Columbia Dog Bite Lawyer
A dog threatening you with its teeth bared is terrifying. Your dog turning on a stranger is shocking. At Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers, we know that dog attacks can have devastating consequences for both victims and owners. Our Columbia dog bite attorney has seen the physical injuries caused by aggressive canines, and we have witnessed the emotional turmoil owners face knowing they may be forced to have their dog euthanized.
“Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” It’s a phrase often used by owners when their dog approaches a stranger. Most dog owners don’t believe their pet would ever harm anyone, but the reality is that any dog will bite under the right circumstances. The trouble is that dogs don’t tell us when they will attack — or so we think.
Aggressive Canine Body Language
It’s true that dogs don’t speak with their mouths but speak volumes with their body language — just like we do. Most of them give some type of warning before launching an attack.
Our Columbia dog bite attorney understands that victims often miss these signals, probably because they’ve never had a reason to be enlightened on the subject.
You can help prevent yourself from injury when you know a bit about canine responses and what they tell you. The average dog will exhibit one or more of the following signs before resorting to biting:
- Trying to move away
- Stiffening of the entire body (like a statue)
- Wrinkling of the nose
- Ears flat back against the head
- Lifting their lips to bare their teeth
- A quick nip
If you are getting any warning signs from a dog — no matter how adorable it may be — slowly back away. You’ll be protecting yourself from a serious wound and the owner from having to put their dog down.
No Free Bites in Columbia, SC
Some states have a one-bite rule that says the owner isn’t liable the first time around. If the dog bites again, however, the owner will be forced to compensate the victim and possibly euthanize the animal. South Carolina doesn’t follow this guideline — we follow the strict liability rule. This means that an owner is automatically on the hook if their dog reaches out and bites someone, regardless of whether or not it has a perfectly innocent past.
The South Carolina code of law is very clear on the responsibilities of owners. According to Section 47-3-110, if a person is bitten by a dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private residence, the owner or person taking care of the dog is liable for damages suffered. The only exception to the law is in cases where the victim purposely provoked the dog or entered the premise illegally.
Protect Your Dog and Yourself
Because of strict liability, it’s important to take steps to reduce your dog’s ability to bite someone in public:
- Always walk your dog on a leash.
- If you notice your dog displaying any of the signs of aggression listed above, tighten your grip on the lead and slowly pull it back toward you, putting your dog on a “shorter leash.” This limits the dog’s ability to lunge toward its target and helps you keep them out of biting range.
- Take your dog to obedience classes. Working with your dog and providing proper socialization – preferably from an early age, if your dog is still a puppy – helps to reduce aggression. It also gives you tools to restrict aggressive behavior and improve your dog’s ability to respond to your commands.
What to Do If Bitten by a Dog
Your first concern will probably be to get away from the dog and to a safe place. Next, you should assess your injuries and call 911. If you can still see the dog, give its description and as close an approximation of its location as you can manage. If you can’t see the dog anymore, try to recall if it was headed in a particular direction. This will help animal control officers locate and capture the dog so it can’t bite anyone else.
If the dog is in its owner’s presence, or the owner quickly appears after the attack starts, try to get their contact and insurance information. We understand that this may be difficult if they’re now holding the dog that attacked you. You may want to ask the owner if they can tie up the dog nearby so you can talk without fearing another bite. If the owner doesn’t seem friendly either, call 911 from a distance and give the operator the owner’s description as well as the dog’s. After you receive medical attention for your injuries, be sure to report the dog bite to your local South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Information on how to file a dog bite report can be found here.
Filing a Claim for Your Dog Bite Injuries
Under strict liability laws, the owner should be responsible for your medical bills and other damages related to the attack (including mental trauma or pain and suffering). In most personal injury cases, we start by looking at insurance policies that may cover your injuries, as this is often the fastest way to acquire the compensation you deserve. Here are some potential insurance options we may consider:
- If you were bitten by a dog on someone else’s property, their homeowner’s policy may cover your injuries.
- Were you bitten by the dog while working? For example, if you deliver packages, you may be bitten by a dog while leaving a box on someone’s porch. In the event that you were working when bitten, your injuries should be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. You are also entitled to two-thirds of your usual pay if you miss significant time at work due to the dog bite. Other damages like pain and suffering are not covered by workers’ compensation, but you may be able to file a claim against the homeowner’s insurance policy for compensation not otherwise covered.
- If you were bitten by a dog on public property or even on your own property, the dog’s owner is liable. We will check to see if the owner has any insurance policy that covers a dog bite under the particular circumstances of your case. If not, you still have the option to sue the owner directly.
- The dog’s owner is responsible for the dog even when it isn’t in the owner’s care. For example, if you go to drop your cat off at a pet grooming facility, and a dog bites you, the grooming facility would not be liable, but the owner of the dog would be. If the owner doesn’t have applicable insurance, you can sue them for your injuries.
Other Injuries Caused by Dogs
In some situations, a person may be injured by a dog even if it didn’t bite or wasn’t aggressive. A large, friendly dog may jump on someone and knock them down. In some cases, the victim suffers broken bones or other serious injuries simply because a dog knocked them over or knocked over an object that fell on them. Other people are injured because they tripped over a dog that got underfoot. Due to strict liability laws, the dog’s owner is still liable in these situations, and your lawyer will use the same methods to seek compensation as they would for a dog bite.
How Does a Dog Bite Lawsuit Work?
When you speak with a Columbia dog bite attorney, they will ask questions about the dog bite, how it happened, the injuries you suffered, and the dog’s owner. Next, they will attempt to identify insurance policies that might cover your injuries. If they find one, the next step will most likely be filing a claim with the insurer. In most cases, this is the fastest and simplest way to seek compensation for your damages, and your lawyer will ensure that all your claim paperwork is filed correctly. When insurance coverage is unavailable, your attorney may suggest filing a claim against the owner.
In both situations, the other party may offer many reasons they don’t believe they should pay your claim. The following are common defenses to dog bite claims in South Carolina. They may be used by the dog’s owner, and if so, there is a good chance the insurance company will support the owner’s argument as a way to avoid paying your claim:
- The victim provoked the dog. This is one of the most common defenses in dog bite cases. Often the victim is shocked, because they don’t recall doing anything to provoke the dog. The owner may claim that you were either physically or verbally abusive to the animal, that you touched it in a threatening way, or that you yelled at or teased the dog.
- The victim harassed the dog. The owner might say that you removed food or water from the dog, spurring its aggression, or you tried to take one of its puppies.
- The victim was trespassing on the owner’s property. Under South Carolina liability laws, property owners have no ‘duty of care” to anyone trespassing on their property. These statutes protect homeowners from being sued by burglars or other criminals who might break into a home and get hurt in the process. However, sometimes a dog owner trying to avoid paying a claim will use this defense to suggest they aren’t liable for your injuries. It’s important to note that this defense doesn’t work if a victim needed to enter the property to do their job. For example, if you walked onto someone’s lawn to deliver their food order or work on a power line, the dog’s owner can’t use the trespassing defense.
Countering Dog Bite Defenses
Understandably, people who have suffered dog bites may be very upset upon hearing that the dog’s owner blames them. While this is frustrating, we encourage you to remain calm and talk to your lawyer. Speaking directly with the dog’s owner is not recommended – they may twist what you say to fit their narrative about your alleged fault in the matter. Your attorney has the knowledge and experience to refute their claims and negotiate with insurers or the other party’s lawyer.
In most cases, we ask our investigative team to look into the dog owner’s claims. We’ll examine the report you filed with DHEC and any other reports from local animal control agencies. Additionally, we seek out witnesses who may have seen the attack and search for video evidence that could be found in the form of smartphone or doorbell videos. Gathering evidence that you did not provoke or harass the dog, and were not trespassing, often helps to suppress false claims about fault. In many situations, the insurance company or the dog’s owner may become willing to negotiate a settlement when they see that the evidence is not in their favor. But if they don’t respond positively, we will use that evidence in court to fight for your rights.
Get Help with Your Dog Bite Case Today
A dog attack is an emotional experience. You are frightened, shocked, and worried about how well you will heal. You may also be concerned about the welfare of the dog and the loss the owner is facing. As a Columbia dog bite attorney practice, we understand how overwhelming this predicament can be for you — and we are here to help!
The attorneys at Auger & Auger have nearly 50 years of combined legal personal injury experience. As the victim of a dog bite, you can feel confident knowing we have your best interest in mind. We will focus on your case and fight to recover the compensation you are entitled to under state law. You have rights, and we are here to protect them — and our zero-fee guarantee means that you don’t pay unless we win your case.
Call 828-222-764 for your free consultation, with no fees due until recovery!