South Carolina Dog Bite Attorneys

Approximately 4.7 million people, mostly children, suffer dog-bite injuries in the United States each year, and about 10 to 20 die from dog attacks. Children are more vulnerable to dog bites because they are less familiar with dogs’ behaviors and are less able to defend themselves. Their shorter stature also makes them more likely to be bitten in the face, which tends to make their injuries more serious and more likely to result in life-long scarring.

Adults obviously also suffer from dog bites. And in addition to physical injuries such as abrasions, puncture wounds, lacerations, tissue loss, crush injuries, fractures, sprains, strains, disfigurements and infections, dog bites can cause emotional distress, including post-traumatic stress disorder, traumas, and phobias, such as the fear of dogs.

What happens when a dog bites a person?

Being bitten by a dog usually leads to feelings of surprise and shock. If your wounds are serious, they will likely take center stage after the attack, and will need to be dealt with immediately by a medical professional. However, it’s important not to underestimate the emotional impact that dog bites can have on victims. This kind of trauma is often present long after the physical wounds have healed. 

Here are some of the most common psychological and emotional reactions that dog bite victims experience:

  • Fear of animals (especially dogs)
  • Nightmares (which may or may not involve the attack)
  • Change of appetite
  • Gain/loss of weight
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Speech defects (such as stuttering)
  • Other fears or phobias, such as going outside or meeting people
  • Personality changes
  • Outbursts of anger, sadness, or crying for no apparent reason
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

These emotional and psychological changes may happen immediately after the attack, or they may take days, weeks, or months to appear. You may find that you’re in need of a doctor or psychologist who can help you work through those feelings, which is a cost that you shouldn’t have to endure. 

Children often have the hardest time recovering from a dog attack. They may feel as though they did something wrong and that the bite was a punishment. This way of thinking can cause even more negative thoughts and can significantly change a child’s behavior. 

If you file a dog bite claim for yourself or on behalf of your child, your South Carolina personal injury attorney will take all economic and non-economic damages into account when placing a value on your case. Be sure to share the economic costs incurred, along with the feelings or fears that have developed as a result of the accident. 

Your South Carolina dog bite lawyer will do the best they can to make sure you receive fair compensation for the financial, physical, emotional, and psychological damages you have incurred. 

What is the average settlement for a dog attack?

When it comes to dog bite cases, people understandably want to know what the average payout is for victims. However, you must remember that your case is unique. The best thing you can do is to speak to a legal professional who can assess your individual case, taking into account every single variable. 

There are many things to consider in your dog bite claim, including:

  • Economic damages – These are the damages that have a price attached to them, such as medical bills, prescription medications, counseling sessions, and lost wages.
  • Non-economic damages – These damages don’t come with a price tag. Instead, they are things that can’t be measured by cost, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of quality of life. Only a qualified South Carolina dog bite lawyer will be able to accurately put a price on these damages.
  • Punitive damages – These damages only apply when you can prove that the dog owner’s conduct was willful, wanton, or reckless. Receiving punitive damages is rare in dog bite cases, as most cases are due to the owner’s carelessness or negligence. Since intent is hard to prove, you are highly advised to contact a personal injury lawyer who can advise you on whether you may be eligible to receive punitive damages. 
  • Property damage – Again, this doesn’t apply to most dog bite cases. However, there are some instances where significant property damage does occur as a result of the attack. For instance, the dog might have damaged the victim’s phone, glasses, clothes, jewelry, or furniture during the attack. 

If you’ve been bitten by someone else’s dog and are wondering how much your dog bite case is worth, stop Googling and call a personal injury attorney. Most South Carolina dog bite lawyers offer free case evaluations, so you have nothing to lose by contacting them.

What happens if your dog bites someone in your house?

South Carolina holds dog owners responsible for bites, whether it occurred in a public place or in a private place (so long as the victim was lawfully on the premises). 

Unlike some states, South Carolina does not abide by the “one bite rule,” which states that dog owners are not responsible for their dog’s first bite, since they could not have known that their dog was dangerous. Instead, South Carolina has a strict liability law which states that the owner is responsible even if they didn’t know their dog was prone to attack. 

Dog owners are also held responsible for attacks that aren’t from bites, such as if a large dog jumps on a person and causes them to fall and get seriously injured. However, you may not be considered liable for a dog bite if the person provoked the dog by abusing, harassing, or teasing it, or if they were trespassing on your property. 

If your dog bites a guest in your house and was not provoked, you will be held liable for the injury. If the victim decides to pursue a dog bite claim, they will have three years to do so. 

Dog bite injuries typically fall under the liability or medical payments coverage in your homeowner’s insurance policy. If the victim hires an attorney for their South Carolina dog bite case, their lawyer will negotiate with your insurance company with the intention of reaching a settlement. If a settlement can’t be reached, they will take the case to court. 

South Carolina law also allows for penalties for owners whose dogs injure other people. For a first offense, owners can face up to a $5,000 fine and a three-year prison sentence. Subsequent offenses can carry a fine of up to $10,000 and a five-year prison sentence. 

What to do if a dog bites you

If a dog attacks you, don’t try to pull away or hit the dog since it may clamp on tighter. Try to find an object nearby that you can insert into the dog’s mouth. This may induce a gag reflex causing the dog to let go.

A less serious dog bite should be treated by first washing the wound with soap and water and then rinsing it with an antiseptic. Apply an antibiotic cream and cover the wound with a bandage.

Dog bite victims should see a doctor if:

  • The wound is deep
  • You are prone to infections (such as if you have liver problems, diabetes, HIV, or AIDS)
  • You have recently had major surgery
  • You are older than 50 years of age

If you do not know the dog or its owner, you should also contact your local animal control board.

Seek Medical Attention

Your first priority is to seek medical help. Dog-bite wounds can vary in severity. You may be able to wash the wound yourself and cover it with a bandage and antibiotic cream.

However, if you don’t think you can clean and bandage the wound yourself, you should see a doctor. Dog bites can cause infections that should be treated with antibiotics. And if the wound is deep, you may need to have it sutured or stitched closed.

Retain the Evidence

As soon as you are in control of the situation and have your immediate medical needs taken care of, your next concern should be making sure the incident is properly documented in your dog bite claim.

  • Report the incident to the authorities. Animal control in your area may be handled by the police or by an animal control department.
  • Identify the dog and dog owner. This will help you get the dog’s license and vaccination information.
  • Photograph your wounds. It may not feel like it at the time, but your wounds will heal. You need to document the severe injuries.
  • Make of list of witnesses. Identify everyone you can that witnessed the incident and get their contact information. This may require you to return to the scene later to knock on doors.
  • Medical records. If you do seek medical help at a hospital or urgent care facility, there will be documentation of your visit and the extent of your dog related injuries.

Taking these initial steps will help your dog bite lawyer ensure that we are on the right track for gathering all the necessary evidence to move forward with your dog bite claim.

Who can be held liable?

You may seek compensation for your damages from anyone whose negligence resulted in the dog bite. Most states place responsibility for a dog bite on the dog owner, especially if the owner knew the dog has a history of aggression or if he or she was in violation of animal restraint and confinement laws. But dog-bite liability laws do vary by state, and in some cases, landlords, previous owners of the dog, and even day-care centers can be held at least partially liable.

In the case of a child who suffered a dog bite injury, the amount of compensation may be greater because of the possibility of long-term medical expenses and emotional trauma. Sometimes the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy will pay for the damages. Regardless of the circumstances, however, an experienced dog bite injury lawyers should be able to help you recover the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to.

You should also be aware that in a dog bite case there is a statute of limitations or time limit by which you must begin a dog-bite suit. For this and other reasons, if you are considering consulting with a dog-bite attorney, it is in your interest to do so as soon as possible. Give our personal injury attorneys a call or send an email today so that our South Carolina dog bite attorneys can evaluate your dog bite case. There will be no cost or obligation to you.

With offices in Aiken, Camden, Columbia, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, and Sumter, South Carolina, a South Carolina dog bite lawyer from McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates understands liability claims and is ready to serve you.