When Animals Attack
Thousands of Americans are pet owners and even more are pet lovers. With ownership comes responsibility. Animal owners have a responsibility to take care of their animals and protect others from damage and injury caused by their animals.
Generally, North Carolina law does not hold the owner of an animal strictly liable for damage and injuries caused by the animal. This doctrine of strict liability, however, will not protect the owner if her negligence was a proximate cause of the injury or damages caused by the animal. Animal owners will be held civilly liable for negligence, violation of a leash law or other municipal law that leads to injury, intentional conduct involving the use of an animal, and outrageous and reckless behavior involving the use of an animal.
The case of a dangerous dog is a further exception to the “no strict liability” rule. The owner of a dangerous dog can be held strictly liable for property damage, injury, and/or death caused by a dog. Under North Carolina law, a dog is deemed dangerous if: (1) it has been declared such by local animal control authorities, (2) the dog was trained or harbored for the purpose of fighting, or (3) the dog previously committed an unprovoked attack that resulted in serious injury or death. An owner’s failure to take precautions against attacks by a dangerous dog could lead to criminal liability. In North Carolina it is a misdemeanor to allow a dog older than six months to roam unattended at night.
Some of the key questions in a potential legal claim arising out of an animal attack are:
- Who owns the animal?
- Is there an insurance policy that may provide coverage for injury and damages caused by the animal?
- Does the owner have sufficient assets to cover a settlement or judgment in favor of persons with legitimate legal claims?
- Did the victim of the attack do anything to provoke the animal?
- Has the animal already been declared dangerous?
If you or a family member sustains damage or injury due to an animal attack you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.