Man’s best friend has a mean side. Dogs are fiercely loyal companions, but the truth is that some of them are fiercer than others. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that dogs attack 4.5 million Americans every year, frequently inflicting serious injury.
Often, the dogs responsible for these attacks are of a particularly dangerous character or breed. Some canines are simply born with more aggressive personalities than others, and not all animals respond to humans with equivalent adoration.
When dogs do attack, whether because of an aggressive personality or because they simply misunderstand a situation, the effects can devastating — even deadly. It isn’t uncommon to encounter tremendous pain, mountainous medical bills, disfigurement, disability, or scarring in the wake of an animal attack.
But where do you go from there? People who’ve been injured by a dog bite in North Carolina are often left wondering how to proceed. After all, if it had been a human that hurt them, they’d press charges and file a personal injury lawsuit against that person to recover compensation for their damages. But dogs don’t get arrested, nor can they be served with subpoenas. That’s why the law looks to the pet’s owners for liability instead.
North Carolina personal injury law imposes a general duty of care on pet owners. Because dogs can’t be expected to always understand human behavior or to act rationally on their own, we require owners to maintain reasonable control over their pets in order to prevent harm to innocent bystanders, children, and even other animals.
But the law on dog bite attacks in North Carolina is complicated, and the extent of the owner’s liability depends on a number of factors that might at first seem unfair or unclear. In fact, there are several different grounds on which victims can pursue compensation for their injuries. This page will help you understand those grounds and how a Charlotte dog bite attorney at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo, L.L.P.® can help hold irresponsible owners accountable.
Dog Owner Negligence: Understanding North Carolina’s One-Bite Rule
You may have heard that dogs in North Carolina are allowed to bite someone once before their owners can be held liable for injuries. There is some truth to that, but the rule isn’t as strict as it might seem.
North Carolina is one of only a few states that still apply the old One-Bite Rule for dog attacks. Basically, the rule works like this: dog owners are only liable for injuries caused by their dog if they know — or if they should know — that the dog is dangerous or has a tendency to be violent, usually evidenced by having bitten someone in the past.
The One-Bite Rule generally will not protect owners if their dog meets any of the following criteria:
- The dog was responsible for even a single biting incident in the past.
- The dog is large and was roaming free at night at the time of the attack.
- The dog has demonstrated a violent, dangerous, or aggressive personality in front of the owner, regardless of whether the dog has bitten anyone before. Evidence of an aggressive personality includes following people while barking and growling, injuring or killing other animals, lashing out at strangers without provocation, etc.
- The dog is of a breed that is known to be dangerous (e.g. rottweiler, pit bull, etc.).
- The dog qualifies as a “dangerous dog” under North Carolina personal injury law (see ‘Strict Liability’ below).
- There is any other evidence that the owner should have known that the dog might bite or attack.
Once we have established that the owner knew or should have known about the dog’s propensity toward violent behavior, our Charlotte dog bite attorneys can hold the pet owners accountable for their negligence (that is, their failure to take reasonable steps to restrain the dog or to otherwise protect others from harm).
Strict Liability for Pet Owners in North Carolina
Some dogs are considered so inherently dangerous that North Carolina subjects their owners to strict liability. This means that the owners are automatically liable for the damages their animals cause, even if the owners weren’t negligent at all. The One-Bite Rule is generally irrelevant in strict liability cases.
Strict liability applies to owners of “dangerous dogs,” as defined by state or local law. This includes:
- Any dog that has inflicted severe injury or death on another person without provocation
- Any dog that has been kept for purposes of dog fighting in the past
- Any dog that local authorities classify as “potentially dangerous” because of threatening or violent behavior in the past
Note that a dog with any history of biting or violence may subject its owner to strict liability. If you aren’t sure whether to proceed on grounds of negligence or strict liability, the Charlotte dog bite attorneys at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo, L.L.P.® can help.
North Carolina’s Local Leash Laws: Additional Liability for Dog Owners
Believe it or not, the outcome of a dog bite case in North Carolina might just depend on a handbook in your local county office. Nearly every city and county in the state has its own set of local ordinances, and many of these establish specific rules about when, where, and how dogs are allowed to interact with the public.
Sometimes, owners that wouldn’t otherwise be vulnerable to claims for negligence or strict liability are held liable because they violated a local leash law or ordinance. These simple rules, which may require thorough research to fully understand, could have a big impact on the outcome of your case.
As Charlotte dog bite attorneys, we actually represent animal attack victims all across the state. We know that a dog bite in Hickory, for example, might have a different outcome than one in Monroe. You can count on our talented team to exhaustively explore every applicable provision in state and local law in order to recover maximal compensation in your case.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Experienced Charlotte Dog Bite Attorneys
If you’ve suffered an injury from somebody else’s dog in North Carolina, it is almost always a good idea to call a lawyer — especially if your injuries are severe. Even in spite of the One-Bite Rule, compensation is often available to those who’ve been hurt to no fault of their own.
At the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo, L.L.P.®, our experienced Charlotte dog bite attorneys can help you pursue compensation for the full extent of your injuries, not only from the pet owners but also potentially from your own insurance companies too.
No one deserves to face the cost and suffering of a dog bite attack alone. We can help. Contact us for a free consultation to learn more about your rights and the value of your claim.