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Dog Bite Injuries: Homeowner Liability for a Pet's Behavior

In North Carolina, any person charged with the care, custody, and control of a canine (say that three times fast!) is liable for the dog's biting of an innocent person (whether child or adult) in several instances.

One-Bite Rule

Generally speaking, the common law "One-Bite Rule" states that a dog owner must have knowledge of the dog's vicious propensities in order to be liable if that dog bites an individual. Practically speaking, said knowledge is normally gained by having knowledge of one or more previous incidents in which the dog has bitten someone or another animal. Once the owner has knowledge - whether by actually seeing it themselves or hearing about it - he or she is liable for any subsequent bites or attacks by the dog. 

Ordinance Violations - Negligence Per Se

Many cities and municipalities in North Carolina (for example, Cary, Apex, and Holly Springs) have created a second theory of dog bite liability through enacting local ordinances that prohibit dogs from running loose without a leash or harness. Regardless of whether the dog has had a history of bites or attacks, the owner will be liable for any injuries inflicted by the dog while it is running at large - i.e., the dog jumped the fence and bit the neighbor while it was unrestrained. This creates a duty for the dog's owner to keep the dog restrained in some manner, whether by fence or by a leash-type restraint device.

Breed-Based Liability - The "Rottweiller Rule" 

North Carolina caselaw has created a third theory of liability for dog-inflicted injuries - the "Rottweiler Rule." The Rule states that owners of dogs belonging to known 'vicious breeds' are legally charged with being aware of that breed's propensity to be aggressive or vicious, essentially removing the "One-Bite" Rule for these breeds of dogs. While the rule has only been applied to Rottweilers in reported case opinions, the argument can easily be made that Pit Bulls, Bullmastiffs, Chow Chows, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, and other seemingly aggressive breeds would fall under the same theory of liability.

Injury and Compensation

Dog bite injuries can be devestating and permanent. Beyond the physical wounds and scarring, substantial emotional trauma can result from a dog attack. Children are most susceptible to being injured by a dog and the impact, both physically and emotionally, can be much more significant as they grow. You may be entitled to compensation for past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, permanent scars or disfigurement, temporary or permanent disability or loss of function, as well as emotional trauma. The statute of limitations in North Carolina is 3 years for adult victims and 3 years after a child victim reaches age 18, so do not hesitate to consult an attorney to discuss your legal options. 

Contact StephensonLaw Today for a Dog Bite Consultation