The CDC estimates 4.5 million Americans are bitten by a dog each year, and 800,000 of those injuries are severe enough to warrant a hospital visit. Unlike traffic incidents, animal attacks routinely involve serious disputes over liability. From state to state the laws differ on who is responsible when an attack occurs, even in the most cut and dry cases. To navigate these issues in Raleigh, you need aggressive dog bite attorneys willing to investigate and, if necessary, file suit.
North Carolina has high standards for establishing an owner’s responsibility when his or her pet attacks someone. A plaintiff must show:
- “that the animal was dangerous, vicious, mischievous, or ferocious, or one termed in law as possessing a vicious propensity”.
- “that the owner or keeper knew or should have known of the animal’s vicious propensity, character, and habits”.
In other words, the victim has to prove the animal was predisposed to dangerous behavior and that the owner knew this about his or her pet. This knowledge may come from an animal’s prior behavior. In North Carolina, one may prove a dog’s risk from a previous attack. The commonly misinterpreted “one-bite rule” applies in many states, but it’s not the only way to prove owner liability.
One Bite Defense
Many resources describe North Carolina as a “one-bite” state – meaning there is no liability unless a dog has bitten (or otherwise attacked) someone before. The first bite simply puts its owner on notice of its vicious propensity. In contrast, “strict liability” states leave no room for speculation. The responsibility lies with the owner to ensure his or her pet never attacks anyone.
Although Maginnis Howard has had success litigating under this traditional view of North Carolina law, the reality is more complex. The majority of states today are strict liability states, and only a handful are “one-bite” only. North Carolina is one of five states that has both.
However, victims have other options to prove negligence. One such option is to utilize local ordinances to establish that the owner acted negligently. Raleigh City Code has particularly strong language worth referencing if you have been bitten within city limits. Our firm recently settled a case for a Raleigh man who was attacked while walking his own dog, suffering a deep arm laceration. In this case, the dog that attacked had no leash and no owner in sight. We argued that this violated Raleigh Municipal Code and made the dog’s owner negligent.
Owner Negligence under Raleigh City Code
The Raleigh City Code provides that dog owners have a legal duty to keep their pets on a leash and under supervision in public. In any negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove an owner committed a breach of legal duty. For example, if an Owner allows a dog off the leash and the dog in turn injures someone. Using the City Code in this fashion is useful if you do not know the dog’s breed or behavioral history.
The City Code also provides that “[i]t shall be unlawful to own, keep, or harbor a public nuisance animal within the city.” A “public nuisance animal” includes, but is not limited to, any animal or group of animals which is repeatedly found at large, is vicious, or by virtue of its type is offensive or dangerous to the public health, safety, or welfare. It is unclear whether the Code would declare that ownership of any “vicious” breed is unlawful. Nevertheless, it is certainly worth arguing in any negligence litigation.
However, there are a number of other laws dog bite victims can utilize in litigation against negligent owners. For instance, in a recent case our firm alleged that by violating City Code provisions relating to providing adequate food and water, the defendant rendered its otherwise vicious dog even more so.
Compensation for Dog Bite Victims
There are a number of damages available for dog bite victims in North Carolina. This includes:
- Medical Bills – Victims are eligible for reimbursement of all medical expenses such as ambulance service, hospital stays and surgeries.
- Pain and Suffering – Aside from the attack itself, the recovery can be an excruciating process. In some more serious cases, victims require physical therapy, future surgeries or permanent disfigurement.
- Lost Wages – Hospital visits, surgeries and painful recovery can prevent a victim from working. For that reason, victims can pursue lost wages in their settlements.
- Property Damages – For example, damaged clothing or items the victim was holding at the time.
- Punitive Damages – Damages awarded in cases where the owner acted with extreme disregard for others or knowingly allowed the attack.
Raleigh Dog Bite Attorneys
For a legal team you can trust, contact the experienced attorneys at Maginnis Howard. Our results speak for themselves, and our clients are our number one priority. Reach us by phone at (919) 526-0450, by email email@example.com, or through our contact page.