I have worked on several cases that involve personal injury as a result of dog bites. These cases are very sad and have far reaching impacts on the lives of the client. A facial scar is not something to be taken lightly, particularly when it is attached to a horrific memory of an attack by an animal. For a whole host of reasons, cases like these must be evaluated differently than other personal injury matters. A facial scar is something that the client will carry for the remainder of their life and an aspect of these claims for which my client deserves to be well compensated.
With regards to dog bites, South Carolina is a strict liability state, meaning that if your dog attacks a person and is unprovoked, you the owner are responsible for the damages. It does not matter whether or not you could have predicted what happened or whether your animal had ever shown a propensity to cause harm in the past. Do you have adequate insurance to cover an unfortunate event like I have described?
Imagine for a second that you owned the animal that attacked my client. How would you feel when the neighbor delivers the medical bills and scar revision estimate to your mailbox to learn that your homeowner’s insurance policy is refusing to protect you from the liability for the damages as well as the litigation that surely will follow? This should be a legitimate concern for you the homeowner.
Last year I was approached by a family that experienced the exact scenario that I just described. Upon presenting the Summons and Complaint to their insurance company for a defense and hopefully insurance coverage that would kick into place, they were told that there was no coverage for the attack because what had taken place had been specifically excluded by the policy that they had purchased. Not only was there a policy exclusion for the very attack that had taken place, there were a whole host of other exclusions that applied to other scenarios. One particular exclusion listed nine breeds of dogs that were specifically excluded by this policy. Another exclusion applied to any claims for a dog that had ever bitten another dog in the past. Yes you read that right, a previous dog bite on another dog gave rise to an exclusion that left the homeowners high and dry. As you might imagine, the homeowners that had purchased a policy that they thought would cover their animal were just as amazed as I was when they actually read the policy.
If you own a dog it is imperative that you obtain a copy of your homeowner’s insurance policy to determine what will or will not be covered in the event of a bite to your neighbor or some other person that comes into contact with your animal. It might just be that you discover that the good hands and good neighbor are not quite as good as you thought they were.
Wayne Ridgeway, Jr. is a partner at Burriss and Ridgeway and represents injured South Carolinians across the State of South Carolina in Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation matters. He can be reached at 803-451-4000 or contact form and will be happy to answer any questions that anyone may have related to this or any other subject matter.