When is a dog owner liable for dog bites or dog attacks in Myrtle Beach, SC?
If you are walking down the sidewalk, and a cute, adorable boxer runs out from someone's driveway and bites you on the leg without any provocation on your part, it's pretty clear that the dog's owner will be liable.
What about the property owner, if it's not their dog? What if the dog does not bite you, but instead jumps on you, knocking you down and causing an injury? What if you are attacked by a wild animal on someone else's property? Is the property owner responsible for that also?
If you have been injured by a dog attack in Myrtle Beach, call the SC dog bite lawyers at Axelrod and Associates immediately - before giving any statements to the homeowner or their insurance company.
SC has strict liability for dog attacks, but there are defenses for dog owners and property owners. Below, we'll discuss when a dog's owner is liable for injuries caused by their dog, what defenses are available to the dog's owner, and when a property owner is liable for wild animal attacks on their property.
Dog Bites in Myrtle Beach, SC
A quick Google search will reveal plenty of information about dog bites in SC, contained in search-optimized articles filled with key phrases and search terms like "dog bite lawyers in Myrtle Beach." (see what I did there?)
Although most people affected by a dog attack may be searching online for information about "dog bites," SC law addresses dog attacks, not just dog bites. Strict liability for dog owners applies whether the dog bites you in the face, knocks you off a bicycle, or just knocks you down because she wants you to pet her...
Dog Attacks in Myrtle Beach, SC
SC Code Section 47-3-110 says that dog owners are liable for the damage caused anytime a person is "bitten or otherwise attacked" by their dog:
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. 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, or when the person bitten or otherwise attacked is on the property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the property owner or a lawful tenant or resident of the property.
There is strict liability if the dog bite victim is in a public place or anywhere that they have a legal right to be, including on the property of the dog owner, unless they are trespassing.
Is a Property Owner Liable for Dog Attacks in SC?
The dog's owner is liable for dog attacks, and the dog's caretaker may also be liable for dog attacks.
If my neighbor's dog comes onto my property and attacks someone, I am probably not liable for the dog attack - the neighbor would be, however.
But, if I agree to keep the neighbor's dog while they are away on vacation, and the dog attacks someone in my yard while the dog is in my care, then I would be liable for the dog attack - not because it happened on my property, but because the dog was in my "care and keeping."
What are the Defenses to Liability for Dog Attacks?
Although dog bite liability in SC is often called "strict liability," there are defenses available to dog owners, including situations where the dog bite victim provoked the dog and defenses for police dogs:
This section does not apply if, at the time the person is bitten or otherwise attacked:
(1) the person who was attacked provoked or harassed the dog and that provocation was the proximate cause of the attack; or
(2) the dog was working in a law enforcement capacity with a governmental agency and in the performance of the dog's official duties provided that:
(a) the dog's attack is in direct and complete compliance with the lawful command of a duly certified canine officer;
(b) the dog is trained and certified according to the standards adopted by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Training Council;
(c) the governmental agency has adopted a written policy on the necessary and appropriate use of dogs in the dog's official law enforcement duties;
(d) the actions of the dog's handler or dog do not violate the agency's written policy;
(e) the actions of the dog's handler or dog do not constitute excessive force; and
(f) the attack or bite does not occur on a third party bystander.
Is Trespassing a Defense to Dog Attacks in SC?
If you are trespassing on someone's property at the time their dog attacks you, the dog owner is not liable for your injuries.
If you are on someone's property when their dog attacks you, you are not trespassing and the dog owner is liable if you work for the government and you are on the property as part of your job duties - for example, a postal worker. The dog owner is also liable if you are on the property by invitation of the property owner or resident of the property.
If you have permission to be there, whether express or implied, the dog owner is liable when their dog attacks you.
What if you are attacked by a wild animal on someone else's property? Is the property owner liable for your injuries?
Wild Animal Attacks in Myrtle Beach, SC
Wild animal attacks in SC are not covered by SC's dog bite laws. Instead, liability is determined by the law of negligence and premises liability.
If you are keeping a wild animal as a pet on your property, and it attacks someone, strict liability will probably apply. The classic example is, if you keep a tiger on your property and the tiger gets loose and hurts someone, you are going to be responsible for the damage caused...
On the other hand, if a wild animal comes onto your property and attacks someone, the law of premises liability will most likely apply.
If there is a hazardous condition (the wild animal), and you were on notice of the dangerous condition, then you have a duty to either correct the condition (remove the animal or take measures to protect visitors) or warn visitors of the danger if you are unable to remove it.
If a tiger wanders onto your land and mauls a person, you probably won't be liable if it's the first time you've seen that tiger. On the other hand, if you notice a tiger in your backyard and don't call the authorities or warn visitors, you probably will be liable if it eats your neighbors' children in your backyard...
Although tiger attacks are unlikely in Myrtle Beach, the principles of premises liability will most likely apply to attacks by alligators, wildcats, bears, venomous snakes, and other potentially dangerous wild animals in the area.
If you or your family member has been attacked by a dog or other animal, schedule a free consultation with a Myrtle Beach dog bite lawyer on the Axelrod team. Call now at (843) 916-9300 or fill out our contact form today.