Nancy: Today on North Carolina Law TV, David Daggett, Injury and Disability Lawyer from Daggett Shuler Law out of Winston, Salem talks to us about dog bite cases.

David: A large percentage of these dog bites are not in the family they’re outside the family. You have an old saying that there’s one free bite. Well the last thing you want to do is bring a claim against your relatives.

Nancy: That’s on next on this episode of North Carolina Law TV.

Nancy: Dog bites. Unfortunately these are common occurrences in the United States. We see it time and time again splashing the headlines. Family dog attacks child, woman attacked by neighbor’s dog, stray dog bites local man. The statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association are not much better. Every year over 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs and 1 in 5 dog bites require medical attention. With these alarming statistics in mind many people are wondering what to do if their child is the victim of a dog bite.

With us today is David Daggett and he is going to talk with us about this important topic. So, David, welcome.

David: Thanks you. Thanks for having me, Nancy.

Nancy: Great to have you here today.

David: Yes. The fog has lifted it’s going to be a beautiful day.

Nancy: It is. It is. We know that the American Academy of Pediatrics report that 1 in 20 hospital visits are a result of dog bites. Let’s talk about some of the most common scenarios you see for instance the neighbor’s dog bites a child.

David: Well, dog bites in children tend to be the most typical scenario. We all love dogs. Dogs are man’s best friend but we have to be responsible in our care of our pets. And we need to make sure that their interactions particularly with other children are safe. A large percentage of these dog bites are not in the family they’re outside the family. Families usually know how to treat their own pet, it’s outsiders not knowing how to act around your pet. So that’s where the problem arises.

Nancy: Okay. So, and the pet not being familiar with the activities of the child, the child not knowing.

David: Yes.

Nancy: That pet’s abilities and comfort level.

David: Right. So what you need to do is around strangers that’s why you have leash laws and you have a leash out in public because your dog doesn’t know how to act around strangers. Well we need to take that same philosophy into our homes when we have guests over or other little children who are not as familiar in dealing with your pet, not just dogs but any pet but dogs is what we typically say.

Nancy: That’s a good point that we don’t typically think about that having a leash or controlling our dog in a different way when we have neighboring children or unfamiliar children coming on.

David: Yeah. It’s the same theory we just don’t think about it when it’s in our own home.

Nancy: No, we don’t. That’s a good point. It probably relates to a lot of our causes a lot of misunderstandings between the dog and the child resulting in a bite that’s not good for anyone.

David: Exactly.

Nancy: We often hear the phrase vicious propensity in relation to dog bite cases. How does this affect liability issue?

David: I’m pretty impressed you got vicious propensity in one quick sentence. Vicious propensity is the legal standard that most states have that to be liable for the actions of the dog you have to be aware of its “vicious propensities,” which means that the dog has bitten before or shown aggression before. So you have an old saying that there’s one free bite. That’s where that comes from. That’s the vicious propensity. They have to have done something before. Now, it doesn’t have to be a bite it’s showing aggressive behavior or those sort of things.

Nancy: Like a tendency.

David: Like a tendency. Correct. Correct. So to have a claim for an injury from a dog bite. Some of it may be very, very is that you as the dog owner were aware that your dog or other pet had a vicious propensity so you had a duty to protect me from your dog. Now, I go into these cases with a belief with any dog that bites has probably shown a viciously propensity before. Dogs don’t just suddenly become that way usually. Okay, so that’s what vicious propensity is. And then the question that stems from that is in a car accident everybody knows if you get injured there’s insurance companies involved, how does this all work with pets?

Well, it works in a similar fashion and that hoe homeowner’s insurance coverage covers the resulting injuries from your pets. Now it doesn’t cover within the family but it’s to others.

Nancy: So like neighbors or visitor.

David: neighbors or visitors outside the family. And so in kind of the rule of thumb is that anybody that owns property will have insurance on their property. So a homeowner will have insurance that insurance almost certainly covers dog bites by a dog that had vicious propensities. Does that make sense?

Nancy: Okay. It does.

David: I went to it kind of quickly.

Nancy: Well, it’s interesting for me to even learn that it’s covered within your homeowner insurance.

David: Yes. Now what you have and what you see a lot is people that don’t own their homes. They’re either renters or live in an apartment complex or something like that. The laws get pretty tricky when that’s involved because then you look to do they have runner’s insurance which isn’t quite as easy to find or was a landlord on notice and did a landlord have a duty to do something about the situation.

Nancy: Because if they had seen this vicious propensity, right?

David: Correct, Correct.

Nancy: Well that’s good information. We know that this is always a pretty tender situation if it’s a neighbor and how do you react when, you don’t want to ruin the relationship but your child got bitten or your dog big a neighboring child.

David: Right. You know, I think it’s just like any other situation you have with your neighbor is that you’re upfront and just honest about it. It helps to have a lawyer involved for this reason is the lawyer knows how to take care of business so that you take the emotions out of the situation. I’ll tell you one that you have very, very frequently is relatives coming over and something happens. You have people for Christmas and something happens. Well the last thing you want to do is bring a claim against your relatives.

Well, the insurance company gets involved if you get somebody who knows how to handle these claims they can handle it on a business level. Sometime the homeowner never even knows that the claim was taken care of and handled. So they can be isolated from that because it can be a sensitive area in which you don’t want to ruin relationships over this issue. On the flip side, dog bites can be very, very serious. I mean, we recently had a little girl a little ways from here that was mauled and killed by a dog. So, you know, it can be very, very serious and there can be real damages that you need and are entitled to compensation for these damages. So it’s important to get some help and make sure that claim’s pursued and not just ignore it because we’re friends.

Nancy: Right. Right. Because what you’re saying is if you have a lawyer involved that can help handle the business aspect then the relationship doesn’t have to suffer.

David: Many times the relationships does not suffer and you can be taken of for your medical expenses, lost wages, any other resulting expenses you may have from the incident.

Nancy: Well, that’s good to know because, you know, if you have to live next to these people for the next couple of years you want to have that relationship.

David: Sure, you want to maintain that relationship and nobody wants to harm the relationship.

Nancy: Right. But you need to be taken care of as well so having that assistance is really helpful there. Well that’s great information. What else do you want to share with us before we go today?

David: Well, I think the important thing is for any injured disabled people to know that they have rights and know where to go and who to turn to should the unfortunate situation happen.

Nancy: Thank you, David.

David: Thanks for having me today.

Nancy: Thanks for being with us. I appreciate that. If you know someone who has been injured by a dog bite, you can call David’s office at (336) 724-1234 to discuss your case. Until next time, this is Nancy Hollett for North Carolina Law TV.