Does North Carolina Have a One Bite Rule?

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An angry small dog barks excessively.

Yes, although contrary to what many believe, it is untrue that a “one bite” rule means the animal must be put down. Owners must take precautions to prevent the “potentially dangerous dog” from threatening others.

There are three circumstances in which a dog is considered potentially dangerous:

  • When the dog has previously bitten a person causing broken bones, disfiguring lacerations, or necessitating cosmetic surgery or hospitalization.
  • If the dog killed or seriously injured a domestic animal (such as another dog or a cat) outside the owner’s real property.
  • When the dog was off the owner’s property and approached a person in a vicious or terrorizing way, that appeared to be an attack.

If a dog bites you and you later learn it has a prior history of biting, the owner may be held strictly liable for your injuries under North Carolina law.

What Happens When Your Dog Bites Someone in North Carolina?

In the immediate aftermath, you should get your dog away from the person they’ve bitten as quickly as possible.

Once you’ve secured the dog – such as by putting them in your car or another room – check on the person to see if they need medical attention. If so, call 911 and stay with them until help arrives.

Usually, Animal Control or local law enforcement officers will have questions about the dog bite. You should answer these honestly, but there is no need to volunteer additional information, and you shouldn’t speculate about fault.

The officer will ask for your contact information, but you should also provide it to the bite victim.

Are There Other Situations Where the Dog Owner May Be Held Liable?

Dog owners may also be liable if they allowed a dog older than six months to roam freely at night and it bit someone off the owner’s property. The owners may be liable if a dog is allowed to wander unrestrained in a city or county with a leash law and then bite someone while off-leash. The city of Raleigh, for example, prohibits dogs and cats from running unrestrained inside city limits.

Strict liability is a legal concept in which specific circumstances allow a person or entity to be held liable even if the injured party can’t prove negligence or willful intent. In the case of dog bites in North Carolina, dog owners are only strictly liable in certain situations like those listed above.

They might still be liable if you prove negligence or willful intent, but this is often very difficult to prove. Because liability is not always clear to a layperson, we recommend consulting a North Carolina dog bite lawyer if a dog has bitten you. Your attorney can help you determine responsibility and your options for seeking compensation.

What if I Don’t Want to Sue My Neighbor/Friend/Acquaintance, but I Need My Medical Bills Covered?

It’s not unusual for a dog bite to cause friction between friends or neighbors. We understand that you may not want to sue someone you know, and we don’t want to sue them either if it isn’t necessary.

Lawsuits can also be expensive, time-consuming, and stressful for the plaintiff (the injured party). If we can resolve the situation without putting our client through the difficulties of a lawsuit, we’d prefer to do that – and in most cases, we do.

Concerning dog bites, we often find insurance policies to cover the client’s medical bills and damages. Many homeowners’ insurance policies will cover bites on the policyholder’s property.

If this is the case, we might be able to make a claim on the insurance policy and recover a fair settlement without suing the property owner. Sometimes there may also be insurance coverage on commercial property.

Quarantine and North Carolina Dog Bite Laws

North Carolina law requires that any dog that has bitten a person be quarantined for ten days for monitoring for signs of rabies. This quarantine is necessary even if you have proof the dog was vaccinated.

The dog can be quarantined at a veterinarian’s office, the local Animal Control facility, or the owner’s home, but the owner must keep it in a secure enclosure. If you can’t ensure the dog will stay secured on your property, it should be quarantined in one of the other locations.

After ten days, the dog will be released if it doesn’t show any symptoms of rabies. If it does exhibit signs of the disease, the dog may be euthanized.

How Can You Reduce the Risk of Liability for Dog Bites?

Here are some tips to help keep others safe and reduce your potential liability:

  • Keep your dog leashed when not on your property, even in an area without a leash law. Even well-behaved dogs sometimes get startled or feel threatened and may behave aggressively. Keeping them on a leash allows you to respond appropriately.
  • Invest in obedience school or dog training classes. Obedience training can ensure you can control your dog in public or with guests over your home.

We’ve worked on cases where a person suffered a dog bite, and the dog’s owner said, “Well, but it didn’t listen.” If your dog regularly “doesn’t listen,” you could be liable for damage caused.

  • Remove your dog from any situation that makes it agitated. Lead your dog in the opposite direction if it growls or tugs on the leash when meeting another dog. If you know that your pet is agitated by strangers and you need work done in your house, lock the dog in a room where the worker won’t need to go.

Get Tatum & Atkinson to Help With Your Dog Bite Case

Many factors affect liability in a dog bite case. If you’ve suffered a dog bite, get medical attention immediately, and give Tatum & Atkinson: The Heavy Hitters a call to learn your options for recovering damages.

Our legal team has recovered more than $100 million in damages for our clients. Please contact us today at 800-LAW-0804 to learn more.