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Dog attacks, liability, and NC law: What do I need to know?

A friend or family member’s pet or a dog that lives in the neighborhood can quickly turn from cute fluffy companion to a fully alert animal that feels the need to protect his owners or property. Whatever triggers this change, state law generally expects the owner to keep others safe from their pet. We recognize that these pets cannot always distinguish between friend and foe and may unnecessarily attack.

A recent case provides an example. A young girl decided to spend some time on a beautiful afternoon roller skating through her neighborhood. The 10-year-old took a fall and while she was down, five dogs attacked. One scratched her stomach, others bit, and when they were finished the little girl had over 50 lacerations covering her body. Her injuries were so severe that she required an airlift for immediate medical treatment. As of the writing of this article, the young victim remains in critical but stable condition. Medical professionals providing care state she will likely recover but has a “long road” ahead.

What happens after a dog attack?

In this type of situation, enforcement officers will seize the dogs responsible for the attack and hold them in observation. This is important because professionals will watch the dogs for any sings of rabies. If present, victims will require additional treatment.

Officials will then continue with an investigation of the incident. They will find the owners; they will interview witnesses and others that knew the animals in an attempt to determine if there were any past incidents of aggression. Authorities will then decide whether to pursue criminal charges based on evidence gathered during this investigation.

What about those who are injured by a dog bite?

Although the investigation and criminal charges help to keep the community safe and are one step towards holding owners responsible for their dogs’ wrongdoing, they are not the only step. Victims also have the ability to hold the dog owner accountable through a civil lawsuit. This is an important step because it can result in funds to help cover the expenses connected to the attack. The cost of an ambulance, emergency care and additional medical treatment can quickly add up. It is reasonable to expect the owner to cover these expenses and a civil suit can help to better ensure this happens.

North Carolina state law holds dog owners strictly liable for injuries caused if their dog bites. The victim can move this claim forward if they have evidence to show the dog was dangerous as defined by state law and caused injury. State law defines dangerous as those who have killed or caused serious injury. Broken bones and serious cuts that require hospitalization qualify as serious injuries.

It is important to note that there is a time limit to these claims. In most cases, victims have up to three years to move forward with their civil suit. After that time period, they could lose the chance to hold the dog owner accountable for the dog attack. Gathering evidence to help build this claim may seem intimidating, but it does not have to be. An attorney can take on this task on your behalf and advocate for your interests, helping to better ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

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