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 Lawsuit 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 precautions 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.
Do not speak to any insurance company without first contacting a Stewart Law Offices SC personal injury lawyer. Answering even routine questions can cause you to accidentally damage your claim.
How to Remain Safe Around Loose Dogs
When you encounter an unfamiliar dog, you should always be very cautious in your approach. Dogs will feed off your energy and will defend themselves if they feel they have been threatened.
Try not to corner a stray dog. Also avoid anything that could startle a stray dog, such as waking it up, making loud noises, or approaching it too quickly. Never intentionally tease or agitate a dog.
Dog Bite Laws 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.