Dog bites can lead to serious injuries, emotional trauma, and substantial medical expenses. In North Carolina, determining liability for a dog bite requires an understanding of the state’s laws and regulations. If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, it’s crucial to be aware of the legal recourse available to you. In this article, we will discuss who may be held liable for a dog bite in North Carolina and the requirements surrounding these cases
Strict Liability in North Carolina
In North Carolina, the law follows a strict liability approach when it comes to dog bites. This means that the owner of a dog may be held responsible for injuries caused by their pet, regardless of whether or not they knew about the dog’s aggressive tendencies. This principle applies as long as the victim was lawfully on the premises where the incident occurred, including public places and private property where they were invited or had a legal right to be.
However, it’s important to note that strict liability may not apply if the injured person was trespassing or engaging in any unlawful activity at the time of the dog bite. In such cases, the owner may have a defense against liability.
In addition to strict liability, North Carolina law also allows victims to seek compensation by proving negligence on the part of the dog owner. To establish negligence, the injured party must demonstrate the following elements:
- Duty of care: The injured person must show that the dog owner owed them a duty of care. This duty is generally present when the owner has control over the dog and should reasonably foresee the risk of harm it may pose to others.
- Breach of duty: The injured party must prove that the dog owner breached their duty of care. This can be established by showing that the owner failed to take reasonable measures to prevent the dog from causing harm, such as failing to leash the dog or ignoring previous aggressive behavior.
- Causation: The injured person must establish a direct causal link between the dog owner’s breach of duty and the resulting injuries. They must show that the dog bite was a direct consequence of the owner’s negligence.
- Damages: The injured party must demonstrate the actual damages they suffered as a result of the dog bite, such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
Comparative Negligence in North Carolina
North Carolina follows a pure contributory negligence rule, which means that if the injured person is found to be even slightly at fault for the incident, they may be barred from recovering any compensation. This rule makes it essential to consult an experienced personal injury attorney who can navigate the complexities of the legal system and help protect your rights.
What to Do After a Dog Bite
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog in North Carolina, it is crucial to take the following steps:
- Seek medical attention: The primary concern should be your health and safety. Even if the injury appears minor, it’s important to have it evaluated by a healthcare professional to rule out any potential complications.
- Gather information: Obtain the dog owner’s contact information, as well as any witnesses present at the scene. Take photos of the injuries, the location where the incident occurred, and any other relevant evidence.
- Report the incident: Contact local animal control or law enforcement to report the dog bite. This helps ensure the incident is documented and helps protect others from potential harm.
- Consult a personal injury attorney: It is advisable to seek legal representation from an experienced personal injury attorney who can evaluate your case, explain your rights, and guide you through the legal process.
Negotiating a Settlement or Pursuing a Lawsuit
After a dog bite incident, you may have the option to negotiate a settlement with the dog owner’s insurance company or pursue a lawsuit to seek compensation for your damages. It’s essential to consult an experienced personal injury attorney who can evaluate your case and guide you on the best course of action.
Settlement negotiations can be complex, and insurance companies may attempt to minimize their liability or offer low settlements. An attorney will be your advocate during this process, ensuring that your rights are protected, and that you receive fair compensation for your injuries and losses. They will assess the full extent of your damages, including medical expenses, future medical needs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any long-term effects of the dog bite.
If a fair settlement cannot be reached, your attorney will prepare your case for litigation. They will gather evidence, interview witnesses, consult experts if necessary, and build a strong legal strategy to present in court. A skilled attorney will navigate the legal system on your behalf, guiding you through the complex litigation process and fighting for your rights at trial.
Dog Owner Responsibilities in North Carolina
To prevent dog bites and ensure public safety, North Carolina imposes certain responsibilities on dog owners. These responsibilities include:
- Leash Laws: In many areas, dogs must be kept on a leash when in public. Owners who violate leash laws may be held liable if their unleashed dog injures someone.
- Enclosed Areas: If a dog is known to be dangerous or aggressive, the owner must securely enclose the animal within a fenced yard or structure to prevent it from escaping and causing harm to others.
- Warning Signs: Dog owners who are aware of their pet’s aggressive tendencies should display visible warning signs on their property or use a muzzle when in public.
- Supervision: Owners have a duty to supervise their dogs to prevent attacks or bites. Leaving a dog unattended in a public area or allowing it to roam freely without control may result in liability.
At Phillips & McCrea, PLLC, we understand the physical, emotional, and financial impact of a dog bite. Our skilled personal injury attorneys are dedicated to advocating for the rights of dog bite victims in North Carolina. If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite, don’t hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation. We will work tirelessly to help you pursue the compensation you deserve and hold the responsible parties accountable. Let us be your trusted legal partner during this challenging time.