Can You Get Compensated for Your Shark Attack Injury in North Carolina?

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold answers the question: “What can you sue for in a personal injury case?”


North Carolina is no stranger to shark attacks that cause injury to swimmers and surfers. In fact, North Carolina ranked fifth among states for most shark attacks reported in the last decade, just behind South Carolina, California, Hawaii, and Florida.

Can an injured swimmer or surfer hold anyone liable for his or her injury suffered in a shark attack? Obviously, you cannot sue a shark, but can you file a personal injury suit against a third party? In some cases, you can.


shark-bite-lawyer-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Personal-Injury-Law-firm-300x200Surfer Injured in Shark Attack in North Carolina

In January, Newsweek reported that a North Carolina surfer was injured in an apparent shark attack. The 26-year-old surfer sustained a non-life-threatening injury, which could have resulted from a shark bite.

Why all the uncertainty? Was it a shark or not? The thing is, the injured surfer said he did not see what bit him, but the nature of the injury suggests that it could be a shark.

The apparent shark attack occurred off Cape Hatteras National Seashore in Rodanthe, part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a series of small barrier islands.


Can the Municipality That Operates the Beach be Held Liable for the Shark Attack?

Yes, you may be able to sue the municipality that operates the public beach or the entity that operates the private beach where the shark attack occurred. However, it may be tricky.

Under North Carolina’s law, property owners owe their visitors a duty of reasonable care in providing safe conditions and eliminating hazards. If there is an unsafe condition and the property owner knows or should reasonably know about it, he or she must warn about the danger and take proper steps to remedy it.

Failure to do so may make the owner liable for any visitors’ injuries. But does the presence of sharks in the area constitute an unsafe condition? That depends on whether the owner is reasonably aware of the “unreasonable” risk of a shark attack. After all, all swimmers and surfers probably know that there might be sharks in the ocean. Does that waive the owner’s obligation to warn of the possibility of a shark attack?


Shark Attack Liability: Who Else can be Held Liable for Injuries Caused by Sharks?

The public or private party that operates the beach where the shark attack took place is not the only potentially liable party. Depending on the circumstances, someone who was bitten by a shark may be able to sue the tour company, lifeguard on duty, yacht or boat operator, and other parties.

In order to recover damages for a shark attack in North Carolina, you must establish four elements of a personal injury claim:

  • The defendant or the party liable for the shark attack owed you a duty of care (e.g., a property owner’s duty to maintain safe premises).
  • The defendant’s negligence breached the duty of care (you must prove that another “reasonable and prudent” party would not have acted negligently in a similar situation).
  • The negligence caused your injuries (you need to establish the link between the breach of duty and the shark attack injury).
  • You suffered damages as a result of the shark attack (medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of income, and others).

Let our Charlotte personal injury attorneys identify all liable parties in your shark attack incident. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to analyze your particular situation. Call us now at 704-370-2828 to speak with our lawyers to explore your legal options or fill out our contact form. Now taking cases throughout North Carolina with offices in Uptown Charlotte, Mooresville and our new location in Monroe.







The skilled personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to maximizing the financial recovery and obtaining justice for every personal injury client injured by another party’s negligence. The issues our personal injury clients may be facing include, but are not limited to, slip and fall injuries, wrongful death, product liability, catastrophic injuries, dog bite claims, car and truck accident injuries, motorcycle injuries, traumatic brain injury (TBI), nursing home negligence, spinal cord injury, boating accidents, and defective medical device injury. Our personal injury attorneys understand the devastating impact such an injury can have on a person’s life, and that the effects so often go beyond physical pain and suffering. The personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to helping clients determine the strength of their claims, and to aggressively pursuing the means necessary to achieve the best possible end result for each client’s particular situation.





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