North Carolina Dog Bite Laws: What is the One-Bite Rule? What is Strict Liability?

one bite ruleDog bite laws vary and Brent Adams & Associates' North Carolina dog bite lawyers explain how these laws change by state, county, and city. While one owner might be liable for their dog’s attack in Raleigh another dog owner might not be liable for their dog bite in Fayetteville. In general, states with the “one bite rule” or “first bite free law” have more lenient dog bite laws, while states with “strict liability laws” are harder on dogs and dog owners who have been involved in an animal bite accident.

North Carolina is one of the eighteen states that currently use the “one-bite rule,” although it also has a strict liability clause that states that an owner of a dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog is liable in civil damages for any dog bite injury or property damage that their dog incurs.

What is the one-bite rule? Generally, it means that an owner of a dog that has not been previously seen to be vicious or dangerous cannot be liable for the actions of that dog if it is involved in an attack, maiming, or bite. However, after the dog or other animal has been involved in a single biting or attacking incident, the owner is responsible for all future dog bite incidents.

The history of the one-bite rule goes back to before the United States won its independence from England in 1776 – and many feel that the law is out of date, especially when taking the considerations of the victim into mind. In the 1600s, when these one-bite laws were much more common, dogs freely roamed the streets and the culture of owner responsibility did not exist. Although the vast majority of states have amended these laws, some have not.

But although North Carolina still has the one-bite rule in effect, there are a few exceptions and it doesn’t mean that your personal dog attack experience is not valid and that you can’t get a fair ruling in your case or compensation from your insurance company. Here are some more specific questions to ask concerning you specific incident of a dog bite or dog attack:

  • Was the dog running at large at night, without its owner or another responsible person? Dogs over the age of six months running at large at night are not allowed by North Carolina law, and any damage done by the dog in question (to another person or to another person’s property) is the owner’s responsibility. 
  • Can the dog be labeled as a dangerous dog or a potentially dangerous dog, whether or not it had specifically been involved in a dog bite case in the past? If the dog has been trained specifically for fighting, it is labeled a potentially dangerous dog. If the dog has followed the victim for more than 50 feet, barking and growling, it is potentially dangerous dog. If the dog bites without provocation, or has killed or severely injured another domestic animal, it is potentially dangerous dog. 
  • Was the owner aware that his or her dog or pet was a danger to others? If the owner had prior knowledge that his or her dog was capable of acting violently or aggressively toward others, your case may hold water.