What are SC’s dog bite laws?

If you were bitten by a dog – or attacked by any domestic animal – you may be able to recover damages for your injuries in accordance with South Carolina dog bite laws.

In this article, we will discuss SC’s dog bite laws, including:

  • Strict liability for dog bites in SC,
  • Defenses to dog bite lawsuits, and
  • The types of damages that you may be able to recover after a dog attack in SC.

SC Dog Bite Laws

SC has strict liability for dog bites.

And it doesn’t just apply to “bites” – if you are attacked in any way by a dog and injured, you may be able to sue the dog’s owner, the property owner, or the person responsible for keeping the animal.

Strict Liability for Dog Bites in SC

SC Code § 47-3-110 provides for strict liability any time a person “is bitten or otherwise attacked by a dog while the person is in a public place or is lawfully in a private place.”

This applies to any public place or any time you are “lawfully in a private place,” which could include the property of the dog owner or the property of a person tasked with the care of the animal.

“Lawfully in a private place” includes persons who are on the property:

  • “In performance of a duty imposed upon the person by law,” including postal workers, EMS, or law enforcement personnel, or
  • Upon the invitation – express or implied – of the property owner or a lawful resident on the property.

For example, there is strict liability where:

  • A dog is not leashed or confined and attacks a person on the street or in the neighborhood,
  • A person is attacked by a dog when they approach the front door of a residence that is not posted,
  • A postal worker is attacked by a dog when they are delivering mail, or
  • A police officer is attacked by a dog when they are responding to a call for service.

There is no strict liability when a person is attacked by a dog while trespassing, but this defense may not apply when it is a child who is attacked.

Attractive Nuisance

When there is an “attractive nuisance” that would draw children to trespass on a property, the property owner must take additional steps to prevent children from accessing the danger and trespassing may not be a valid defense.

Just as this could apply to an unattended swimming pool or swing set, it could also apply to a cute puppy dog that just wants to be petted.

Dog Attacks on Bicyclists

Dog owners are required by law to keep their pets under control, confined to their property, or on a leash at all times.

When a dog’s owner allows their pet to run loose and chase, attack, and knock down a bicyclist, they are responsible for any damage caused by their pet.

Defenses to Dog Bite Liability in SC

There are a few possible defenses to strict liability for dog bites in SC:

  • Trespassers, except for children injured by an attractive nuisance, cannot sue for damages when a dog attacks them on private property,
  • If you provoke or harass a dog and it attacks you, you cannot sue for damages, and
  • Law enforcement officers are not liable for attacks by K9s if they have complied with the requirements of SC Code § 47-3-110.

K9 Dog Bites

A law enforcement officer or agency is not liable for dog bites if:

  • The dog was working in its official capacity,
  • The dog’s attack was at the lawful command of a K9 officer,
  • The dog was trained and certified,
  • The agency has a written policy on the use of K9s,
  • The dog or handler did not violate the agency’s written policy,
  • There was no excessive force, and
  • The attack was not on a third-party bystander.

Note that, if you sue a law enforcement agency for a dog attack, the lawsuit must be brought under SC’s Tort Claims Act (for state-law claims) or 42 USC § 1983 (a federal “1983 action”).

A Dog Attacked Me – What Now?

If you are attacked or bitten by a dog, get to safety and then seek medical care immediately. Even a relatively minor dog bite can become infected and result in a serious injury.

Contact law enforcement, file a police report, take photos of the animal, the location of the attack, and any injuries, get contact information for any witnesses to the attack, and contact an experienced SC dog bite lawyer as soon as possible so they can begin investigating the attack and possible sources of recovery.

Types of Damages You Can Recover After a Dog Bite in SC

What types of damages can you recover in a dog bite lawsuit?

Your attorney at Seaton & Duncan will seek the maximum compensation available under SC law and the facts of your case, which could include:

  • Medical expenses including hospital or ER bills, doctors’ bills, medications, medical equipment, and future medical expenses when appropriate,
  • Pain and suffering,
  • Emotional trauma caused by the attack,
  • Surgeries,
  • Compensation for scarring or disfigurement, and
  • Punitive damages.

Questions About Dog Bite Laws in SC?

If you have been attacked by a dog or other animal in SC, get an experienced dog bite lawyer in Moncks Corner on your side immediately who can begin investigating the attack, gather the evidence you will need to prove liability and damages, negotiate with the insurance companies, and recover the maximum compensation you are entitled to receive.

Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you.

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