CAN I GET COMPENSATION FOR DOG BITES IN NORTH CAROLINA?
The answer that most attorneys will give you is – it depends. This is because there are multiple theories of liability each of which has its exceptions and limitations. As such, this area of law is quite complex, so if you or your kids were bitten or injured in any way by someone else’s dog, it is imperative to speak with a personal injury attorney who will evaluate your case and explain all possible legal options.
Unlike other states, North Carolina follows the One Bite Rule with respect to dog bite liability. Under this rule, the dog’s owner does not automatically become liable for injuring someone if his or her animal has not exhibited violent behavior in the past. There are, however, exceptions under which you may still recover for all of your injuries if the owner can be held strictly liable. In addition, North Carolina is a contributory negligence state, making it even more difficult for some victims to recover compensation.
The following list details some of the possible theories under which you may be able to recover compensation for dog bite injuries:
North Carolina Statutory Liability / Strict Liability (Section 67 of N.C.G.S.)North Carolina Negligence TheoryNorth Carolina Negligence Per Se Theory
North Carolina General Statute, specifically Chapter 67, among other things, covers matter related to owner’s liability of dangerous dogs. Under section 67-12 of North Carolina General Statutes, the dog’s owner in North Carolina will be held strictly liable for damages inflicted to a human being or to property without a showing of negligence if the victim can establish that:
The owner intentionally, knowingly, and willfully allowed his or her dog to run at large at night;The dog was at least 6 months old; andThe dog was unaccompanied by its owner or a member of the owner’s family at the time of the incident.
If the victim cannot satisfy one of the elements under the above-mentioned statute, then he or she may still be able to prove strict liability under section 67-4.1 – “dangerous dog” section. Under section 67-4.1 a dangerous dog is defined as one that is:
Has inflicted a serious injury on another person without being provoked or has previously killed a person.Was previously officially declared to be dangerous or potentially dangerous by a governmental entity, such as the local animal control board.Was owned, harbored, primarily or in part for the purpose of dog fighting or trained for dog fighting.
As you are now aware, the statute requires that very specific elements must be met in order to prove your case. If you are, however, unable to meet the requisite burden, then you must consider other options, discussed below.
In North Carolina, victims of dog bites can recover compensation under the traditional ground of negligence. Negligence can be defined as failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like or similar circumstances. As such, if a person’s conduct in a given situation doesn’t measure up to conduct of an ordinary prudent person, then that person is deemed to have been negligent. North Carolina generally follows the traditional common law rules of Negligence.
In North Carolina, to establish a case of negligence, the plaintiff must prove:
(3) causation, (cause-in-fact and proximate cause) and
First, a defendant owes a duty to conform to a specific standard of conduct for the protection of foreseeable plaintiffs. Breach occurs when the defendant fails to conform to that standard of conduct. Moreover, the defendant’s breach must be the cause-in-fact and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s harm. To prove cause-in-fact, the plaintiff must show the harm would not have occurred “but for” the defendant’s actions. To establish the defendant’s breach was the proximate cause of plaintiff’s harm, the plaintiff must show the result of the defendant’s conduct was foreseeable. Finally, damages include the plaintiff’s past and future medical expenses, lost income, property damages, and pain and suffering.
While North Carolina follows the One Bite Rule, which means that the injured party must demonstrate in court that the dog’s owner knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous propensities, there’s still a chance to recover without such showing if the dog’s “general propensities” are commonly known to be aggressive, territorial, and unpredictable. For example, a Pitbull or a Rottweiler is known for said general propensities.
Again, North Carolina is a contributory negligence state, thus victim’s actions must not have contributed to his injuries in any way whatsoever.
Another theory of recovery that a dog bite victim can pursue in North Carolina is negligence per se. Under this doctrine, a dog owner or someone who was entrusted with the custody of the animal can be held liable if he or she violated an animal control law or an ordinance. For instance, under Section 3-73. (Restraint of animals) – “It shall be unlawful for any person owning or having possession, charge, custody or control of any animal, excluding cats, to keep such animal on his own premises or off the premises, unless such animal is under sufficient physical restraint to controls the animal, or within a vehicle or adequately contained by a fence on the premises or other secure enclosure.” Click here to read the entire Charlotte Code of Ordinances.
In North Carolina, to prove a claim of negligence per se, a victim must show:
A duty created by a statute or ordinance;A breach of the statutory duty;The statute or ordinance was designed to protect a class of persons which includes the victim;that the injury was of the nature contemplated in the statute; and,that the violation of the statute proximately caused the injury.
In North Carolina, an action for dog bite must be commenced within three. The three year period starts running on the date of the dog bite. As such, if you commence the suit after the three year deadline, your suit will likely be thrown out.
Just like in other negligence actions, if you were able to prove all of the requisite elements, then you will be entitled to all of the special damages along with the pain and suffering. Specifically, you will be able to recover any lost wages, loss of future income, property damage, mileage of commute to doctor’s offices, and most importantly pain and suffering.
This blog is not to be construed as legal advice. If you have any further questions about your dog bite incident including the amount of damages that you are entitled to, please do not hesitate to call our office. We would be glad to answer any of your charges. Call us today at (704) 900-7675