Dog Bite Liability
In South Carolina, the Legislature has chosen to impose strict liability against dog owners and others having “the dog in [their] care or keeping.” Strict liability is a policy decision to impose liability regardless of fault. With the singular exception for the circumstance where the injured person provokes the attack, dog bite cases involve strict liability in South Carolina. Where there is no provocation, the owner of the dog is subject to liability for injuries caused by his dog. Where the person is injured while the dog is in the care or keeping of someone who is not the dog’s owner, the injured party may pursue a statutory claim against the owner of the dog or the other person having the dog in his care or keeping.
Unfortunately, many times dog owners do not have insurance that covers dog bite claims, and some insurance policies have exclusions that state dog bites are not covered for certain types of dogs, such as pit bulls.
I personally handled a case in which a young girl was attacked by pit bulls, and we were awarded a $155,000.00 judgment by the Court in a non-jury default setting. Unfortunately, there was no applicable insurance, and we have not been able to recover funds from the dog’s owner. In that case, we were able to argue that the county was negligent in failing to take the dogs from the owner after a previous attack, and receive a settlement.
In another case, we argued with the homeowner about whether or not he was “in control” of the dogs at all, but we were able to obtain evidence showing that he was in fact in control, and received a substantial settlement.
In another matter, the defense argued that my client provoked a dog attack, based on a medical record which indicated the same. However, we were able to show that this medical record was in error, and we connected a deviated septum that she had to the dog bite attack, based on testimony from her treating physician. We obtained a substantial settlement for her as a result.
In still another case, my partner tried a case to verdict involving a pit bull attack on a young female, which left a scar on her face. By obtaining estimates for scar revisions, and otherwise showing her damages, he received an $86,000.00 award from a jury.
Dog bite cases can vary based on the circumstances involved, and the applicable law to those specific facts. At Hughey Law Firm, we have handled many such cases. The above are only a few examples. If you have a dog bite claim, please contact us, and we will be happy to discuss what we can do to help.