When springtime arrives, it’s not unusual to see a rise in dog bite incidents. With the nicer weather, people are more inclined to take their dogs out for a walk or let them stay outside throughout the day. If you are the victim of a dog bite, it’s important that you retain a skilled Chester, South Carolina, personal injury attorney to help you through the process. Dog bite claims can be complex, and there may be remedies available to you that the defendant’s insurance company or attorney won’t disclose.
Strict Liability in South Carolina
Under South Carolina Code of Laws Title 47, dog owners are strictly liable for any injuries that his or her dog causes, provided the bite took place in public and the victim did not provoke the dog. The law extends to bites that took place on private property as well, including on the dog owner’s property, provided the victim was there at the express or implied invitation of the owner or was performing a lawful duty (police officer, mail carrier, etc.).
With strict liability, there is no need to prove negligence; it’s automatically assumed. Some states require that you prove the dog was dangerous or had a documented history of prior attacks, but in South Carolina, that is not the case.
Defenses to dog bite injuries include provocation and trespassing. A dog owner is likely to assert that the victim provoked the dog in some manner, like harassing, abusing, or teasing the dog in some fashion. Provocation doesn’t apply to someone merely attempting to approach or pet the dog. Trespassing is a valid defense if the victim was on private property without permission and had no legal reason to be there.
One exception to this law is when the dog was working for law enforcement and the bite meets certain criteria:
- The dog attacked in direct compliance after given a command from a certified canine officer
- The dog’s training and certification meets the guidelines set forth by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Training Council
- The respective government agency has a written policy on file that discusses the appropriate use of canines in the field
- The dog’s actions or its handler don’t constitute excessive force or violate any part of the policy and the attack didn’t happen to a third-party bystander
South Carolina Ranks High in Dog Bite Claims
In years past, South Carolina has ranked as one of the top 20 states for dog-bite-related insurance payouts. According to State Farm, in 2016, South Carolina was 19th with 68 dog bites claims amounting to $1.7 million dollars. Compare that to California which was number one with 433 dog bite claims and $16.8 million paid in claims. This only represents a fraction of the dog bite cases that actually occur within the state
Retaining a Personal Injury Attorney in Dog Bite Cases
If you’ve been bitten by a dog and suffered injuries, contact the Elrod Pope Law Firm. Let one of our skilled personal injury attorneys in our Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, or Chester offices help you get the compensation you deserve.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.