Animals are a part of life in America, especially for families. However, owners of pets have a responsibility to ensure that their animals behave in a fashion that is safe. If a pet or other animal bites or otherwise injures a person, the owner is liable in South Carolina, aside from certain situations that constitute exceptions.
Most people tend to immediately choose to clean and dress a wound, but if at all possible, the first thing you should do after being bitten is to try and figure out the animal’s origin. Liability will be different if the animal belongs to, for example, a neighbor, versus being a police dog or wild. It is not required for dogs to be registered with the state, but many owners choose to do so, because it helps to locate lost pets. If a registered dog bites you, then you will have an advantage in knowing who is inherently liable for your injuries.
After dealing with the police, then you should then seek medical treatment. If you choose to file a report, which is generally suggested, the dog must then be quarantined for ten days (either at their owner’s home, or at a local shelter) to test for symptoms of rabies. During that period, it may be advisable for you to document your injuries with photographs and copies of medical records and police reports.
Filing a Lawsuit
Bringing a dog bite lawsuit will always be done in South Carolina under the theory of strict liability. If you have a lawsuit under strict liability, the question of negligence or malicious intent is irrelevant. In other words, if someone’s dog bites you, it does not matter whether its owner was exercising appropriate care or not. Contrast this with, say, an automobile accident, where a driver who hits you is going to pay more in compensatory damages if they are found to be negligent.
Generally, in South Carolina, you will recover if you were not trespassing (or otherwise breaking the law), and if you did not provoke the dog into attacking. If you did, that does constitute an affirmative defense, and will preclude recovery.
Many people are under the impression that because a strict liability case does not require proof of negligence, that they can simply petition for a judgment to be entered. This is not the case; your attorney must still file paperwork and all the appropriate motions to mount a lawsuit, in which you can present your case for compensation. Strict liability cases do permit recovery for several different varieties of compensation, in the same manner as regular negligence cases. Some potential areas of recovery include:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages/income
- Any property damage not caused by you
- Loss of consortium (defined as loss of marital relations)
- Pain and suffering
A Good Attorney Can Make A Difference
Even though strict liability can appear very simple, it is in practice extremely complex. A qualified legal professional can help ease you through the process of bringing suit. The dedicated North Charleston personal injury attorneys at Callihan & Syracuse have experience in this type of suit, and can give you the information and assistance you need to have your injuries properly compensated. Contact our office today for your first consultation at no charge.