This article examines South Carolina laws that apply to dog bite injury cases and other cases where animals cause injury to humans. We'll start with a look at the time limits that apply to South Carolina dog bite cases, then we'll turn to the state's dog bite statute and its status as a "strict liability" state. Finally, we'll touch on some of the defenses that a dog's owner might raise in South Carolina in response to a dog bite injury lawsuit.
A person injured by a dog bite in South Carolina has three years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit in the state's civil court system. The law that sets this deadline is known as the statute of limitations, and it applies to all injury lawsuits in South Carolina. If the lawsuit is filed after the three-year deadline has passed, the court will almost certainly throw the case out without considering it. So, it's crucial to understand and follow the statute of limitations as it applies in your case.
South Carolina Code of Laws section 47-3-110 covers dog bites and other dog-related injuries. In South Carolina, a dog owner may be held liable for injuries caused by the animal if:
Note that this statute applies to situations in which a person is bitten by a dog, and to situations in which a person is "otherwise attacked" by a dog. For instance, suppose that a person is walking down the sidewalk one day when a dog runs out of a nearby yard and pounces on the person, knocking her down and causing injuries. The injured person may seek compensation from the dog's owner under South Carolina's dog bite statute.
South Carolina's law is a "strict liability" law. This means that the owner of the dog is liable even if the owner did not know and could not have known the dog would attack or bite. Many U.S. states have similar "strict liability" rules. Those states that don't use strict liability for dog bites typically rely either on a "one bite" rule, which requires knowledge that the dog is dangerous, or a negligence rule, which requires the injuries to have resulted from the owner's failure to use reasonable care to control the dog and/or prevent the bite from occurring.
Faced with a dog bite claim, a dog owner in South Carolina usually may raise one of two specific defenses: provocation and trespassing (in addition to other common defenses in an injury case).
South Carolina's dog bite law specifies that if the injured person provoked the dog, the owner is not liable for any injuries. Provocation can take many forms, such as abusing, teasing, or harassing a dog. For instance, suppose a boy puts a stick through the fence between his yard and his neighbor's yard and pokes the neighbor's dog repeatedly, angering the dog so that it jumps the fence and attacks him. The owner may argue that the boy provoked the dog and that therefore the owner is not liable for the boy's injuries.
Trespassing is another defense that may apply in some South Carolina dog attack cases. South Carolina's law requires that an injured person be on public property or lawfully on private property when the injury occurs. A person who is on private property without permission and without the need to carry out a duty imposed by law (such as mail delivery) is trespassing, and homeowner liability for trespasser injuries is limited in many situations -- including as it applies to South Carolina dog bite cases.