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Columbia Personal Injury Attorney > Blog > Dog Bite > Legal Options In Dog Bite Claims In South Carolina

Legal Options In Dog Bite Claims In South Carolina


As more legal options become available, over the last decade, the total insurance company payout for dog bite settlements has increased almost 50 percent. As outlined below, South Carolina law is especially complex when it comes to legal options in dog bite claims. Lawmakers have tried to find a middle ground between pet owners, who favor weak dog bite laws, and victims, who favor strong laws.

These attacks cause significant physical and emotional injuries which, in many cases, are permanent. Therefore, substantial compensation is available, if a victim partners with the right Columbia dog bite lawyer. Only an attorney with the right combination of experience, dedication, and accessibility can obtain maximum compensation for your serious injuries.

Strict Liability

The Palmetto State has one of the broadest strict liability laws in the country. In fact, it’s so broad it often turns off pet owner jurors. As mentioned, these individuals often see broad dog bite laws as dog ownership penalties. That’s especially true if the owner rescued a large-breed dog or an animal with a violent past.

So, in some cases, a Columbia personal injury attorney may use a negligence theory, even if strict liability is available. More on that below.

As for this law, the most recent version of Section 47-3-110 of the South Carolina Statutes states that “the owner of the dog or other person having the dog in his care or keeping is liable for the damages suffered by the person bitten or otherwise attacked,” if that attack occurred in a public place or the victim had the owner’s express or implied permission to be in a private place.

Provocation is the only defense in a strict liability claim. To establish this defense, an insurance company lawyer must prove the victim intentionally and physically provoked the animal. People cannot “accidentally” provoke animals in this context. Furthermore, aggressive teasing usually isn’t enough to provoke a dog, at least in this context.


Even pet owner jurors are willing to hold negligent owners responsible for damages. They often view these owners as irresponsible. In a South Carolina dog bite claim, three possible negligence claims are available, as follows:

  • Ordinary Negligence: Basically, ordinary negligence is a lack of care which, in this context, approaches recklessness. For example, an owner may be negligent if s/he allows a dog whom s/he knows has an aggressive streak to play near a small child.
  • Scienter: This Latin word means “knowledge.” Sceinter and ordinary negligence claims are similar, except that scienter claims usually involve pre-bite aggressive behavior, like vicious growling and sudden lunging.
  • Negligence Per Se: Most localities have very strict fence laws, leash laws, and other animal restraint laws. If an owner violates such an ordnance, and that violation causes injury, the owner could be liable for damages as a matter of law.

Third-party liability is possible in negligence cases. For example, landlords are financially responsible for animal attack injuries that occur in common areas, if the owner knew the dog was vicious and failed to take protective measures.

The provocation defense is available in negligence claims. So is the assumption of the risk defense. If the owner posted a “Beware of Dog” or other warning sign, the defense applies if the victim saw the sign, could read the sign, and could understand what that sign meant. These elements are often difficult to prove in court, especially if the victim was very young or had limited English proficiency.

Connect With a Savvy 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.


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