What Should You Do After a Dog Bite in South Carolina?

Dog bites happen hundreds of thousands of times in the US each year. What do you need to know about dog bites to protect yourself and preserve your rights?

Dogs are man’s best friend for good reason. They bring a whole lot of  love and joy to their families. People who own dogs tend to be happier people who enjoy life more.

Petting our dogs can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, alleviate loneliness, and boost our mood. Dogs make us laugh and comfort us when we are sad.

However, when they are not properly cared for, trained, or monitored, dogs can become dangerous, at times. Unfortunately, innocent people, even family members, can and do get injured.

What do you need to know about dog bites and dog bite laws in South Carolina? Read on to learn more.

Legally, What Do You Need to Know about Dog Bites?

Under the dog bite laws in South Carolina, you are strictly liable. You do not have to be found negligent or be found having breached some duty you owed someone else. All that has to happen is—your dog bites someone.

Dog bite litigation is on the rise. More and more people are taking dogs with them. Dog bites are much more common now than they once were.

South Carolina Dog Bite Statute

Dog bites fall under a strict liability statute in SC. This means if your dog bites someone, that person is where they ought to be, and the dog was not provoked, you are liable for that bite.

In SC with regards to any other tortious or wrongful act, the law would require that before you could be held liable, the other side would have to establish.

  1. You had a duty to do something or not do something
  2. You breached that duty

If someone is seriously injured by another person’s dog, dog bite laws exist to protect victims and help them receive the compensation they deserve for their injuries and medical bills.

You don’t need a dog bite attorney lawyer for minor injuries that don’t require a trip to the ER or hospitalization. But for more significant injuries that involve medical expenses, it’s wise to consult a Columbia personal injury lawyer.

Check Your Homeowner’s Insurance Policy If You Are A Dog Owner

Before you deal with your insurance company for a dog bite caused by your own pet, look at your policy to see what breeds of dogs they cover and what they cover. Make sure you understand your responsibility and what that could mean for you financially if you own a dog and your dog severely injures someone in the future.

Columbia Dog Bite Injury Attorneys

How to Prevent Dog Bites

Many dog bites are preventable. Any dog can bite someone. It’s important to understand dogs so we can avoid bites for ourselves and our children.

  • Don’t approach a dog you don’t know.
  • Don’t leave young children unsupervised with a dog.
  • Avoid touching a dog that is eating or nursing her puppies.
  • Approach dogs slowly and allow them to come to you.
  • Avoid teasing dogs.
  • Avoid wrestling and roughhousing.
  • Socialize your pet as a puppy.
  • Take behavior training classes.
  • Don’t provoke a dog by grabbing them, hitting, pulling their fur, or yanking their tails.
  • If a dog becomes aggressive, break eye contact and slowly, calmly move away.

Be aware of the telltale signs that a dog is about to bite. If you see a dog growling with ears pinned back, the fur standing up on the back of the neck, the whites of the eyes showing, or yawning to display his teeth, be alert.

Or if a dog stops moving if you touch her and stares directly at you, it could be a warning sign to back away.

What To Do If A Dog Bites You

According to the CDC, one out of every five dog bites requires medical attention. You may be able to treat a more superficial injury at home.

But if you don’t know the dog, bleeding is severe, the person develops a fever, or there are other signs of infection (redness, swelling, pus) at the injury site, the victim needs to see a doctor or head to the emergency room right away.

Seek Medical Attention

A dog bite may not seem serious, but you could develop an infection. A dog’s saliva can contain harmful bacteria. Further, the saliva may cause an allergic reaction. Therefore, see a doctor to be on the safe side.

A medical professional will ensure the injury doesn’t worsen over time. Also, a doctor will document the injury, which will be crucial during insurance investigations.

By seeing a doctor immediately, you’re showing the insurance company you did everything possible to mitigate the bite.

Failure to seek medical attention conveys that you didn’t take the necessary steps to minimize the damage. As a result, the insurance company can reduce or reject your claim.

Overall, medical documentation demonstrates the seriousness of the injury. Insurance companies cannot dismiss medical docs so easily. Above all, save your medical bills as further proof of your injuries.

Treating A Dog Bite Injury At Home

According to the CDC, one out of every five dog bites requires medical attention. You may be able to treat a more superficial injury at home.

But if you don’t know the dog, bleeding is severe, the person develops a fever, or there are other signs of infection (redness, swelling, pus) at the injury site, the victim needs to see a doctor or head to the emergency room right away.

  • Stop any bleeding with a clean towel.
  • Elevate the injured body-part if possible.
  • Wash the bite with warm water and soap.
  • Bandage the wound with a sterile bandage.
  • Apply an OTC antibiotic ointment daily as directed.

If you have a serious injury, once you have received medical treatment, contact a personal injury attorney in South Carolina before you speak to the dog owner’s insurance company.

Documenting the Dog Bite Injury

In addition to medical reports and invoices, you also need visual evidence. To bolster your claim, document your struggles with the injury. You can do so in the following ways even before you see a dog bit lawyer:

  • Take pictures. Take photos of the injuries as soon as possible. Take more pictures as you recover to make investigators understand your plight. Photos are also irrefutable evidence.
  • Record the injuries. A video diary will document your situation. Showcasing your ongoing turmoil may entitle you to pain-and-suffering damages if you take the matter to court. To increase the likelihood of receiving compensation for pain-and-suffering, you should also record or capture any form of scarring.

Recording video and taking pictures may also entitle you to a higher insurance settlement. To increase your insurance settlement, hire an attorney.

Reporting Dog Bites in South Carolina

If a wild, stray, or animal that hasn’t been vaccinated for rabies bites or scratches you, let your doctor know. Health providers are required to report any animal bites that need medical treatment by the end of the next working day. This includes bites from pets, farm animals, exotic pets, wild animals, and strays. The doctor must report the injury to DHEC (the Department of Health and Environmental Control in SC) using an Animal Incident Report Form according to S.C. State Code of Laws Section 47-5-90.

File a police or animal control report. Reporting the incident shows that you took the matter seriously. The dog owner may have pressured you into not filing a report but you should file one anyway.

Perhaps they promised to cover your injuries in full. However, the word of another person isn’t good enough when it comes to insurance investigations or court cases. You need as much physical evidence as possible to win your case.

An official report will give you more credibility during the investigative process. That said, make sure the report is accurate. The responding officer may have made an error.

If you find errors, contact the department to request a correction. A report that contains errors can work against you during the insurance process.

Dog Bites Can Cause Major Injuries

Dog bites can break the skin, cause major bleeding, muscle damage, and even break cartilage or bones. Many injuries occur on people’s lower extremities, hands, necks, or faces.

Here are a few of the most common injuries a dog bite can cause.

  • Cuts/puncture wounds/lacerations
  • Infections
    • Cellulitis
    • Rabies
    • Tetanus
  • Crushed or broken bones
  • Avulsions (tear injuries)
  • Death

Dog bite wounds can cause permanent damage like:

  • Nerve damage
  • Muscle damage
  • Severe scarring

Dog Bite Statistics

Most people are bitten by a dog they know like a friend or family member’s dog. Or even the family pet in their own home. It’s important to know that most dog bite injuries that require an ER visit occur in children, often infants. Dog bite fatalities can result in criminal charges for the owner.

Dog Bite Numbers in the US

Here are some sobering statistics we should all be aware of.

  • About 4.5 million dog bites occur in the US each year and tens of millions occur annually around the world
  • About 800,000 bites per year require medical attention
  • Homeowner’s insurance companies paid almost $797 million in dog-bite related injuries in 2019
  • Close to 30,000 people needed reconstructive surgery because of dog bites in 2018
  • From 2005-2019, dogs killed 521 Americans

What Causes Dogs to Bite?

Dogs usually bite for a reason. If we can understand the reasons, we may be able to prevent bites.

Some of the most common reasons dogs bite people:

  • Protecting someone or something
  • Pain
  • Prey instincts
  • Un-neutered (which increases aggression in male dogs)
  • Chained or tethered
  • Fear
  • Abuse
  • Illness

What Breeds of Dogs Cause the Greatest Injuries and Legal Problems?

  • Pitbull breeds  (22.5% of reported bites)
    • tend to cause the most litigation problems even though they are not the most aggressive dog breed.
    • Most serious injuries
    • Most expensive medical procedures required
    • Most deaths
  • Mixed breeds (21.2% of reported bites)
  • German shepherds (17.8% of reported bites)

According to the AAHA, “The findings showed that dogs with short, wide heads who weighed between 66 and 100 pounds were the most likely to bite.

The researchers point out that the circumstances that cause a dog to bite vary and may be influenced by breed behavior tendencies and the behavior of the victim, parents, and dog owner.”

Columbia auto accident lawyers

Avoid Talking to an Insurance Adjuster

You should avoid talking with an insurance adjuster, even if the adjuster is from your insurance company. Insurance adjusters are trained to use anything you say to minimize or reject your claim. They’ll ask leading questions to get the desired answer.

They’ll also do everything possible to wrap up the case before you seek an attorney, especially if you don’t realize the true extent of your injuries. If you must speak to an adjuster, do so under the guidance of an attorney.

Hire an Attorney that Has Experience with Representing Plaintiffs in Dog Bites

Many victims fail to hire attorneys due to the expense. The cost of not hiring an attorney is more expensive in the long-run. You’ll need a legal professional to guide you through the insurance process.

They can handle your dog bite case so you don’t have to. For instance, they can respond to all communications from the insurance companies.

Additionally, a Columbia personal injury attorney can help you find the necessary evidence for your case and conduct an independent investigation.

Above all, find a lawyer who specializes in dog bite cases. Dog bite attorneys must be familiar with various regulations, such as leash laws or pet rental restrictions.

In some states, the dog bite lawyer must also prove that the pet owner was negligent in some way. Perhaps the owner failed to train the dog properly.

In South Carolina, due to “strict liability” laws, owners can be held liable even if they were not negligent.

Regardless, find an attorney with the following qualities:

  • They should have a victorious record.
  • They should know the local courts.
  • They should have a good reputation in the community.

You can research their reputation by reading online reviews or asking around town. You can also interview the attorney and ask them various questions about his or her legal background.

Look for an attorney who has negotiating experience as well. The insurance company may offer you a settlement. In most cases, these settlement offers are too low. That’s why you need an attorney who can negotiate on your behalf.

Your South Carolina Injury lawyer can push for a higher settlement. In many cases, insurance carriers will increase the settlement offer if an attorney is involved.

If insurance carriers refuse to budge, your attorney may advise a civil suit, in which case they can represent you in court.

Do You Really Need a Dog Bite Lawyer?

For people to get all the compensation they deserve for serious dog bite injuries, they need an experienced personal injury attorney.

Sometimes medical costs can be astronomical in these cases. Especially when multiple surgeries are required over time. This is not something people should try to handle alone with an insurance company.

We have seen some horrific cases involving dog attacks. Very often they involve children with facial wounds.

Animals tend to go after the face of a young child and cause really bad injuries. It doesn’t have to be a certain breed of dog. This could even happen with a small dog. When a small child is with a small dog, the damage to the face can be significant.

If you are the parent of an injured child, insurance companies want to swoop in and resolve these cases quickly. They realize facial scarring is serious business to juries in SC and to anyone who realizes what the injuries will do to a child.

Some of these children will have to live with terrible consequences for the rest of their lives because of their scars.

At Burriss and Ridgeway, we have plastic surgeons we work with who can look at scars for us and see if something can be done, like laser treatment or skin grafting.

We never settle a dog bite case without getting a plastic surgeon to evaluate the scar to determine what surgical procedures will need to be done in the future. Under the law, you can recover for medical expenses you have already received but also for probable future medical expenses.

Looking For a Dog Bite Attorney in South Carolina?

Do you need an attorney in South Carolina? Read more about our services. We service the entire state of SC and cover personal injury cases (including dog bites), domestic matters (Divorce, adoption, child custody), and criminal defense cases including DUI defense.

We’d love to put our years of experience, compassion, and knowledge to work to see if we can help you and your family.

We have offices in Lexington, Orangeburg, and Columbia, SC. And we can often meet virtually, as well. Contact us today for a free legal consultation.


What Should I Expect from My Personal Injury Lawyer?

When Should I File a Personal Injury Claim?

What Is a Personal Injury Lawyer?


Dog Bites by www.webmd.com

Dog bit statistics from dogsbite.org

30 Crucial Dog Bite Statistics Everyone Should Know by petpedia.com

Report Animal Bites to DHEC

S.C. State Code of Laws Section 47-5-90.

New Study Identifies Most Damaging Dog Bites by Breed by AAHA.org (American Animal Hospital Association)


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