Charleston Dog Bite Attorney
Dog Bites & Attacks in South Carolina
South Carolina laws favor dog bite victims by holding dog owners responsible for injuries caused by their pets. Under the law, a dog owner or handler is responsible for injuries caused by his or her dog, even if the dog’s owner did not know or could not have known that the dog would inflict the injuries. Furthermore, liability is not limited solely to the dog’s owner but extends to all who have the dog in their care or keeping at the time of the attack.
Dog bites frequently result in injuries such as lacerations, puncture wounds, nerve damage, muscle damage, and emotional distress. Dog bites can also result in potentially embarrassing scarring that requires laser resurfacing or revision surgery, which can be expensive. If you have been the victim of a dog attack, contact us to discuss the legal options available to you.
What to Do After a Dog Bite or Attack
If you are bitten or attacked by a dog, the first thing to remember is to try to stay calm. Check your injuries and, if necessary, call 911. Make sure you get immediate and adequate medical care as soon as possible after the incident.
Next, to the best of your ability, try to do the following:
- Wash and dress the wound. Slow the bleeding by applying pressure with a clean cloth or paper towel. If you have over-the-counter antibiotic cream (such as Neosporin), apply it to the wound and wrap it with a sterile bandage.
- Make an appointment with your doctor. If you need immediate medical attention, call 911 or go to the ER/urgent care. If the wound is very deep (you cannot stop the bleeding, you can see muscle, etc.), you need professional care right away.
- Exchange information with the dog owner or person/party responsible for the dog. Be sure to get their name(s), contact information, address, and, if possible, the vaccination information for the dog that bit/attacked you.
- Document your injuries and talk to any witnesses who saw what happened. Take pictures of your wounds and, if possible, try to get a brief statement from witnesses. It’s also a good idea to get their name(s) and contact information.
- Contact your local animal control agency and file a report. This is especially important if the dog was loose and/or no owner was around. In any case, an investigation into the incident can help prevent future attacks.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer for help with your claim. You could be entitled to financial compensation for your medical bills, emotional trauma, lost wages, disfigurement, lost wages, and other damages.
At Clawson Fargnoli Utsey, LLC, we have successfully represented many victims of serious dog bites and attacks in Charleston and the surrounding areas. Our personal injury attorneys have decades of collective litigation experience, as well as the resources and skill to aggressively advocate for you.
South Carolina Dog Bite Laws
Prior to 1985, South Carolina followed the “one free bite” rule in dog bite cases. That rule, now inapplicable, provided that domestic animals are not presumed to be dangerous to persons and before recovery of damages may be had against the owner, the injured party must prove that the particular animal was of a dangerous or vicious nature and that his dangerous propensity was either known or should have been known to the owner. Nesbitt v. Lewis, 335 S.C. 441 (Ct. App. 1999). In other words, before 1985, dog bite victims in South Carolina had to prove that the dog was dangerous, and the owner knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous in order to recover compensation.
Currently, S.C. Code § 47-3-110 governs liability for dog bites and states that, if a person is bitten or otherwise attacked by a dog while the person is in a public place or is lawfully in a private place, then the dog owner or person having the dog in their care or keeping is liable for the damages suffered by the person bitten or otherwise attacked. There is no longer any requirement that the dog be a dangerous breed or that the dog has known vicious propensities, i.e., that the dog has a history of biting. Additionally, a dog bite victim may now make a claim against not only the animal’s owner but any other person having the dog in their care or keeping. Harris v. Anderson Cty. Sheriff’s Office, 381 S.C. 357 (2009).
Defenses to Dog Bite Claims
S.C. Code § 47-3-110 states that there is no liability for the dog owner or person having the dog in their care or keeping if, at the time the person is bitten or otherwise attacked, the person who was attacked provoked or harassed the dog and that provocation was the proximate cause of the attack. There is an additional defense if the dog was working in a law enforcement capacity with a governmental agency, subject to a number of specific conditions.
Additionally, South Carolina has established that a landlord is not liable for injuries caused by an animal kept by a tenant on leased property. Bruce v. Durney, 341 S.C. 563 (Ct. App. 2000).
Dog Bite Insurance Coverage Issues
Some insurance companies will insure homeowners for liability arising out of a dog bite without restriction. Other insurance companies refuse to insure homeowners who own certain breeds of dogs categorized as dangerous, e.g. pit bulls. Still other insurance companies decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether an individual dog, regardless of its breed, has been deemed “vicious,” e.g. has a prior history of biting people. Whether there is coverage under a homeowner’s policy for a dog bite is primarily a question of what the actual language of the policy says.
Compensation for Dog Bites Damages
While every case is different, recoverable damages for victims of dog bites typically include:
- Cost of current and future medical care
- Lost income/wages
- Future lost earnings
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
Our Charleston dog bite attorneys can aggressively advocate for maximum compensation on your behalf. We understand the immense impact dog bites and attacks can have on victims’ lives and the lives of their loved ones. Our goal is to help you succeed in securing the recovery you are owed, as well as the justice you deserve.
Contact Clawson Fargnoli Utsey, LLC
It is important to retain counsel that is experienced in evaluating and litigating dog bite cases to maximize the value of your case. While South Carolina’s dog bite statute is favorable to dog bite victims, the issue of insurance coverage under a homeowner’s policy can be quite complex.
If you have been the victim of a dog bite, please contact us to discuss the legal options available to you.
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