South Carolina law makes the owner of a dog responsible for the animal’s actions if it bites, attacks, or mauls someone. This “strict liability” means the person injured by a dog bite or attack can seek compensation for their injury without having to prove the dog was known to be dangerous or that the owner failed to control the dog.
South Carolina law also requires that the owner of a dog identified as a “dangerous animal” register and confine the animal. A dangerous animal is one that is known to attack or to be likely to attack people or pets without provocation.
If you have been injured by someone else’s dog and you did not provoke the animal and were not trespassing at the time of the attack, Joye Law Firm’s dog bite lawyers want to help you seek the full compensation available by law. Our law firm has years of experience handling these. In one case, we obtained a $300,000 dog bite settlement for a 10-year-old Charleston girl who was bitten by a Rottweiler that was roaming the neighborhood. Our attorney negotiated a settlement for the limits of the dog owner’s homeowners’ insurance without filing a lawsuit.
Every dog bite case has its own facts to consider. Call Joye Law Firm now at 877-941-1019 or fill out our online contact form for a free review of your dog bite claim. We will review the specifics of the dog attack and discuss your legal rights and whether filing a claim is appropriate.
What Is Strict Liability for Dog Bites?
South Carolina’s strict liability law makes dog owners responsible if their dog bites a person. This is a stricter standard than in many states, which abide by “one bite” rules stating that there must be proof that the owner should have known their dog was likely to bite. Some states require evidence that the dog owner was negligent, or somehow failed to control the dog and prevent the attack.
South Carolina’s law imposes liability on dog owners as well as dog handlers such as dog walkers and trainers. The law exempts dogs working for the police or other government agencies if the attack is in response to a legal command or does not constitute excessive force.
The S.C. statute (Section 47-3-110) says, “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, including the property of the dog owner or person having the dog in the person’s care or keeping, the dog owner or person having the dog in the person’s care or keeping is liable for the damages suffered by the person bitten or otherwise attacked.”
If there has been an attack or a person has been bitten, what the owner or handler knew about the dog prior to the attack is not relevant.
However, South Carolina’s strict liability law applies only if a dog bites or attacks. It does not apply to other kinds of aggressive behavior that result in injury, such as if the dog barks and growls and a frightened individual falls while running away.
Dog Owner Liability in South Carolina
In addition to being liable if their dog bites or attacks someone, the owner of a dog considered a “dangerous animal” under S.C. law is required to keep the dog penned outdoors or confined indoors to ensure safety. The owner must also register a dangerous animal with local authorities.
Under the law (Section 47-3-710), a dangerous animal is a dog that:
- Makes an unprovoked attack that causes bodily injury to a human being outside a pen or secured area.
- Has a propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack people or domestic animals (pets) unprovoked.
- Commits unprovoked acts (barking, growling, snarling, lunging) that would cause a person to believe that the animal will attack and cause bodily injury.
An animal is not legally considered to be a “dangerous animal” solely by virtue of its breed or species.
It is illegal in South Carolina to have dogs that are bred or trained to attack people or other animals, except those used by law enforcement organizations.
When left outdoors, a dangerous animal is to be housed within a securely enclosed fence or locked pen or run. The enclosure is to be clearly marked as containing a dangerous animal and must be designed to prevent the general public – including children – from entering.
Away from the owner’s home, a dangerous dog must be safely restrained by a harness.
Registering a dangerous animal requires showing proof of liability insurance or surety bond of at least $50,000 in case the animal causes someone physical injuries such as punctures of the skin, lacerations, broken bones, or any physical injury resulting in death.
All dog owners are subject to local leash laws as well as local ordinances pertaining to obtaining rabies vaccinations and state law regarding the seizure and quarantine of animals exhibiting rabies symptoms.
If a dangerous dog attacks and injures a person or a domestic animal, the law specifies punishment that includes fines and jail time. A first offense may be punished by a fine of up to $5,000 or up to 3 years in prison.
How a Dog Bite Lawyer Can Help After an Attack and Injury
Dog bites are no small thing. Dogs can carry a variety of diseases, including rabies. If you’re bitten or scratched by a wild, stray or unvaccinated dog, you should apply first aid to the wound and contact your health care provider. Health care providers are required to report such dog bites to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Most dog attacks involve pets that are known to the victim and have been vaccinated. Young children are more likely than adults to be bitten, often because they do not recognize signs of the dog’s stress and aggression. Almost 1 in 5 people bitten by dogs require medical attention, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Typical injuries from a dog attack include:
- Puncture wounds
- Lacerations and abrasions (cuts and scrapes)
- Contusions and hematomas (bruises)
- Avulsion (tearing)
A person who has been attacked and mauled by a dog could suffer psychological trauma akin to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) along with physical injuries.
Serious injuries from a dog attack could require hospitalization, surgery, physical rehabilitation, and psychological counseling.
At Joye Law Firm, our personal injury attorneys know the in’s and out’s of these cases. We helped numerous dog bite victims pursue full compensation for their medical expenses and other losses, such as:
- Lost income while unable to work during hospitalization and recovery
- Property damage such as torn clothing, broken wristwatch, and broken eyeglasses
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma.
To build your case, your attorney will document your injury and how it happened, as well as the cost and losses you have suffered. We can then issue a demand to the dog owner’s insurer, which in most cases leads to a negotiated settlement. If we cannot reach an agreement on a monetary settlement that meets your needs, we would file a formal lawsuit and be prepared to present a compelling case for you in court.
Homeowners Insurance May Pay Your Dog Bite Claim
When a household pet is the subject of a dog bite injury claim, homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies typically cover compensation owed to the injured person. The policies typically have limits of $100,000 to $300,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute. If the claim exceeds the limit, the dog owner is responsible for damages above that amount.
The Insurance Information Institute reported 17,802 dog bite claims nationwide in 2019, up 2.9% from 17,297 filed in 2018.
However, insurance companies are typically reluctant to make the large payouts appropriate for serious dog bite injuries. Many insurance adjusters are trained to offer low-ball settlements or find ways to deny the claim altogether or delay settling it in hopes the claimant will give up and go away.
If the Joye Law Firm represents you, we won’t allow the insurance company to brush your claim aside or employ the bad faith tactics typically used to avoid making proper payouts. Our personal injury attorneys have been securing compensation for accident and injury victims in South Carolina since 1968. With nearly 250 years of combined legal experience, our lawyers have shown repeatedly that they have the ability to get results.
Contact Our South Carolina Dog Bite Lawyers
If you or a loved one of yours has suffered the shock and pain of a serious dog bite, attack, or mauling, our South Carolina dog bite attorneys can help you obtain the compensation you need to rebuild your life after a serious dog attack. South Carolina law is plain: the dog’s owner is responsible for injuries you have suffered in an unprovoked attack. We can investigate the circumstances of your injury and help you seek full compensation for medical bills and other losses, including your pain and suffering.
Call Joye Law Firm now at 877-941-1019 or use this online contact form to set up a free review of your dog bite case. Joye Law Firm has offices in Charleston, Columbia, Clinton, and Myrtle Beach. Our attorneys represent dog bite victims across South Carolina. Call us today.