Dog bites range from little nips that barely break the skin to serious attacks that may cause grave injury. A handful of people in the United States are killed by dogs each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of people are bitten by dogs each year. About 800,000 require medical attention.
When you or your child is bitten by a dog in South Carolina, the owner of the dog or the person whose care the dog was in is almost always responsible for the injuries. That’s because South Carolina has a strict liability dog bite law. The owner doesn’t have to be negligent to be held responsible for a dog bite, and they don’t have to know that their dog has a tendency to bite. While some states give dog owners “one free bite,” South Carolina does not.
A person is lawfully in a private place if they were invited, or if they are there to fulfill a duty such as delivering mail. An owner can even be held responsible for a dog attack that happens in their own home, if the bite victim was in their home lawfully.
However, dog owners are typically not responsible for injuries their dogs cause to trespassers.
The owner or person in control of a dog generally won’t be liable if the bite victim provoked the dog. There is also an exception for police dogs, but it is not universal.
The exemption applies only when the dog is properly trained and is obeying a lawful command. The department must also have a written policy on the use of dogs, and the actions must have been in accordance with the policy. The actions must not constitute excessive force. Even if all of the criteria listed above are met, a law enforcement agency may still be liable for a dog bite if the victim is a bystander.
Dog ownership has grown in popularity in the United States. In South Carolina, more than 45% of households have at least one dog, and 62% have some kind of pet. In real world terms, that means if there are 20 homes on your block in Charleston, nine of them are likely to have at least one dog. On average, 12-13 will have some kind of pet. With so many dogs in residential space, it’s no surprise the number of bites and other injuries is high.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), insurance companies in the U.S. paid out more than $1 billion in dog bite claims and other dog-related injury cases in 2022–a 28% increase over the previous year. The number of dog bite claims declined slightly from 2021 to 2022, but remained above 17,500.
According to the III data, the average dog bite claim in 2022 cost insurance carriers $64,555. But, that number doesn’t mean much in terms of what your claim or any other individual claim is worth. That average includes minor injuries that required stitches at the emergency room and serious injuries that required multiple surgeries. The damages available after a dog bite will be based on factors such as how much your medical care cost, how much pain you suffered, psychological impacts such as post-traumatic stress disorder, lost income during recovery. A dog bite victim who suffers serious scarring or other permanent injuries may also be entitled to compensation for the impact that may have on your quality of life.
If you or your child has been injured by a dog, we’re here to help you get fair compensation. But, of course, the best outcome is never to suffer a serious dog bite. While some animal attacks are seemingly random and unexpected, many dog bites can be avoided. It’s especially important to educate children about how to avoid dog bites. Children make up a significant percentage of dog bite victims requiring medical care.
The strict liability dog bite statute doesn’t apply if you were provoking or harassing the dog. But, making a mistake like looking a dog in the eye or failing to read a signal generally won’t hurt your case.
Your first step after a dog bite should be to seek medical attention. The next should be to speak to an experienced Charleston personal injury attorney about your case. Attorney Frank Hartman has devoted his career to serving injured people in and around Charleston. To learn more about how he can help, call 843-300-7600 right now, or fill out the contact form at the bottom of the page.