North Carolina Dog Bite Lawyer

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There are almost 70 million dogs living as pets in the United States, and over 4.5 million people receive dog bites every year. About 29 percent of those bites require medical attention, and children are the most commonly bitten, with senior citizens being the second most common.

Almost 27 thousand of these bites required reconstructive surgery to repair the damage caused by the dog bites in 2013.

A client consulting with dog bite lawyers for their case.

How Can the North Carolina Dog Bite Attorneys at Tatum & Atkinson Help Me?

Many dog owners or their insurance providers will try to avoid paying for your injuries caused by the dog bite. They will ask many questions in an attempt to place blame for the bite onto you or to delay the process, as well as try to get you to accept a low settlement offer.

After an injury, you may be feeling overwhelmed, traumatized, and confused about your rights and what to do next. Having an experienced dog bite attorney from Tatum & Atkinson handle all the legal aspects on your behalf will ease your burden and allow you to focus on your recovery.

What Should I Do After a Dog Bite?

Most dogs are very friendly and play well with people they know. Even in well-meaning play, accidents sometimes happen.

Sometimes, normally friendly dogs are hurt or not feeling well and become more likely to bite. Children often do not recognize the warnings a dog will give them, leaving the dog to feel there is no other option than to bite.

Even a small bite or scratch can lead to a much worse injury if left untreated.

After a dog bites you, you will need to gather some information.

  • The identity and contact information of the dog’s owner
  • The vaccination status of the dog
  • The age of the dog
  • Whether the dog has bitten someone before
  • Contact information of witnesses
  • Take photographs of your injuries, the dog, your location, witnesses, and any other pertinent details, such as a broken leash
  • Write down or record all details of the incident so you will not forget anything later
  • Call the police to get an official police report

All bites should be taken seriously as they can easily lead to serious infections. It is wise to seek medical attention for any animal bite, not only to prevent infection but also to have the bite and any subsequent injury officially documented in your medical record.

Insurance companies will also use any delay in your seeking treatment as proof that your injury was not serious.

What Makes Dog Bites So Dangerous?

Dog bites are dangerous because the dog will latch on and crush down into your tissue. Their teeth may puncture or tear your skin, and depending on the size and strength of the dog, they may damage your muscles and even your bones, especially if they shake their heads while biting down.

Some dogs will refuse to let go, which is why some breeds, such as pit bulls, have a bad reputation.

If you or your loved one falls victim to a dog bite, there are several things you should do to protect yourself from serious infection.

Infection is the main concern of any bite, and every bite should be inspected by a medical professional. Some bites require antibiotics, hospitalization, or even intravenous antibiotics and even more serious medications if the dog is a stray or unvaccinated.

Doctors recommend getting medical attention within 8 hours of being bitten to minimize your risk of infection. Diabetics and anyone who is immunocompromised are at greater risk of infection and should be seen even sooner.

Follow these steps immediately to minimize your risk of infection if you are bitten by a dog:

  • Wash the bite wound. Run warm water over the bite for at least five minutes and use a mild soap.
  • Use clean gauze or another lint-free fabric and apply light pressure to stop the bleeding. You do not have to stop your circulation unless your arteries or veins have been severed.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment. Hydrogen peroxide is a common household antibiotic for deep wounds.
  • Wrap your wound in a sterile bandage.
  • Get medical attention for the bite wound and keep it as clean and dry as possible until medical personnel unwrap it and give you instructions.
  • Try not to touch the wound, as this could introduce infection.
  • Change the bandage several times per day and check for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, fever, or increasing pain, until it has healed.

What Does a Doctor Do for a Dog Bite?

Your medical provider will ask you questions about the dog and how the bite happened in an attempt to find out the cleanliness and vaccination status of the dog. A dog you know who gets its teeth brushed every day is different from a stray that you know nothing about.

The medical staff will clean the wound again and use disinfecting products. Depending on your injury as well as your personal health history, they may also administer or prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection.

They will want to know when you last received a tetanus shot. If your wound is particularly dirty or determined to be a high risk for infection, they will recommend a booster shot if it has been over five years since your last vaccination, even though the regular schedule for tetanus is every ten years.

You may also need stitches depending on the extent of your injury. Most bites do not require stitches unless there was actual tearing that would lead to significant scarring or if the bite occurred on the face.

How Serious Is an Infection From a Dog Bite?

All animals have bacteria in their mouths, including humans and, of course, dogs. According to the National Library of Medicine, the most common bacteria found in dog bites is Pasteurella canis, followed by staphylococcus, streptococcus, as well as capnocytophaga.

Unfamiliar, unvaccinated, or stray dogs may also carry deadly diseases such as rabies. These diseases can potentially be transferred to you through the bite, so your healthcare provider will ask you questions to determine your risk level and treat you accordingly.

Do I Have to Report a Dog Bite?

According to North Carolina Law NCGS 130A-196, all animal bites are required to be reported to the local Health Department. This law applies even when the animal bite was an accident, did not require any medical attention, or when the bite was from your own pet.

How Do I Know if a Dog Bite Is Serious?

The most common complication from a dog bite, or almost any bite, is infection. The most common symptoms of a serious dog bite include the following:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Fever
  • Red Lines Extending From the Bite Toward Your Heart
  • Foul Odor
  • Pus or Drainage
  • Heat Around the Wound
  • Deep Puncture Marks
  • Torn Skin

What Happens When a Dog Bites Another Dog?

North Carolina is one of the few states that enforces the One Bite Rule. This means that once a dog has bitten either a person or another dog, it is then classified as a potentially dangerous dog.

The owners are subsequently responsible for taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of other people and dogs around their dog.

What Is North Carolina’s One Bite Rule?

North Carolina’s One Bite Rule is a common phrase applied to state laws that actually protect dog owners by limiting their liability when their pets have no history of aggressive behavior.

How Long Do I Have to File a Claim After a Dog Bites Me?

The statute of limitations in North Carolina for filing a personal injury claim for a dog bite is three years from the date of the bite. You will not be eligible to file a claim to receive compensation for damages after three years have passed.

A victim of a dog bite in North Carolina may seek compensation under the limited dog bite statutes and the doctrines of negligence. The one-bite rule and intentional tort also apply. In North Carolina, the dog bite statutes only affect dogs in the following categories:

  • The dog was previously declared dangerous or potentially dangerous by the state.
  • The dog is over six months old and was found unrestrained at night.
  • The dog has previously injured or killed someone.

How Does Contributory Negligence Affect My Ability to Recover Compensation?

North Carolina’s contributory negligence law applies to dog bites along with other types of injuries. It states that a victim who played a part in their own injury is not entitled to any compensation.

For example, if someone approaches a restrained dog, ignores the warnings from the owner to stay away, and proceeds to grab at the dog’s face, the fault of any subsequent bites would clearly fall on the bite victim. This law can also make obtaining compensation difficult for victims in cases that are not clear, especially when there are no other witnesses, and it is strictly the word of the victim against the word of the owner.

Who Is Responsible for an Escaped Dog Who Bites Someone?

In North Carolina, the actions of a dog who has escaped from its owner are still the responsibility of the owner. In order for this law to apply, any of the following must be true:

  • The dog was running at large at night
  • The dog was unaccompanied by the owner, anyone in the owner’s family, or someone else given responsibility over the dog
  • The dog is over six months old

Should I File a Claim for Compensation on the Grounds of Negligence?

Some cases may be based on negligence, depending on the circumstances surrounding the bite.

According to Forbes, the legal definition of negligence is the failure to exercise the level of care toward another person that a reasonable or prudent person would exercise under similar circumstances. This “failure to exercise care” encompasses both a person’s actions and the failure to act.

For example, the owner of a large dog should take precautions to prevent their pet from harming others. Their dog may be sweet and gentle, but the potential for great harm is ever present.

Owners of small dogs have the same responsibility to protect others from being bitten, even though they believe that their dog may not be able to cause much harm. Even small scratches that break the skin can lead to serious infections.

What Is Negligence per Se and How Does It Apply to Dog Bites?

Negligence per se is used to recover damages when the owner or person responsible for the dog breaks a law that has been put in place to protect the general public.

For example, many parks and public areas have leash laws that state that all dogs must be kept on a leash. When someone violates that law and allows their dog to run free, and their dog bites someone, the violator was negligent per se and, therefore, liable for the damage from the bite.

To seek compensation through a claim of negligence per se, the following elements must be proven:

  • There was a duty created by a statute or ordinance
  • The statute or ordinance was created to protect a certain group of people, which includes the victim
  • There was a breach of that duty
  • The breach of duty was what caused the injury
  • The injury was what the statute or ordinance was created to prevent
  • The injury was caused as a direct result of the violation of the statute or ordinance

Should I File a Lawsuit Against Someone I Know or Love After Their Dog Bit Me?

Filing a claim for damages against a family member, friend, or neighbor is difficult. Many people fear that it will be financially difficult for the dog’s owner to cover their damages, but the majority of dog bite injuries are actually covered by the dog owner’s homeowners insurance policy.

Have an honest discussion with the owner about your injury to prevent any fears or confusion on their part so that your relationship does not suffer. A dog bite attorney will be able to explain the process so you will know what to say.

Your attorney will also be valuable for negotiating with the insurance company as they are often aggressive about trying to limit the amount of compensation that they pay dog bite victims.

Call the Heavy Hitters Today: Work With a North Carolina Dog Bite Law Firm

If you or your loved one has been bitten by a dog, call Tatum & Atkinson: The Heavy Hitters at (800) LAW-0804 for a free consultation with a professional dog bite lawyer. We will answer all your questions, guide you through the legal process, and get you the compensation you deserve.