Liability for Dog Bites in South Carolina

April 19, 2018

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has long acknowledged that dogs provide health and social benefits. Nevertheless, millions of people are bitten and attacked by dogs every year. According to CDC estimates, in a single year (1994), there were 800,000 people seen at emergency rooms for dog bites.

Who is Responsible When a Dog Attacks? 

Under Section 47-3-110 of the South Carolina Code, the owner of a dog is generally responsible for the dog’s conduct, with limited exceptions.

Your Legal Rights After A Dog Bite 

4.5 million people suffer dog bites every year, which accounts for over 300,000 emergency room visits according to the Agency for Health Research and Quality. The state of South Carolina has specific statutes and doctrines that allow victims to receive compensation for any injuries suffered from a dog bite

What if the Attack Happens on Private Property?

The dog’s owner is responsible for any bite that occurs in a public place or in a private place, provided the victim was lawfully permitted to be there. So, if a victim was trespassing, there would likely be no liability. But if the victim was invited over for dinner and got bitten, then there is liability.

What if Someone Other than the Owner Was Watching the Dog?

Owners are not the only ones who can be liable. If an owner let someone else watch the dog, and that person failed to control the dog, thus resulting in the attack, then that person may also be responsible for the attack.

What About Postal Carriers and Utility Workers? 

South Carolina protects those who are acting in an official job function, such as rural postal carriers, private package carriers, utility workers, and so forth. If your job requires you to enter property or perform inspections of property, and you are bitten by a dog on the property, the law holds the owner accountable.

South Carolina Dog Bite Statute

The law in South Carolina states that a dog owner is strictly liable for any injuries or damages suffered by a victim who is attacked or bitten. Strict liability means there is no legal requirement that the dog owner had knowledge that his/her dog was vicious in any way, or that the dog ever attacked anyone else. South Carolina is unlike other states which indicate that a dog must have previously bitten someone in order for the owner to be liable (“one bite rule.”)

In order to develop a strong dog bite case in the state of South Carolina, you must be able to prove the following two items: 

  1. The victim was bitten or attacked by a dog either in a public location, or lawfully in a private location, and
  2. The dog was not provoked in any way by the victim. 

Exceptions to Liability 

If the victim provoked the dog in any way prior to the dog bite or attack, the dog owner may not be liable or responsible for any damages. Additionally, if the victim was illegally trespassing on the dog owner’s private property and a dog bit or attacked him/her, the dog owner would not have any responsibility or liability with regard to the injuries suffered by the victim. Other exceptions include if the dog is “on duty” and working as part of a law enforcement team and the attack was ordered by a police officer.

Are there Other Exceptions to Liability? 

Yes. The law will not hold a dog’s owner liable for bites if at the time of the bite:

  • The dog was provoked or harassed; or
  • The dog was a police dog working in its official capacity (other special rules apply).

Common Insurance Company Disputes Over Dog Bites 

Most pet owners understand their obligation to maintain a safe pet. Sadly, homeowners insurance companies often seek any way possible to avoid paying for serious, disfiguring, and painful dog attacks. They may argue that the victim was not lawfully in the place where the attack took place, even if the facts are exceedingly clear. They may argue that the dog was provoked because the victim ‘entered the room quickly’ or ‘made a loud noise.’  These false and arbitrary denials require aggressive legal representation right from the start.

Contact a South Carolina Dog Bite Lawyer

The attorneys of the David Aylor Law Offices know how to get justice for injury victims. If you or a loved one have been the victim of a serious dog bite, call or visit us online to schedule a free consultation. Don’t trust the insurance company to do the right thing. Insurance companies have just one priority – not paying you for your injuries.

With three offices throughout the Lowcountry, we make it easy for you to get the help you need. But don’t wait too long. The law imposes strict limitations on how long you have to pursue your claim.

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