Under North Carolina law, a person injured from a dog bite may collect damages from the owner of the dog. There are numerous state statutes that apply to this type of personal injury claim, but in order to understand this type of claim, it’s important to consider some related terms. You can contact a personal injury attorney about your case, and we offer free consultations for this reason.
Dog Bite Liability In North Carolina
North Carolina law prohibits an individual from allowing a dog to run at large during the night without accompaniment by a the owner, a family member or some other responsible party. This law applies to canines over the age of six months that have not previously harmed anyone.
North Carolina law defines a dangerous dog as one that:
- Without provocation has killed or inflicted severe injury on a person;
- Is determined by the person or board designated by the county or municipal authority responsible for animal control to be potentially dangerous because the dog has engaged in one or more of the following behaviors:
- Inflicted a bite on a person that resulted in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations or required cosmetic surgery or hospitalization;
- Killed or inflicted severe injury upon a domestic animal when not on the owner’s real property; or
- Approached a person when not on the owner’s property in a vicious or terrorizing manner in an apparent attitude of attack; or
- Is owned or harbored primarily or in part for the purpose of dog fighting, or any dog trained for dog fighting.
Types Of Dog Bites Liability
Under North Carolina law, a dog bite victim may prove liability under several legal theories.
- Strict liability applies for injuries inflicted under the running-at-large statute. If a canine is allowed to run at large in violation of the law and an injury results, the owner is liable for the injuries and may be forced to pay damages within a court of law. This type of liability also applies when an officially classified dangerous dog injures an individual.
- Negligence may apply if the injured party can prove that the dog owner breached their duty of care. In relation to dog bites, negligence may apply in situations where the dog was not previously classified as dangerous. Nevertheless, the owner has a duty to control her dog and reasonably protect members of the community from injury. When hearing these cases, the North Carolina courts previously considered the propensities of some dog breeds towards aggressive behavior. They have also considered the negligence of allowing a child to play with an unfamiliar animal, without adequate supervision.
- The one bite rule is an additional method of liability under North Carolina law. Under common law, a dog bite owner was protected from liability for the first occasion that his dog injures an individual. Any additional injuries inflicted by the same animal subjects the owner to liability. This theory has stood the test of time and is still used in the North Carolina
- Negligence per se may apply when a dog owner or someone with custody of the dog violates a state animal control law. There are numerous elements that a plaintiff must prove to collect under this theory, including:
- a duty created by a statute or ordinance;
- the statute or ordinance was enacted to protect a class of persons which includes the plaintiff;
- a breach of the statutory duty;
- that the injury sustained was suffered by an interest which the statute protected;
- that the injury was of the nature contemplated in the statute; and
- that the violation of the statute proximately caused the injury.
North Carolina Dog Bite Cases – The Process
When bitten by a dog, there are important steps to take for your protection and in preparation for a potential liability claim.
- Tend to your wounds. Whether your injuries are superficial or extremely serious, first seek medical care and secure your well being.
- Collect information about the dog’s owner. If the owner is not available, collect information from the person in control of the dog at the time of the injury. If no one is present, ask individuals in the area for information about the address of the dog’s home.
- Contact law enforcement. Dog bites may carry criminal liability. Contact law enforcement so that officers can conduct their own investigation. They may prove able to identify an owner or responsible party even if you are not.
- Get the medical history of the dog. Attempt to contact the dog’s veterinarian to learn whether the dog’s vaccinations are up to date.
It’s important to note that, in the state of North Carolina, when a dog injury was inflicted under the following circumstances, liability generally does not apply:
- the injured party was committing a willful trespass or other tort;
- the injured party was tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog;
- the injured party previously tormented, abused or assaulted the dog; or
- the injured party was committing or attempting to commit a crime.