Dog and Animal Bites in NC

Millions of Americans are bitten by dogs each year. Each state has its own laws regarding dog and animal bites. North Carolina’s lenient dog bite law favors dog owners.

Millions of Americans are bitten by dogs each year.  Each state has its own laws regarding dog and animal bites.  North Carolina’s lenient dog bite law favors dog owners.

If you have been bitten by a dog, you must contact local health director immediately (usually animal control).  All dogs and cats that bite someone are confined for 10 days to check for rabies.
To prevent dog bite injuries, NC has a law that says if a dog is over 6 months old it cannot run free at night unless it is with its owner, a member of owner’s family or a person with the owner’s permission.  It is a misdemeanor if the owner knows the dog is running free.  The owner is also strictly liable for damages to a person who is injured by the dog or for the damages to property.  This means that the victim does not have to prove that the dog owner was negligent.  Also note that no leash or control device is required for dogs.

North Carolina’s “one bite rule” is a lenient dog bite law that favors dog owners.  A dog that has killed or inflicted serious bodily injury without provocation or any dog that is a part of dog fighting is considered a “dangerous” dog.  The owner of a dangerous dog is strictly liable for civil damages for injuries and property damage.  Generally, it means that an owner of a dog that has not been previously seen to be vicious or dangerous cannot be liable for the actions of that dog.

There is one exception to this rule.  An owner is not liable when the injury inflicted by the dog was sustained by a person who, at the time of the injury, was committing a willful trespass or other tort, was tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog, had tormented, abused, or assaulted the dog, or was committing or attempting to commit a crime.

Even though it is difficult to win a dog bite case under strict liability, you can still file a negligence suit.  This is the most common way to file a dog bite case.  Consult a personal injury attorney to help you decide which suit to file.

Many personal injury lawyers work on contingency, meaning they do not expect money up front but do take a percentage of any settlement or jury award won on your behalf.  Because of this pay arrangement, personal injury lawyers are motivated to take on cases they believe will be successful in court.  If you have a weak case, it may be hard to find a lawyer that will take on your case.  The deadline, or statute of limitations, in which to file a dog bite lawsuit in North Carolina is three years.

If you believe your medical costs may be high enough to consider seeking compensation from the dog’s owner in court, document your injuries by photographing them and any torn or bloodied clothing worn during the incident. You’ll also want to keep contact with potential witnesses.

In addition to medical bills, you can also seek damages for
• Lost income, both from treating the immediate injury and from any future lost income should you become incapacitated
• Pain and suffering, including a new fear of dogs, especially in children who may continue to have nightmares after the attack
• Property damage, if any, and
• Loss of consortium, which means that the injury somehow damaged your relationship with your spouse or family

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