How North Carolina dog bite laws affect liability

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What does the “one-bite rule” mean in NC dog bite cases?”


On May 18, 2015, a four-year-old Conover boy was bitten by his grandparents’ German Shepard. The dog was a trained guard dog who only listened to the command of the child’s grandmother. Unfortunately, the child’s grandmother was in the house at the time of the attack.


German_Shepard_resting Charlotte Dog Bite Attorney Mecklenburg Injury LawyerThe four-year-old was outside playing with another young child when the dog launched its attack. The grandfather stated in reports that he believes that the dog noticed the two young children playing and must have thought one was in danger. The grandfather only has one leg, but did have his prosthetic on and was able to get to the dog as quickly as possible. The dog then attacked the grandfather as he tried to pull the dog from the young child’s throat. Finally, the child’s grandmother arrived on the scene and called the dog to stop. Thankfully it did.


In North Carolina, dog bite law is a part of the General Statutes. The owner of a dog can be strictly liable, meaning it is not necessary to prove situational fault of the owner, only where the dog is a “dangerous dog”. A dangerous dog is a dog that, without provocation, has killed or inflicted serious injury on a person. Another way a dog can be considered a “dangerous dog” is if it has been determined by the person or board designated by the county to be potentially dangerous. So, if the dog is a “dangerous dog,” the owner will be liable if it attacks someone.


Even if strict liability does not apply, a person attacked by a dog can still potentially recover under a negligence suit in North Carolina. Negligence is when an individual has breached a duty of due care owed under the circumstances, and that breach of duty causes injury to the plaintiff. The key question in dog bite cases is generally whether the person’s (defendant’s) conduct in the relevant situation is consistent with that of a reasonably prudent person.


Without any further information it is hard to tell whether the dog would be considered a “dangerous dog” for purposes of the strict liability statute. If the dog had inflicted serious injury to another person in the past, it would not matter whether the owners’ acted in a “reasonably prudent fashion.”  It seems like since the dog was a trained attack dog that only listened to one owner, leaving the dog outside around young children without the presence of that owner may not have been reasonably prudent conduct.


It is important that dog owners supervise their dogs when they know the dog could potentially be dangerous. Not only could owners be exposed to financial liability, owners could potentially be held criminally liable for their dog’s actions. The other consideration is when parents are taking a child to visit other homes, they should ask plenty of questions concerning the safety of the home, and specifically whether any dogs may be dangerous on the premises. Do not let children interact with an animal when they are out of your supervised reach. If your child is bitten and injured by a dog, call a lawyer to discern your rights.


If you or someone you know has any questions regarding potential personal injury claims, feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.



About the Author

Matt Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.






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By Gennykevin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons



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