Your eight-year-old son’s trip to a friend’s birthday party gets cut short by a frantic phone call: your son has been bitten by a dog that the parents were keeping for a friend.

You race to pick up your child and discover it is far worse than you thought. He tells you he reached out to pet the dog, and it suddenly leaped for his hand, sinking its teeth into his flesh. His hand is a bloody, mangled mess.

As you try to stay calm and get him to the ER, you wonder if anyone can be held responsible for the piles of medical bills and awful scarring—both physical and emotional—these injuries can create.

These are the parties who can be held responsible for a dog bite under South Carolina law.

The Dog Owner

There is no “one free bite” in South Carolina. Our state has a special law dealing with legal responsibility, called liability, for dog bites. The law includes injuries resulting from other types of dog attacks, like pouncing. It is designed to help victims. And yes, it specifically includes postmen!

To qualify under the law, the attack must be unprovoked and the victim cannot be a trespasser. If the victim qualifies, the dog owner is liable even if the dog owner did nothing wrong. This is called strict liability, meaning the owner is legally responsible regardless of fault. The dog owner is liable even if the bite occurs on someone else’s property and the dog owner isn’t there. In your case, the dog owner is responsible.

Property Owner or Dog Keeper

The special dog bite law also makes the owner of the property where the bite occurred liable, regardless of fault, if he has a responsibility for the care or keeping of the dog. This could apply for a dog sitter. In your case, the hosts of the birthday party can be liable because they were dog-sitting when the attack occurred.

Dog bites at apartment complexes. The special dog bite law can hold an apartment complex owner liable for dog bite injuries in a common area of the complex, if the owner controlled that area and knew a tenant kept the dog there.

The property owner is not liable under the special dog bite law if he has no control over the property and provides no care or keeping of the dog.

The property owner can also be held liable under negligence law, if he knew the dog bit people before and did nothing to prevent the bite your child suffered.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are special financial penalties a jury may impose on a liable party for reckless behavior. A defendant in a dog bite case, for instance, might be ordered to pay additional money to the plaintiff above the compensation for medical bills, lost work, pain, and other losses.

Punitive damages are justified if the dog owner or property owner can be proven to be reckless in leading to the bite. For punitive damages to become an issue, there should be evidence of the dogs roaming freely, several prior attacks, or other evidence the dog owner or property owner knew the dog was dangerous but turned a blind eye to the hazard the dog created.

Who Pays a Dog Bite Settlement in South Carolina?

An insurance policy pays for a dog bite settlement in South Carolina. If the dog attack is committed by a pet, hoeowner's insurance should cover it. Don't count on them to help you, no matter how mmuch you deserve it. Remember you're asking them to pay you money they want to keep, because tht's the only way an insurance company makes money- rake in the premiums and make it next to impossible to get paid on a legitimate claim. Check out the lengths adjusters will go to just to keep an injured victim from  an attorney, so they'll give up and take a cheap settlement.

To Do this Right, You Need a Legal Professional

There are profoundly solid reasons proving the wisdom of hiring an experienced attorney in a dog bite case. It's especially true if your child's the victim, because children's cases are riskier and more complex in South Carolina. At Holland & Usry, we‘ve seen the horror of mangled faces and know even multiple operations to fix serious wounds inflicted by dog attacks often fail to fully repair the damage done by dog attacks in the Greer area. If you or someone you love has suffered a dog bite attack in Spartanburg, Greenville, Union, or Cherokee counties, you owe it to yourself and your family to discuss shifting the heavy burden of mounds of medical bills, future plastic surgeries, and lifelong physical and emotional scars to the parties who have a legal responsibility to keep innocent victims safe. Feel free to start a live chat or send us an email, or you can just call at 888-230-1841 to schedule a free meeting to discuss your dog bite case.


Rob Usry
Connect with me
Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.