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A dog bite can be life-changing incident, possibly causing disfigurement and even death. During this stressful time, your family may be dealing with important medical decisions, hefty health care bills, and police investigators. If you or your child have suffered a dog bite, one of our Raleigh dog bite lawyers can help guide you through the difficult situation you are facing.

Dog Owner Responsibilities

Dog owners have a responsibility to know their dog’s nature and protect the public from their dog if it has a history of biting or acting aggressively, even if the incident happened a long time ago or the dog was provoked. Many states, including North Carolina, operate under the one-bite rule, which means that once a dog has bitten someone, its owners bear automatic liability for subsequent bites.

But even when a dog bites for the first time, the dog owner may still be responsible. Your Raleigh dog bites lawyer can examine the facts in your case and determine what liability the dog owner may have.

Factors Considered in Determining Dog Bite Liability

In addition to being aware of their dog’s history, dog owners also have a duty to care for their animals in a manner that is humane and does not increase the likelihood that the dog will become aggressive.

If a dog has been kept outdoors too long, or in inclement weather, if a dog lacks adequate food, water or shelter, if it has been abused or neglected, or kept in an environment where it must compete with other animals – these factors can all contribute to aggressive behavior. Keeping a dog chained for too long or with an inappropriate restraint, or caging the animal in a kennel that is too small, unclean or unsafe can also raise the likelihood of biting.

Each jurisdiction maintains laws regulating what constitutes animal abuse or neglect, but a dog owner’s behavior need not rise to the level of actual abuse under the law in order for the court to find that the owner’s actions or inactions caused the dog to develop biting behaviors. Your Raleigh dog bite accident lawyer can investigate both the dog’s behavioral and health history, as well as the conditions in which it was kept.

Dangerous Dogs

Dog owners who keep so-called dangerous dogs are more likely to be found liable for bites. Dogs who have previously bitten without provocation are considered dangerous, and so are dogs who have attacked or killed another animal, or have aggressively pursued their victim for more than 50 feet. In some jurisdictions, certain breeds are considered inherently dangerous.

Contributory Negligence

Depending on the jurisdiction where the dog bite took place, a victim’s own actions may or may not impact whether – or to what degree – he or she is able to recover compensation for their injuries.

In some jurisdictions, victims whose own reckless or negligent behaviors triggered the dog bite attack are barred from recovering any damages from the dog owner.

This is referred to as the contributory negligence doctrine, since actions like trespassing on private property, committing a crime when the bite occurred, or provoking the animal with torment or abuse can contribute to causing the bite.

Because North Carolina is one of only a few jurisdictions that still operates under the strict contributory negligence doctrine, it is crucial that you work with an experienced Raleigh dog bite lawyer who is prepared to fight any allegations that your actions directly contributed to the dog bite you suffered.