No ‘One-Bite Rule’ for Dogs in South Carolina

Dog bites are scary and dangerous – especially for children. The injuries are often costly in terms of medical bills, pain and emotional trauma. A premises liability lawsuit against the dog’s owner may provide compensation to the victim.

South Carolina has a strict-liability statute that holds dog owners responsible for damages suffered by a person who is bitten or attacked. The dog bite victim does not have to prove that the owner knew or should have known that the dog was prone to attack.

Some other states have what is known as the “one-bite rule,” which requires the victim to prove that the owner of the dog knew the dog was dangerous. In simple terms, the dog gets one bite “free” before the owner may be held liable in those jurisdictions.

That’s not the case in South Carolina. The laws in South Carolina protect dog attack victims much better than states with the one-bite rule, and make for a clearer case of liability.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with about 885,000 of those needing medical attention. About half of the dog-bite victims are children, who often suffer expensive, painful injuries to the head, neck and face area.

In 2013, the average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $27,862, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Dog bites accounted for more than a third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims paid in 2013, costing more than $483 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm.

Under Section 47-3-110 of the South Carolina Code, the owner or person taking care of a dog may be held liable for the injuries of someone attacked by the dog if the injuries are caused when the dog bites “or otherwise attacks” a person and the injured person was in a public place or had permission to be in the place where the attack happened, such as the owner’s backyard.

If the injured person “provoked” the dog, the owner may not be responsible for the victim’s injuries under the statute. This means the main issue in many South Carolina dog bite lawsuits focuses on whether the victim teased, harassed or did something else to the dog that led to the attack.

While this may be a hurdle in some dog bite cases, it is often a smaller obstacle than the one victims face in states with a one-bite rule. In those states, the dog bite victim and his or her attorney would have to prove the dog owner knew or should have known that the animal was dangerous.

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