Attacks by domestic dogs, such as Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and other known aggressive breeds can cause awful injuries. In many cases, serious dog bites can leave long lasting, permanent scars and disfigurement. If these injuries are the result of an owner’s negligent keeping of his or her animal, the victim has the right to fair compensation. Obtaining that fair compensation is often not as easy as one might think. Unlike automobile collisions, where there are clear “rules of the road” that everyone must follow, and insurance is nearly always available, dog bite cases routinely involve serious disputes over the availability of insurance coverage and whether the owner actually acted negligently in anyway. To navigate these issues, you need aggressive North Carolina dog bite attorneys willing to investigate and, if necessary, file suit.
Like most civil litigation cases, dog bite claims involve three primary inquiries: (1) [did the owner or keeper act negligently?]; (2) [what damages has the victim sustained?]; and (3) [is there an available source of insurance coverage or funds to pay for those damages?].
Liability for Dog Bites
Some folks call our office with the assumption that dog owners are automatically liable if their animal attacks someone. This is simply not the case in North Carolina. “Strict liability” may be the rule in some states but not North Carolina. In fact, there are only certain circumstances under which a dog owner can be held liable for injuries caused by his or her animal. The first example of those is where a dog’s breed has “vicious propensities”. The other is where his or her dog has previously shown a vicious propensity of its own, even if it is not necessarily from a known aggressive breed. An example would be where the particular dog has previously bitten someone else. There could be other situations where the owner could still be held liable, but these are the two classic scenarios allowing for potential recovery.
Recoverable Monetary Damages for Dog Bites
Dog bite cases generally allow the victim to recover the same forms of compensation allowed in any other injury case. Those include money damages for:
- Past and future medical expenses;
- Past and future physical and emotional pain and suffering;
- Lost wages and future diminished earning capacity;
- Past and future disability and resultant impairment; and
- Past and future disfigurement and scarring.
If the dog owner acted intentionally or with wilful and reckless disregard for the victim, punitive damages may also be available. This is a form of compensation that is recoverable solely to punish the defendant for his or her bad behavior. This might be appropriate, for example, if the owner used the animal in dog fighting or intentionally released upon the victim.
Sources of Financial Recovery
One of the keys in any dog bite case is the availability of insurance coverage. Recovery is most often made by making a claim against the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy or renter’s insurance policy. If the dog owner was a tenant, however, the issue can become much more complicated. He or she may not have insurance. In that circumstance, if the tenant does not have significant assets, and they often do not, the victim must look to whether the landlord was negligently in anyway. This means looking into whether (a) the landlord knew the tenant possessed a dog with vicious propensities; and (b) if so, did the lease allow the landlord the opportunity to remove the dog. In that case, a victim can hold the landlord and its insurance company responsible for the victim’s damages.
North Carolina Dog Bite Attorneys
If you or your child have been attacked and injured as a result of a dog owner’s negligence, the Raleigh law firm of Maginnis Law is available to assist you with your claim. Our dog bite attorneys offer free consultations and handle dog bite cases on a contingency basis. This means you pay no attorneys fee unless and until we make a financial recovery on your behalf, whether by settlement or verdict. We customarily reduce our fee for claims involving minors.
Maginnis Law currently handles dog bite cases throughout the state of North Carolina, including Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Wilmington, and the surrounding areas. To speak with one of our dog bite attorneys, call Shawn Howard at (919) 526-0450. You may also provide the details of your case using our contact page or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.