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North Carolina Dog Bite Law: The Basics

Under North Carolina dog bite laws, it may be difficult for a dog bite victim to sue the dog's owner unless the attack occurred withinthe precise circumstances prescribed by law.

State, county, and city laws govern dog bites, making North Carolina dog bite law quite complex. If you''ve been bitten by a dog in North Carolina, it is best to consult a dog bite attorney to see if you stand a good chance of being successful in a lawsuit against the dog's owner.


Litigation resulting from dog bites is a type of personal injury, or tort, lawsuit.Car accidents and slip-and-fall accidents can also lead to personal injury lawsuits. Many personal injury lawyers work on contingency, meaning they do not expect money up front but do take a percentage of any settlement or jury award won on your behalf.Because of this pay arrangement, personal injury lawyers are motivated to take on cases they believe will be successful in court.

The deadline, or statute of limitations, in which to file a lawsuit stemming from a dog bite attack in North Carolina is three years.

What to Do When a Dog Bites

If you've been bitten by a dog in North Carolina, one of the first things you should do is to ascertain who the dog''s owner is. Not only will the information help you should you decide to sue the owner, it will also be helpful to your medical care provider, who may be concerned about rabies.

North Carolina dog bite law states that any dogthatbites a human must be confined for observation for 10 days. It is at the discretion of the public health officer in your areas whether the dog must stay with animal control officers during the time of confinement or at its owner's property. A dog owner faces a Class 2 misdemeanor if he or she refuses to allow the dog to be confined, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' rabies control manual.

If the dog is a stray, animal control officers will want to catch it so that it may be observed for 10 days. If the dog shows signs of being rabid or the dog's owner is not known and it is not caught, your medical provider may decide you need a series of rabies vaccinations to protect you from this potentially fatal disease.

North Carolina law requires victims of dog bites who seek medical treatment to report the incident to the local health director.

If you believe your medical costs may be high enough to consider seeking compensation from the dog's owner, you'll want to document your injuries by photographing them and any torn, bloodied clothing worn during the incident. You'll also want to track down potential witnesses.


The deadline, or statute of limitations, in which to file a lawsuit stemming from a dog bite attack in North Carolina is three years.

North Carolina Dog Bite Law

North Carolina is known as a "one-free-bite" state. This means that if your attack was the dog's first, the owner basically gets a free pass. The narrow exception is if the dog was more than six months old and left intentionally loose to run "at large" at night.

If a dog has previously bitten someone or has otherwise qualified for labeling by local animal control officials as a "potentially dangerous" dog, then you, as a dog bite victim in North Carolina, may have a better shot at recovering your medical and dog bite-related costs. A dog can be labeled potentially dangerous if he or she:

  • Has terrorized a person while off the owner''s property
  • Has killed or seriously injured another animal while on the owner''s property
  • Has bitten a person,resulting in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring plastic surgery or hospitalization

A dog owner is subject to potential misdemeanor fines if his or her dog has been declared potentially dangerous and causes injuries requiring medical treatment in excess of $100.

One city in North Carolina, Edenton, regulates dogs by breed. In that city, there is an outright ban on pit bulls.

What Expenses Can You Recover From a Dog Bite Lawsuit?

If, under the laws of North Carolina, you still qualify for compensation for your dog bite-related costs, you may be able to sue to recover the following expenses:

  • Your medical bills
  • Lost income, both from treating the immediate injury and from any future lost income should you become incapacitated
  • Pain and suffering, including a new fear of dogs, especially in children who may continue to have nightmares after the attack
  • Property damage, if any
  • Loss of consortium, which means that the injury somehow damaged your relationship with your spouse or family

What Role Does Insurance Pay?

Many homeowner policies will cover the costs associated with the dog bites. Typical liability policies may offer from $100,000 to $300,000 worth of coverage.

Some insurance companies decline to cover certain breeds that have an acknowledged propensity to bite, such as pit bulls or Rottweilers. Bites that take place in the owner's car may instead be covered by an automobile policy.

If the dog owner has liability insurance, it is likely that the insurance company will be paying for the owner's defense in any lawsuit you bring.

Again, your North Carolina lawyer familiar with dog bite accidents will advise you on whether you should pursue a lawsuit as a result of your dog bite injuries based on what happened in your particular case.