Dog bites are more common than most people realize, and they can often be very difficult injury claims for people to handle on their own. While South Carolina is a strict liability state for dog bites, state law does provide an exception when a dog was harassed or provoked. South Carolina does not employ the “one bite rule” used in some other states that allows dog owners to avoid liability when their dog had no prior history of aggressive actions.
If you or your loved one suffered serious injuries because of a dog bite in South Carolina, you need to get help from an attorney as soon as possible. Our South Carolina Dog Bite Lawyer will be able to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf for a fair and full settlement.
Dog Bite Law in South Carolina
South Carolina Code § 47-3-110(A) establishes that a dog owner or a person who has a dog in their care or keeping is liable for the damages suffered by a person attacked by a dog in a public place or lawfully in a private place. Under South Carolina Code § 47-3-110(B), a dog owner or caretaker will not be liable when the person attacked provoked or harassed the dog.
The dog owner or caretaker will also not be liable if the dog was working in a law enforcement capacity, was properly trained and certified, and a third-party bystander was not attacked. South Carolina Code § 15-3-530 establishes a statute of limitation of three years on dog bite claims.
Third parties may be liable in some cases. In Clea v. Odom, the Supreme Court of South Carolina ruled that a landlord can be held liable for dog bite injuries inflicted on an invitee or licensee if the attack occurs in the common area of an apartment complex because the Residential Landlord Tenant Act (RLTA) holds that a landlord has an obligation to keep common areas in a reasonably safe condition.
Some of the most common injuries dog bite victims suffer include:
Loss of fingers and toes, and possible amputation of limbs
Neck and back injuries
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ Plastic Surgery Statistics Report found that 27,923 people underwent dog bite repair procedures in a single year. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) estimated that annual monetary losses for dog bite victims could be as much as $2 billion.
The CDC reported that over half of the 4.7 million annual dog bite victims are children. An HCUP statistical brief reported that the average cost of a dog bite-related hospital stay was about 50 percent more than the cost of the average stay for other injuries.
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If you are approached by a loose dog, keep your hands at your sides and remain calm. Dogs will respond strongly to the signals you send.
Always try to assess a dog’s body language before you approach it. If a dog appears to be confrontational, withdraw from the situation slowly.
If you are bitten by a stray dog, it can be more difficult to obtain compensation for your injuries. In certain cases, a local dog pound could be liable if the dog escaped from their custody. In other cases, a former dog owner could be potentially liable for a dog if it was neglected.
What Can You Recover in a Dog Bite Claim?
Most dog bite claims are resolved through settlements. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), homeowners’ insurance companies paid over $686 million in liability claims related to dog bites and other dog-related injuries in a single recent year.
Insurance companies may offer victims quick settlements in some cases, but these offers are usually for much less than what people are actually entitled to. Victims who accept such settlements often quickly discover that the amounts will not be enough to cover future medical costs.
Some insurers may argue that the victim was responsible for their injuries and refuse to provide any compensation at all. Despite South Carolina law, it is not uncommon for an insurance company to try to claim that a dog owner had no way of preventing a dog bite injury, often claiming that a victim somehow prompted the dog to act aggressively.
If a dog bite claim cannot be resolved through settlement negotiations, a victim may have to file a lawsuit. When a case is taken to trial and a victim proves their case by a preponderance of the evidence, they may be awarded compensatory damages that are usually a combination of economic damages and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages are for costs a victim bears for their injuries such as medical bills and lost wages. Noneconomic damages involve more subjective types of harm such as disfigurement or pain and suffering. In very rare cases, a victim may also be awarded punitive damages. These damages are only applied in cases where the defendant was shown to display a willful disregard for the safety of others and are meant to punish the defendant and discourage similar behavior in the future.
How Does a Dog Bite Claim Work in South Carolina?
An injury claim for a dog bite will usually be filed with the dog owner’s homeowners’ insurance company. The initial step will usually involve sending a demand letter that clearly states the amount of compensation you are seeking.
It is important for the amount that you are seeking in a demand letter to be based on a valid evaluation of your case. Medical testimony may be necessary to prove the validity of certain estimates for future medical expenses, for example. A South Carolina Dog Bite Lawyer can be essential for calculating a reasonable amount and crafting a good demand letter.
Many insurance companies will refuse to honor demand letters, and some will not even bother responding. The threat of a lawsuit is often what is needed to get an insurer to finally negotiate a settlement.
Steps to Take Immediately After You’ve Been Bitten by a Dog
Regardless of whether you think you were hurt seriously, you should always seek medical attention after a dog bite. Be mindful of possible infections, but also take precaution against injuries that involve delayed symptoms.
Take pictures of your injuries before they have time to heal. Get multiple photographs from various angles. You can also benefit from keeping a journal to document the struggles you face because of your injuries, including any expenses, pain, missed work, or difficulty completing tasks.
If the dog owner is someone you do not personally know, you should be sure to get their name and phone number. Do not hesitate to ask for a driver’s license or some other proof of identity.
How Our Law Firm Can Help After a Dog Bite Incident
Dog bites are often very difficult cases for victims to pursue on their own.
In many cases, people have concerns about the potential financial hardship they could create for the dog owners, who are often friends, family members, or neighbors of the victims. These fears are usually unfounded, as most dog bites are covered by a dog owner’s insurance company. The insurer may be difficult to initially obtain compensation from, but an experienced attorney can help you navigate this process.
Did you or your loved one sustain severe injuries after being bitten by a dog in South Carolina? You could be entitled to compensation for all of your medical expenses, lost income, and other losses.
Stewart Law Offices will come to visit you in your home or hospital room if you are not able to come to one of our offices. Call us or contact us online now to receive a free consultation.