Being attacked by a dog can leave lasting physical and emotional injury. Dog bites can leave deep cuts, torn muscles and disfiguring scars that require cosmetic surgery to repair. The terror inflicted by a ferocious, biting dog can create psychological trauma that requires years of counseling to resolve.
If you or a loved one of yours has been seriously injured by a dog bite or mauling attack in the Columbia, SC, area, you should speak to an experienced dog bite attorney. You may be able to recover compensation for your medical bills and other costs and losses through a claim against the dog’s owner.
Our Columbia dog bite lawyers at the Joye Law Firm can put our experience to work for you. We have helped others in Columbia and throughout the Midlands obtain compensation after a dog owner’s carelessness or disregard for others’ safety led to a dog attack. The attorneys at Joye Law Firm have been representing injured people in South Carolina for 50 years. We care about the people we represent and are gratified by the comments we have received from former clients.
Common Dog Bite Injuries in Columbia
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 1 in 5 people bitten by a dog requires medical attention. Young children and elderly adults are more likely to be seriously injured in a dog attack because of their relative frailty and inability to escape. But, as the CDC points out, any dog can bite anyone.
Large dogs can be very strong and can cause serious injury. In addition to pain, dog bites can cause nerve injury or injury to vital organs. Bite injuries can become infected, putting the bite victim at risk of illness or, in rare cases, death.
Common injuries suffered in a dog attack include:
- Scrapes and bruises
- Facial injuries
- Hand injuries from trying to defend
- Cuts and lacerations, particularly puncture wounds
- Torn skin or muscle
- Broken bones
- Dislocations, such as a dislocated shoulder caused by a dog grabbing and jerking the victim’s arm
- Crushing injuries, particularly to the heads and extremities of small children
- Head injuries from falling during an attack.
Dog bites can also spread germs to people, including bacterial infections and disease. These may include:
- Rabies, a virus that affects the brain and is almost always fatal once symptoms appear. It is increasingly rare in dogs, but still exists in dogs not properly cared for.
- Tetanus, a bacterial infection that causes rigid paralysis.
- MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a staph infection that can cause skin, lung and urinary tract infections. In some people, MRSA can spread to the bloodstream or lungs and cause life-threatening infections.
- Pasteurella, a type of bacteria seen in over half of infected dog bite wounds and that causes a painful, red infection at the site of the bite. It can cause more serious disease in people with weakened immune systems.
Further, the shock of being attacked and injured by a dog can cause damaging psychological reactions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some dog bite victims who have been mauled or otherwise seriously injured require counseling to resume their normal lives, sometimes for years after physical injuries have healed.
Columbia Dog Owners Have Legal Responsibilities
South Carolina dog owners can be held legally responsible for what their pets or working dogs do. This includes accountability for any injury their animal inflicts upon any person who did not first provoke the dog.
A dog owner in South Carolina is required to register and confine a dog known to have attacked or to be likely to attack people without being provoked. South Carolina law (SC Code Section 47-3-10) declares that such an animal is a “vicious dog.”
State law says a vicious dog is one that:
- Makes an unprovoked attack that causes bodily injury to a human being outside a pen or secured area.
- The owner knows or reasonably should know has a propensity, tendency or disposition to attack unprovoked.
- Commits unprovoked acts (barking, growling, snarling, lunging) that would cause a person to reasonably believe that the animal will attack and cause bodily injury.
South Carolina criminal law also specifies a series of penalties for the owner of a dog that has attacked and injured a person or another domestic animal. South Carolina civil law allows those who have been injured by dangerous dogs to demand compensation for their losses from the dog’s owner.
Some states have what is known as a “one bite rule.” These laws require a dog bite victim to prove the dog owner knew their dog was dangerous, essentially letting dog owners escape responsibility for a first-time attack.
South Carolina has a “strict-liability” statute that holds dog owners responsible even after the first time a dog bites someone.
It should be understood that a dog owner cannot be held responsible if the dog attack victim provoked or harassed the dog and that is what caused the dog to attack. However, this may not apply to a young or mentally challenged victim who is shown to have been incapable of understanding the consequences of their actions.
The liability rules do not apply to dogs working with law enforcement or other governmental agencies if the police dog’s actions were within the agency’s mandate and regulations and do not constitute excessive force.
If a dog attack caused an injury that required medical attention, the victim should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to review the details and discuss a potential claim to recover their costs.
Compensation You May Recover in a Columbia Dog Bite Injury Claim
A dog bite victim in Columbia or elsewhere in South Carolina who has been seriously injured may have the right to file a civil lawsuit for compensation from the dog’s owner. This money typically comes from a homeowners’ or renters’ insurance or, in cases involving a business’s “working” dog, from business liability insurance or a surety bond.
Money to pay damages rarely comes out of the dog owner’s pocket. Victims should not shy away from a claim over fear of causing financial harm to a neighbor, friend, relative or friendly business owner.
The Insurance Information Institute says homeowners’ insurance policies paid out over $686 million in liability claims related to dog bites and other dog-related injuries in 2017. Dog bite injury claims are real and valid.
Dog bite lawsuits in Columbia may seek compensation for:
- All medical expenses, which may include:
- Emergency medical care and hospitalization
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications
- Cosmetic surgery to address disfiguring scarring caused by a dog attack
- Rehabilitation, which may include physical vocational and/or occupational therapy
- Psychological counseling for emotional trauma
- Lost wages while you are unable to work
- Future lost income if you cannot return to work or have diminished earning capacity because of the dog attack
- Property damage (torn clothing, broken wristwatch, jewelry, eyeglasses)
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Pain and suffering, including emotional pain and loss of enjoyment of life.
Most dog bite claims are resolved through settlements with the insurance company. The Joye Law Firm can make sure your claim accounts for all of your recoverable costs and losses, and we can investigate to ensure that we have evidence that supports your claim. Insurance companies try to pay out as little as possible for dog bite claims. Our attorneys are experienced and aggressive negotiators who will press for maximum compensation to you.
If the insurance company refuses to do the right thing and your case must go to trial, we will be fully prepared to present a convincing case to a Richland County jury on your behalf.
In every case, we start by providing a free, no-obligation case review. If a bite by someone else’s dog has cost you medical bills, unpaid time away from work, pain and suffering and other expenses, we can assess the potential for you to pursue a dog bite injury claim. We will not charge you for that meeting.
Contact Our Columbia Dog Bite Law Firm Today
The personal injury lawyers of the Joye Law Firm have nearly 250 years of combined experience successfully securing compensation for dog bite victims and others across South Carolina injured because of someone else’s negligence. For many years, the Joye Law Firm has been recognized with a coveted AV rating by Martindale-Hubbell, the prestigious legal rating directory.
If you have suffered a dog-related injury in Columbia, Richland County or elsewhere in the Midlands, we suggest you seek proper medical care and then contact us to discuss your legal rights. We can determine whether you have a valid injury claim and advise you of the appropriate next steps to take. If the Joye Law Firm represents you, we will work on a contingency-fee basis. You will not owe us legal fees unless we obtain compensation for you through an out-of-court settlement or jury award.
You have a right to compensation if you were seriously injured through no fault of your own. Let us explain how we can assist. Call Joye Law Firm at 877-936-9707 or fill out our online contact form today.