Dog Bite Defenses In South Carolina
Since 2012, the average dog bite injury settlement has increased almost 40 percent. Physical wound treatment costs have increased significantly over the past decade. That’s especially true since many animal attack victims need extensive and expensive treatment at specialized regional trauma centers. Additionally, doctors better understand the nature of emotional dog bite injuries, so these victims have a better chance to fully recover.
To obtain the compensation these victims need to pay these large medical bills, a Columbia dog bite attorney has several legal options. South Carolina has a strict liability law that holds owners responsible for damages as a matter of law. Other options include scienter (knowledge), or the one-bite rule. Under this rule, owners are responsible for damages if they knew the animal was potentially dangerous. Other options include ordinary negligence (lack of ordinary care) and negligence per se (violation of an animal restraint or similar law).
A bare bones case is a good start, but it’s only a good start. Minimal effort usually produces minimal results. To obtain maximum compensation, a Columbia personal injury attorney must blunt some common insurance company defenses, which we examine below. This maximum compensation includes not only money for medical bills and other economic losses, but also compensation for noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Assumption of the Risk
Many dog owners believe they can put up a “Beware of Dog” sign and own a dangerous animal without worrying about the consequences to victims. But a sign is only the beginning of the assumption of the risk defense in South Carolina.
First, an insurance company lawyer must prove the victim saw the sign, could read the sign, and could understand the sign. Owners often don’t display warning signs in prominent places. Additionally, if the victim was very young or had limited English skills, it’s difficult to establish the second two elements.
Next, an insurance company lawyer must prove the victim’s failure to heed the sign, as opposed to the dog’s behavior or the owner’s negligence, substantially caused injury. In the Palmetto State, owners are responsible for a proportionate share of damages if they were at least 51 percent responsible for an injury.
Generally, when we think of a child provoking another child, we think of teasing and name-calling. Such actions are not provocation in the dog bite context. Instead, an insurance company lawyer must basically prove the victim physically tortured the dog so badly that it had to fight to defend itself.
Legal provocation is usually an absolute defense in strict liability claims. In these situations, owners are completely off the hook if victims provoke dogs.
Provocation is usually a partial defense in scienter or negligence cases. Once again, the owner is usually responsible for a proportionate share of damages if the animal attack, as opposed to physical provocation, was at least 51 percent responsible for the victim’s injury.
Contact a Dedicated Richland County Lawyer
Injury victims are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Columbia, contact the Marc Brown Law Firm. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.