Liability for Dog Bites in North Carolina

Liability for Dog Bites in North CarolinaDogs are man’s (and woman’s) best friend – especially during a pandemic, when spending time with any friends is difficult. Dogs do more than keep us company; they provide a source of love and entertainment – that is, until they bite. When a dog bites, the victim may need immediate medical help to treat any infections, cuts and bruises, and any diseases the dog may transmit. Surgery may be required if a dog bites into the skin or bones. Some victims, even with skin grafts and plastic surgery, must live with scarring and disfigurement for the rest of their lives.

North Carolina is a “one bite rule” state. Generally, this means that if a dog is not known to be dangerous, then the owner cannot be held liable the first time the dog bites someone. Under North Carolina General Statute section 67-4.1, a dangerous dog is defined as follows:

  1. One that has, without provocation, killed or inflicted severe injury on a person; or
  2. Is determined by the person or Board designated by the county or municipal authority responsible for animal control to be potentially dangerous because the dog has engaged in one or more of the behaviors listed in subdivision (2) of this subsection.
  3. [Is] any dog owned or harbored primarily or in part for the purpose of dog fighting, or any dog trained for dog fighting.

Section 2 of G.S. § 67-4.1 also defines a “potentially dangerous” dog as one “that the person or Board designated by the county or municipal authority responsible for animal control determines to have:

  1. Inflicted a bite on a person that resulted in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations or required cosmetic surgery or hospitalization; or
  2. Killed or inflicted severe injury upon a domestic animal when not on the owner’s real property; or
  3. Approached a person when not on the owner’s property in a vicious or terrorizing manner in an apparent attitude of attack.”

What if the dog has bitten someone before?

If the dog is known to be dangerous, the owner can be held strictly liable for any injuries the victims sustains from the dog bite. Under G.S. § 67-4.3, if the dog causes injuries that result in medical treatment in excess of $100.00, the owner can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.

Why are dog bites so dangerous?

Some dogs are strong enough to bite through muscles, tendons, and even bones. Aside from the pain this causes, a victim may need surgery to fix the damage. Dog bites can also transfer infections and viruses, which can lead to life-threatening complications. Among the most serious risks are:

  • Rabies. Rabies is a deadly virus, and there is no treatment nor cure once symptoms appear. There is a vaccine which can prevent transmission, but it must be administered quickly after a person is bitten.
  • Capnocytophaga. These bacteria can lead to “opportunistic” infections, which can harm those with weakened immune systems. These infections are treatable with antibiotics, but can lead to organ failure if left untreated.
  • Tetanus. Tetanus is another treatable infection, but it is a painful one if ignored. It can also lead to difficulty swallowing, which is a dangerous complication.
  • Sepsis. Sepsis is a severe, body-wide, inflammatory reaction to an infection. If left undiagnosed, sepsis can lead to organ failure, septic shock, and death.

At Warren & Kallianos, PLLC, our experienced Charlotte dog bite lawyers understand how traumatic a dog bite can be – especially if a dog bit your child. Our premises liability and negligence lawyers have a strong track record of success holding negligent property owners and dog owners liable for the injuries they cause. Call us at 704-377-7777, or reach us by filling our contact form, and schedule your free consultation today.



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