Dog Bites Can Mean Significant Liability for the Owner
Being bitten or otherwise attacked by a dog or group of dogs can be very frightening for the victim, and can leave serious, lasting injuries. In some cases those injuries never fully heal, and they can reduce the ability to work and the quality of life a person has after the attack. Both mental and physical health issues come into play from the trauma of being attacked by one or more dogs, and victims want – and deserve – proper compensation for the suffering they endure.
There can also be significant trouble for the owner of the dog, and/or the person who had the dog in their care when the bite occurred, depending on the circumstances. As such, it’s important to know and understand the laws surrounding dog bites. When you’re aware of the laws, you can focus on making sure you protect yourself and take appropriate steps if something goes wrong. You can also focus on seeking compensation if you are the victim of a dog attack that was unprovoked.
In South Carolina, the law on dog bites used to go by the “one bite” rule. This basically worked off of the premise that any dog could bite, and that the first time a dog bit someone the owner didn’t have any liability. It was only if the dog bit someone again, thus potentially establishing a pattern of biting behavior, that it was considered to be a problem. However, the laws have changed, and South Carolina now favors the victim in a dog bite case. The current law has a dog bite statute that is based on strict liability. It covers both the owner of the dog and the person who had the dog in their care at the time.
It covers the damage done from the actual bite, as well as other losses that come with being attacked by the dog. In short, if you’re an invited guest or you’re in a public place and you’re bitten by a dog, there is liability against the dog’s owner. Depending on the specific circumstances, there may also be liability against the person who had the dog in their care, if that person is someone other than the owner. While it can be difficult to control a dog at all times, the statute is very direct about the importance of doing so, and of protecting both guests and the public from a dog that might bite.
In some dog bite cases, judges are working to set a precedent by awarding very large judgments to the victims. This often comes with cases that are extremely severe, such as those that amount to loss of limbs or loss of a function that cannot be restored (such as hearing or eyesight). In these types of cases, the monetary judgment is less about the victim being able to collect the amount and more about sending a message to dog owners that they must control and take responsibility for their dog.
When it comes to South Carolina, though, there is a defense that is relatively unique. That is the “provocation” defense, and clearly states that a person who provokes a dog and is attacked does not mean liability for the owner. The need to prove provocation is important, though, because it is the point on which the entire case may hinge.
If you’ve been the victim of a dog bite, contact CLG today to address your legal concerns. We handle many personal injury cases, and can help you navigate through the legal process to get the best outcome available in your particular situation.