Dog Bite Lawyers in Conway, SC – Strict Liability for Dog Attacks in SC

If you have been bitten by a dog in SC, the Conway dog bite lawyers at Johnny Gardner Law may be able to help you recover damages to compensate for your medical bills, pain and suffering, emotional distress, corrective surgeries, and, in some cases, punitive damages.

SC has strict liability for dog attacks, and we also have laws that regulate the keeping of dangerous animals. Below, we will discuss SC law on dog bites and animal attacks, including:

  • SC’s strict liability law for dog attacks,
  • Liability when a dog bites a postal worker,
  • Attacks by police dogs/ K9s,
  • Defenses to dog bite lawsuits, and
  • SC law on the keeping of dangerous animals.

Dog Bite Attorneys in Conway, SC

SC law imposes strict liability on dog owners for unprovoked attacks, including when a dog attacks a mailman or other government employee and when police dogs attack someone without cause, but there are also defenses to dog bite claims.

Strict Liability for Dog Attacks in SC

SC Code Section 47-3-110 imposes strict liability for dog bites or other attacks when the dog bite victim is 1) in a public place or 2) lawfully in a private place – including on the property of the dog owner:

If 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, including the property of the dog owner or person having the dog in the person’s care or keeping, the dog owner or person having the dog in the person’s care or keeping is liable for the damages suffered by the person bitten or otherwise attacked.

A person is “lawfully in a private place” – including the dog owner’s property – if they are there at the invitation, express or implied, of the property owner or tenant. Express or implied invitation covers:

  • Friends, neighbors, relatives, or coworkers who have express permission to be on the property,
  • Salespersons or others who approach a residence’s front door when it is not blocked by a fence or posted with no trespassing or no solicitation signs, or
  • Government employees like utility workers, postal workers, or others who are performing their official duties.

Mail Delivery/ Postal Workers

SC’s dog bite laws expressly provide strict liability for dog owners when postal workers or other government employees are attacked during “the performance of their duties:”

For the purposes of this section, a person bitten or otherwise attacked is lawfully in a private place, including the property of the dog owner or person having the dog in the person’s care or keeping, when the person bitten or otherwise attacked is on the property in the performance of a duty imposed upon the person by the laws of this State, the ordinances of a political subdivision of this State, the laws of the United States of America including, but not limited to, postal regulations…

This means any government worker who is bitten or attacked by a dog while they are on the property as required by their job, including:

  • Postal workers,
  • Police officers,
  • EMS workers,
  • Utility company employees, and
  • Census workers.

Police Dogs/ K9s

What if a police dog bites or attacks you?

SC’s dog bite law also imposes strict liability on K9s; police dogs are shielded from liability only if all of the following are true:

  • The dog was working with law enforcement “in the performance of the dog’s official duties,”
  • The “dog’s attack is in direct and complete compliance with the lawful command of a duly certified canine officer,”
  • The “dog is trained and certified according to the standards adopted by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Training Council,”
  • The “governmental agency has adopted a written policy on the necessary and appropriate use of dogs in the dog’s official law enforcement duties,”
  • The “actions of the dog’s handler or dog do not violate the agency’s written policy,”
  • The “actions of the dog’s handler or dog do not constitute excessive force,” and
  • The “attack or bite does not occur on a third party bystander.”

Defenses to Dog Bite Lawsuits

There are a few potential defenses to strict liability under SC’s dog bite laws. The dog’s owner or handler is not liable for a dog attack when:

  • The dog bite victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s property (for example, if you climb someone’s fence without permission and their dog attacks you in their backyard),
  • When the dog bite victim provoked or harassed the dog, causing the dog to attack them, or
  • When the dog is a police dog/K9 and all requirements in the previous section are met.

Note that trespassing may not be a defense when the dog bite victim is a child – under the theory of “attractive nuisance,” the dog owner may be required to take reasonable precautions to prevent children from accessing the dog.

Your SC dog bite lawyers can help you to determine whether the dog owners might have defenses to a dog bite lawsuit.

Attacks by Dangerous Animals – Negligence Per Se

SC also has laws governing the keeping of “dangerous animals.”

A dangerous animal is defined as a canine (dog) or feline (cat) that:

  • “[T]he owner knows or reasonably should know has a propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack unprovoked, cause injury, or otherwise endanger the safety of human beings or domestic animals,” or
  • Is owned for fighting or which is trained for fighting.

This would include any dog that has attacked persons or animals unprovoked or that shows a propensity for attacking persons or animals unprovoked, as well as large cats like tigers or panthers – or even house cats if they tend to attack when unprovoked.

The definition of “dangerous animals” does not include:

  • Animals used exclusively for agricultural purposes (cows, bulls, roosters, or other livestock when they are not used for fighting), or
  • Animals that have previously attacked trespassers.

SC’s law on dangerous animals also expressly states that “[a]n animal is not a “dangerous animal” solely because of its breed or species. Pit bulls, for example, are not “dangerous animals simply because they are pit bulls, but they are dangerous animals if the owner keeps them for purposes of fighting.

Anyone who violates SC laws on dangerous animals is “negligent per se,” just as a driver who ignores a red light is “negligent per se,” because they have violated a law that was intended to keep the public safe.

SC Dog Bite Lawyers in Conway

The Conway, SC dog bite lawyers at Johnny Gardner Law can help you to determine who is liable for your injuries, make a claim against their insurance or file a lawsuit against the dog owner, and recover the maximum compensation that you are entitled to under SC law.

If you have been injured as a result of a property owner or dog owner’s negligence, call Johnny Gardner Law today to schedule a consultation about your case and find out how we can help.