Dog bites are a serious problem in North Carolina, and the state has strict laws in place to protect victims and hold dog owners accountable for their pets’ actions. If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, it’s important to understand your legal rights and options for recourse under North Carolina state law.
North Carolina’s Dog Bite Law [https://www.ncleg.gov/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/ByArticle/Chapter_67/Article_1A.pdf]
Excerpts from the above NCLeg.gov document include:
67-4.3. Penalty for attacks by dangerous dogs.
The owner of a dangerous dog that attacks a person and causes physical injuries requiring medical treatment in excess of one hundred dollars ($100.00) shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
§ 67-4.4. Strict liability.
The owner of a dangerous dog shall be strictly liable in civil damages for any injuries or property damage the dog inflicts upon a person, his property, or another animal.
§ 67-4.5. Local ordinances.
Nothing in this Article shall be construed to prevent a city or county from adopting or enforcing its own program for control of dangerous dogs.
North Carolina follows what is generally known as the “one-bite rule” when it comes to dog bites. This means that in most instances, a dog owner is generally not liable for their dog’s first bite unless they had prior knowledge that the dog was dangerous or aggressive. However, if the dog has bitten someone before, the owner can be held liable for any subsequent bites. This state law limits liability for dog owners when canines have no prior history of attack or aggressive behavior. While this rule may shield some dog owners from liability, certain exceptions do exist that may lead to the prosecution of the dog owner.
Under North Carolina law, dog owners may be strictly liable for any damages their dogs cause if:
The dog was running at large (not on a leash or contained in a secure area) at the time of the incident, or the owner knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous or had the propensity to bite or attack.
This means that if you are bitten by a dog that was running loose or the owner knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous, you may be able to recover damages from the owner for your injuries, even in a ‘first-bite’ scenario.
Legal Recourse for Dog Bite Victims in North Carolina
If you have been bitten by a dog in North Carolina, we recommend the following:
Seek Medical Attention
Your first priority after a dog bite should be to seek medical attention. Even if the wound seems minor, it’s important to get it checked out by a medical professional to ensure it doesn’t become infected or lead to more serious complications. If your injuries are severe, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
Report the Incident
If you are bitten by a dog, it’s important to report the incident to the appropriate authorities. This includes local animal control or law enforcement, who can investigate the incident and determine if any laws were violated. Reporting the incident can also help prevent future incidents involving the same dog. You have a moral obligation to ensure others are not harmed in the same way.
If possible, gather as much evidence as you can after a dog bite. This includes taking photos of your injuries, getting contact information from any witnesses, and obtaining the dog owner’s information. This information can be helpful if you decide to pursue legal action against the owner.
Consult with an Attorney
If you are considering legal action against a dog owner, it’s important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who has knowledge and experience with dog bite cases. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options and can assist you in pursuing the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
If you have been bitten by a dog and are seeking compensation for your injuries, there are several types of damages you may be able to recover:
- Medical expenses: This includes any costs associated with medical treatment for your injuries, such as hospital bills, doctor visits, and prescription medication.
- Lost wages: If your injuries prevent you from working, you may be able to recover compensation for lost wages or lost earning capacity.
- Pain and suffering: This includes compensation for physical pain, emotional distress, and any other non-economic damages you may have suffered as a result of the dog bite.
It’s important to note that North Carolina has a statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including dog bite cases. This means that you must file your claim within a certain timeframe after the incident, typically within three years of the date of the bite.
Preventing Dog Aggression and Dog Bites
Dogs can be loving and loyal companions, but they can also pose a danger to humans if they become aggressive or frightened. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 4.5 million dog bites occur in the United States each year, with children being the most common victims. While not all dog bites can be prevented, there are steps you can take to help reduce the risk of being bitten.
Understand Dog Behavior
Dogs use body language to communicate their emotions and intentions. It’s important to be aware of these signals so you can recognize when a dog is feeling threatened or scared.
Some common signs that a dog may be agitated or aggressive include:
- Stiff body posture
- Raised fur on the back of the neck
- Growling or snarling
- Baring teeth
- Lunging or charging
If you see a dog displaying any of the above behaviors, it’s best to give them plenty of space and avoid approaching them. It’s also important to know that injured or sick animals commonly default to aggression when approached by humans, even their owners. If you see an injured or sick animal, contact animal control rather than attempting to approach it. [Resources for Animal Control in North Carolina]
Teach Children How to Interact with Dogs
Children are often at the highest risk for dog bites, as they may not understand how to approach and interact with dogs safely. Teach children to always ask permission before approaching a dog, and to never pet a dog without the owner’s consent. They should also be taught to avoid petting a dog’s face, as this can be seen as threatening.
Avoid Disturbing Dogs While They’re Eating or Sleeping
Dogs can be protective of their food and may become aggressive if they feel threatened while eating. It’s best to avoid approaching or disturbing a dog while they’re eating or sleeping, as this can startle them and cause them to react aggressively.
Keep Your Dog Secure
If you own a dog, it’s important to keep them securely contained in your yard or on a leash when out in public. This helps prevent your dog from wandering into other people’s yards or approaching strangers, which can be a frightening experience for some people.
Socialize Your Dog
Dogs that are well socialized are less likely to become fearful or aggressive in new situations. It’s important to expose your dog to a variety of people, animals, and environments when they’re young so they learn how to interact appropriately. Training classes can be a great way to socialize your dog and teach them basic obedience commands.
Don’t Tease Dogs
Teasing or taunting dogs can cause them to become agitated and may lead to aggressive behavior. It’s important to treat dogs with respect and kindness, and to avoid engaging in behavior that could be seen as threatening.
Be Cautious Around Stray Dogs
If you encounter a stray dog, it’s important to be cautious and avoid approaching them. Stray dogs may be frightened, sick, or aggressive, and may pose a danger to humans. If you see a stray dog, contact your local animal control agency to report the sighting and avoid interacting with the dog.
Which Dog Breeds Are Most Aggressive And Most Likely To Attack?
It’s important to note that a dog’s behavior is influenced by many factors, including its individual temperament, training, and socialization, as well as the owner’s handling and care. While certain breeds may have traits that make them more predisposed to aggression or territorial behavior, not all dogs of a particular breed will exhibit these traits.
Some of the dog breeds that are often cited as having a higher incidence of aggression and dangerous behavior include:
- Pit Bulls – Pit Bulls have been the subject of much controversy due to their history as fighting dogs. Some pit bulls can exhibit aggressive behavior, but many are well-behaved and affectionate family pets.
- Rottweilers – Rottweilers were originally bred for herding and protection work, and some individuals can be aggressive towards strangers or other animals.
- German Shepherds – German Shepherds are highly intelligent and trainable dogs, but they can be protective and territorial if not properly socialized and trained.
- Doberman Pinschers – Dobermans are loyal and protective dogs, but they can be aggressive towards strangers if not properly socialized.
- Chow Chows – Chow Chows are known for their aloof and independent personalities, and some individuals can be aggressive towards strangers.
It’s important to note that aggressive behavior in dogs is not limited to the breeds listed above, and any dog, regardless of breed, can exhibit aggressive behavior if not properly trained and socialized.
Preventing dog bites requires awareness, education, and responsible ownership. By understanding dog behavior, teaching children how to interact with dogs, and keeping dogs securely contained, we can help reduce the number of dog bites that occur each year in North Carolina. According to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, there were 1,023 reported dog bites in the state in 2020. However, it’s important to note that not all dog bites are reported, so the actual number of dog bites in North Carolina may be higher. The majority of reported dog bites in North Carolina involve children under the age of 10, and pit bulls and mixed-breed dogs are the most commonly reported breeds involved in dog bite incidents.
Remember, most dogs are friendly and well-behaved, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution and avoid approaching a dog if you’re unsure of its likely behavior towards you.
If you’re the victim of a dog attack or dog bite in North Carolina, schedule a free case review with a dog bite injury attorney at Kellum Law Firm. We can go over the details of your case and provide you with options for pursuing damages from the dog owner(s).
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