In a recent incident, a passenger on an airplane was attacked by an emotional support dog. The dog was a mixed lab, and the victim was sitting in a window seat with the dog and his owner, a North Carolina Marine veteran, next to him. After the attack, which happened before the flight took off, the victim was drenched in blood. The police came to the scene, and the dog and his owner were booked to a later flight with the dog flying in a kennel.
Although dogs are beloved pets and often provide emotional support formally, they can act in unpredictable ways or ways not anticipated by their particular owners. The harm that dogs are capable of inflicting is tremendous and may include injuries so severe they are fatal. In North Carolina, you have three years after suffering injuries from a dog bite to file a lawsuit against the owner. In most cases, you will not be able to have your case heard or to recover damages if you wait for more than three years after being bitten to file suit.
Under section 67 of the North Carolina General Statutes, a dog owner may be liable for damages if you can prove it was a dangerous dog and it injured you. Unlike some other states, this law applies even if there was no bite and the injuries were inflicted by some other means, such as the dog knocking you over.
To prove a dog was dangerous, you’ll have to show one of the following: the dog seriously injured or killed someone without provocation, the dog was owned for the purposes of dog fighting, or it was determined to be potentially dangerous by the local animal control board. A local board may find a dog potentially dangerous if it’s bitten somebody, attacked another animal, killed another animal, or acted aggressively when someone approached.
Some states require you to establish negligence, which means that the jury will decide whether the owner used reasonable care to stop the dog from hurting somebody else. However, North Carolina’s law is considered a strict liability law. This means a dog owner may be held responsible even if they never saw the dog bite a human or knock someone over. For example, an owner could be held responsible if someone had previously reported that the dog who inflicted a bite had injured his cat.
As a practical matter, however, very few people report that a dog attacked their pet or acted aggressively toward them when they were approached. This can make it tricky to establish liability because it is difficult to show that a dog meets the criteria of being a “dangerous dog.” You may need to investigate whether the owner ever saw their dog bite someone or nip someone, or whether the owner allowed their dog to be involved in dog fights.
Dog owners have multiple defenses to claims that a dog hurt someone else, making it important to retain experienced counsel. For example, the owner may claim that you were trespassing, provoking the dog, or trying to commit some sort of wrong and that the dog was simply behaving defensively.
If you were bitten by someone else’s dog, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Maurer Law may be able to help you recover compensation. Contact us at 919-229-8359 or via our online form.
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