What Is "Strict Liability" in a Dog Bite Case?

A dog showing his sharp teeth.

Dog bite cases are covered by North Carolina’s personal injury laws that set a statute of limitations and liability rules for related injuries. It is also important to know that “dog bites” can include any other dog-related injuries, which we will discuss below. In today’s blog, we will go over the statute of limitations for filing a dog bite lawsuit and who is liable for dog-related injuries, particularly in light of North Carolina’s strict liability laws.

Who Is Liable in a Dog Bite Case?

In North Carolina, the "statute of limitations" for filing a personal injury lawsuit, particularly including dog bite cases, is 3 years. This means starting from the date of the dog bite, injured individuals have 3 years to take legal action for damages. A North Carolina court will likely throw out any case without hearing it if claimants attempt to file it after the 3-year window has closed. As a result, it is crucial to keep the 3-year timeframe in mind and enlist the help of an attorney during this period to file your claim before the time expires if you want to seek compensation for damages.

Dog bites in North Carolina are covered by several statutes that establish a person who was bitten by a dog can show that the dog's owner is liable for the bite as long as the injured person shows:

  • the dog was a "dangerous dog" as defined by state law;
  • the dog injured the person or damaged the person's property.

This statute applies whether or not the injury was inflicted by a dog bite per se. For instance, if an individual is walking on the sidewalk when their neighbor's dog jumps on them and knocks them down causing injury, the person may still seek compensation under the dog bite laws. Be aware that for the law to apply, however, the dog must be considered a "dangerous dog." State law defines a "dangerous dog" as a dog that:

  • has killed or severely injured a person without being provoked;
  • is owned, harbored, or trained for the purposes of dog fighting; or
  • has been determined to be a "potentially dangerous dog" by the local animal control board.

Generally, "potentially dangerous dogs" are typically dogs that have bitten someone, have attacked or killed another animal, or that have acted aggressively or threateningly when approached by people.

“Strict Liability” in North Carolina

Most states handle dog bite cases in either through "strict liability" or "negligence." Negligence-based dog bite laws require the injured person to prove the owner failed to act with reasonable care. Strict liability-based laws, on the other hand, do not. North Carolina's civil dog bite law operate under "strict liability,” meaning that an injured person can take legal action against a dog bite whether or not the owner used reasonable care to prevent the dog from injuring others. In other words, the owner of a dog that bites or injures someone in North Carolina cannot escape responsibility by claiming that they had no idea the dog would cause injuries.

North Carolina law further imposes criminal penalties on owners who know they have dangerous dogs yet fail to take certain measures to protect others from the dog. These penalties can apply when a dog owner:

  • leaves a dog unattended and unconfined,
  • fails to leash and muzzle a dog when taking it off the property, and
  • fails to provide written notice that the dog is dangerous when someone who agrees to buy or adopt the dog.

Seek Legal Help from Jetton & Meredith, PLLC

If you have been injured in a dog-related accident, speak with an attorney immediately to strategize your next legal steps to seek damages. The 3-year statute of limitations sets a deadline for taking legal action, so it is best that you work with a lawyer as soon as possible to resolve the situation. Our team at Jetton & Meredith, PLLC can provide you the legal support to move forward with your dog bite lawsuit. The element of strict liability in North Carolina personal injury laws is particularly useful for the claimant, so it is in your best interest to petition for damages with the help of a lawyer.

Contact us at Jetton & Meredith, PLLC for legal counsel today!