In an earlier post, we took a look into filing a personal injury lawsuit after a dog bite, including what steps to take immediately following being bitten, and potential legal outcomes.
Many states utilize a so-called “one bite rule” when it comes to lawsuits following a dog bite. South Carolina stands apart in this case, as well as in their use of the “provocation defense”.
What is the “one bite” rule?
Why doesn’t South Carolina use the “one bite” rule, and what is the “provocation defense” in dog bite cases?
Let’s take a look.
Until 1985, they did.
In many jurisdictions, a dog owner is only held liable for injuries caused by his or her dog biting someone else if the owner knew (or should have known) of the dog’s aggression or hostile nature.
Basically, this meant that unless the dog in question had previously attacked another person (thereby making its owner aware of its potential propensity for aggression), the owner would generally not be found liable for the damage resulting from that first attack.
If you were the first victim of an aggressive dog, you would find yourself denied compensation from the dog owner, because they would not be considered legally liable.
This is the “one bite” rule.
In 1985, the South Carolina Supreme Court took an unusual step of replacing this common rule with our current dog bite law, in the case of Hossenlopp v. Cannon, which you can read more about here.
The SC Supreme Court ruled that dog owners are strictly legally liable whenever their dogs bite or attack a person without provocation. This essentially did away with the “one bite” rule.
They also ruled that not just the dog owner but anyone who is “in control of possession of” the dog at the time of the attack could be held liable for resulting injury.
The South Carolina legislature enacted a statute, 47-3-110, that codified this ruling into law.
In the case of a dog being provoked into attacking a person, the owner may not be held liable for the resulting dog bites or injuries.
A good example of such a situation would be if someone threw rocks at a dog and it broke free of its leash or lead and attacked the person who had been tormenting it. In this case, the dog was “provoked” into an attack and the owner would therefore likely not be held liable for the injuries.
The provocation defense provides some protection for dog owners, but it must be able to be proven in a court of law in order to applicable.
Any photographic, eyewitness, or video evidence that supports this, or injuries found on the dog from the provocation, can help to build this defense.
The most common way that compensation is recovered following a dog bite injury is through the owner’s home insurance policy.
Most homeowners carry homeowner’s insurance (and if you don’t, you should look into picking up a standard policy). Homeowner’s insurance provides protection in the event of fire, theft, or other damage. It may also cover injuries suffered on the homeowner’s property, which could include anyone injured by the family pet.
If the dog in question is part of a breed that the homeowner policy excludes (some insurance companies do not cover bites resulting from “bully breeds” like pit bulls, or other big breed dogs like German Shepherds or Rottweilers), the dog owner may find themselves paying for the victim’s damages out-of-pocket.
Some homeowners carry “umbrella policies” that help to cover these costs when homeowner’s insurance will not.
If you are searching for compensation to help recover medical and other costs following a dog bite injury in Columbia, SC, Bluestein Attorneys is here to help. We have experience in dog bites and other Personal Injury issues like automobile collisions, medical malpractice, defective products, and more.
Reach us by phone at (803) 779-7599 or contact us online to request your FREE consultation today.