Three kids were bitten by a dog in south Charlotte in September. The kids were playing on the road one evening when a two-year-old Labrador retriever mix that was off leash began chasing them and bit them. The owner of the dog had been doing yard work and left the yard open. Kids inside the home opened a door to the backyard to let the dog out, and it escaped through an open gate. One of the kids was taken to the Children’s Hospital. The dog was surrendered to animal control for a rabies quarantine.
In North Carolina, someone bitten by a dog has multiple different theories under which he or she can sue for damages. The first is the North Carolina dog bite statutes. A dog owner can be held strictly liable for a dog bite to a person if he willfully, knowingly, and intentionally violates the rule against dogs running at large under North Carolina General Statutes section 67-12. This rule applies only to a dog that is unaccompanied by the owner or another family member or person and that is running at large.
When this law doesn’t apply, a dog owner might be held strictly liable under section 67-4.4. The issue in that case is whether the injuries were inflicted by a dangerous dog. A dangerous dog is defined as one that is at least six months old and running at large at night, that previously hurt or killed others, or that was previously declared dangerous or potentially dangerous by officials.
When the statutory requirements aren’t fulfilled, there may be a remedy under common law. You can recover compensation by proving negligence. Negligence exists when there’s a lack of ordinary care that a reasonably careful and prudent individual would use under the same circumstances. To establish negligence, you will need to prove: (1) the defendant’s legal duty, (2) the defendant’s breach of duty, (3) actual and legal causation, and (4) injury. Legal cause is that which naturally and not broken by a new, independent cause created injuries to the plaintiff. It has to be an event without which the plaintiff wouldn’t have been hurt.
In the past, a dog owner of a dog that hadn’t acted viciously before was still held liable under a negligence theory because they should have known that breed had a general propensity to be territorial, unpredictable, and aggressive. The owner of a dog is supposed to know the propensities of certain animals and use due care to protect against injuries from actions that are foreseeable.
When any animal control law is violated, it may be possible to sue a dog owner for negligence per se. To succeed in such a claim, you will need to show: (1) a duty was created by a safety statute or ordinance, (2) the safety statute or ordinance was developed to protect a class of which you are a part, (3) the statutory duty was breached, (4) you suffered an injury of the type the statute or ordinance was meant to prevent, and (5) it was legally caused by the statutory or ordinance violation. You may also be able to recover under the one-bite rule.
If you were bitten by someone else’s dog in the Charlotte metro area, Greensboro, or Winston-Salem, the experienced Charlotte 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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