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What you should know after a dog injury in South Carolina

What you should know after a dog injury in South Carolina

This article was written to help explain the most frequently asked for information by people who have experienced (or had a family member experience) a dog attack. We’ll review what situations the owner is legally responsible for the injury, what types of compensation can be available, and then the practical reality that compensation still isn’t always available.

When is the owner of a dog responsible?

While most people like dogs, and even consider them a part of their family, the law still considers dogs as animals. Animals who can be capable unpredictable behavior that can lead to serious injury. As such there is no “one free bite” rule in South Carolina. Instead, South Carolina law mandates that the owner of the dog is liable for all injuries caused when:

  1. The injury occurred in a public place (for example, the street) or when the person was lawfully on private property (for example, not a burglar).
  2. The injured person hadn’t been harassing or provoking the dog in some way.

If both of these conditions are met then the owner is responsible for the injury. It doesn’t matter if it was the nicest dog ever up to that point who had never barked or growled at a stranger. If an attack happens, the owner is responsible.

This is considered strict liability for dog bites, and is one of the few examples of strict liability that exist in South Carolina injury law.

We've also seen situations where the owner is responsible for injuries after their dog runs into the street causing a bicycle or a car accident.

What type of compensation is available?

Compensation can be awarded to include payment for:

  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Scarring (Disfigurement)
  • Mental Anguish
  • Lost Wages

The amount of compensation is dependent on the circumstances of the injury, the severity of the injury, the “likability” of the victim, and even the county the incident occurred in. There isn’t a formula, and the value of cases can vary substantially.

Can you actually collect?

Unfortunately, there are many situations in which even though compensation is legally provided for, there isn’t any source to actually receive payment. This is because dog owners, unlike car owners for example, aren’t required to carry any insurance on their animals.

There are also many situations we’ve encountered where the owner of the dog will deny this fact. If a dog is unclaimed and the owner can’t be identified, then it also can be impossible to receive compensation.

The most likely source of recovery is from the owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy. These are typically at least $300,000. Homeowner’s insurance can pay even if the attack occurred away from the owner’s home, for example at a park or on a sidewalk.

If the owner lives in a rental house or apartment it may be possible to collect against their renter’s insurance policy (if they have this). The landlord or property owner is not normally legally responsible.

There are ways to try to locate the owner or prove ownership. We've employed private detectives to go door to door to conduct interviews, obtained copies of court records for any ticket, researched social media accounts, and even subpoenaed local veterinarians for any account history for the suspected owner. 

Want to talk about your situation?

If you’ve been injured or had a family member injured what you need to know and do is more involved that can be explained in any online article. You’re welcome to contact us for a free, no obligation, talk about your situation. You’ll have a chance to explain exactly what happened, and ask any questions that you may have.


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