demonstrated dangerous propensities. Additionally, victims must show that the dog's owner or keeper at the time of the bite had knowledge of the dog's dangerous propensities. The plaintiff has no legal requirement to prove that the dog had previously bitten someone to recover under a common-law theory of liability.

What is the Meaning of a "Dangerous Dog"?

In North Carolina, the definition of a "dangerous dog" is a dog that:

  • Without provocation, has killed or inflicted severe injury on a person. A severe injury means any physical injury that results in broken bones, disfiguring lacerations, or that requires cosmetic surgery or hospitalization.
  • Is owned primarily for dog fighting or is trained for dog fighting.
  • Was previously determined to be "potentially dangerous," continues the behavior, and has engaged in one or more behaviors associated with a potentially dangerous dog.
What is the Meaning of a "Potentially Dangerous Dog"?

The definition of a "potentially dangerous dog" is:

  • A dog that inflicts a bite on a person that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations or requires cosmetic surgery or hospitalization, or
  • A dog that has killed or inflicted severe injury upon a domestic animal when not on the owner's real property or
  • A dog that has approached a person when not on the owner's property in a vicious or terrorizing manner in an apparent attitude of attack.
  • Under the statute, a dog is not "potentially dangerous" if it inflicted injury on a person who was committing a willful trespass or another tort, was tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog, had tormented, abused, or assaulted the dog, or was committing or attempting to commit a crime.
The Legal Responsibilities of Dangerous Dog Owners

Dog owners have specific legal responsibilities in North Carolina. For example, dog owners are required to keep dangerous dogs indoors. If they keep dogs outdoors, they must keep them securely enclosed in a locked pen or another structure designed to restrain the dog. Dangerous dogs are not permitted to go beyond the owner's property line unless the dog is securely restrained, leashed, or muzzled.

The Liability of Dangerous Dog Owners

The owner of a dangerous dog is strictly liable for any injuries or property damage that the dog inflicts on a person, his property, or another animal. If a dangerous dog attacks a person and causes physical injuries requiring medical treatment for over $100, the owner is responsible for committing a crime and can face criminal penalties.

Steps to Take if You or Your Child Have Been Injured in a Dog Bite

Knowing the steps you should take after a dog bite incident is important. The first thing you should do is obtain medical treatment for the victim. It is essential that you keep all of your medical records and attend all follow-up appointments. Doing so can help you prove the severity of the dog bite injuries.

Depending on the facts in your case, you can recover compensation through a personal injury lawsuit or an insurance settlement. You must discuss any settlement offers with an attorney before you accept them. Initial settlement offers usually need to be higher, and an attorney can work toward negotiating a fair, full settlement.

Contact a Charlotte, North Carolina Attorney

Suffering a dog bite can be a traumatic experience, mainly if it results in severe injury or disfigurement. The laws regarding dog bites in North Carolina can be complex and confusing. That is why consulting with a knowledgeable attorney who can guide you through the legal process and help you obtain the compensation you deserve is crucial. Whether a dog has bitten you or your child, an experienced attorney can help protect your rights and hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions. Don't delay - Contact the Charlotte dog bite attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule a free case evaluation.

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