Columbia, SC Dog Bites

Originally published 6.30.14

Dog bites are scary and dangerous — especially for young children, who are more at risk for dog bites than any other age group. 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 so they aren’t forced to pay for the medical treatment out of pocket.

How Expensive are Dog Bites?

More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with about 800,000 of those needing medical attention. About half of the dog-bite victims are children, who often suffer painful injuries to the head, neck and face area. These injuries are also emotionally and financially overwhelming.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the number of claims made for dog bites went up by 9% between 2012 and 2021—possibly because more people are bringing their dogs into public spaces. However, as the cost of medical treatment in general has increased, the average cost per claim for a dog bite also went up by 39% in the same time period. In 2021, the average cost for a dog bite was $49,025.

If you or your child was injured because of an irresponsible dog owner, you don’t deserve to have to pay those costs out of pocket.

When Can I File a Claim If I’ve Been Bitten by a Dog?

South Carolina has a strict-liability statute that holds dog owners responsible for damages suffered by a person who is bitten or attacked by their animal. 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 already knew the dog was dangerous, usually because it had bitten before. In simple terms, the dog gets one bite “for 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.

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 while in a public place.
  • The injured person had permission to be in the place where the attack happened, such as the owner’s backyard.

Are There Exceptions?

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.

Call Joye Law Firm for a Free Case Evaluation

Dog bites can be traumatic. Many victims are left with permanent scarring. Many more develop a fear of dogs that may follow them for the rest of their lives. Victims of dog attacks deserve compensation— not only for the startling medical costs, but also for the impact of the dog attack on their lives.

After a serious dog bite, contact our firm for a free consultation to discuss your options for getting compensation.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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