In South Carolina, if somewhere else’s dog bites your child, that person is responsible unless there was some clear act of provocation or trespass. Let me explain. South Carolina’s dog bite laws say that an owner is “strictly liable” for any injury caused by the dog. The owner does not have to be negligent or reckless. If his dog bites an innocent victim, he is responsible, and his insurance company will likely have to pay for your child’s damages. Those damages could include medical bills, mental anguish, scarring, and other harms.
If the bite occurred at a home, then the homeowner’s insurance policy would probably apply. While some insurance policies exclude dog bites, most incidents are covered. Moreover, homeowner’s insurance often covers dog bites that occur not only in the home, but at parks, on city streets, and in other locations where insurance coverage might not otherwise be available.
Even though the insurance company may be pressuring you to settle your case quickly, I strongly encourage you to resist settling until three things happen:
1. Your child completes all medical treatment and you know the “cost” of such treatment.
By cost, I do not mean out of pocket expenses or what your health insurance company paid; I mean the “actual, pre-adjusted charges.” The dog owner’s insurance company cannot pay you less simply because your child has health insurance. The liability insurance company must pay you for the “cost” of the medical treatment. Otherwise, two children – one insured, one uninsured – could sustain the exact same injury, but one would receive far more money for his harm.
2. All scars have been allowed to heal long enough to determine whether any permanent mark will remain.
Most scars take between 6 months and 1 year to heal. It is only at those points in time that a doctor can determine whether your child will live with the scar for the rest of her life.
3. Enough time passes to determine whether your child has incurred any lasting psychological trauma.
Most dog bite victims get over their fear of dogs within a few months. In some cases, however, the victim may carry their fear for much longer. Children might experience nightmares or panic because of a dog attack. Every bite produces a different response. The important thing is to understand whether your child has been harmed psychologically in addition to physically, then seek appropriate care.
If you have any questions about South Carolina dog bite law, how medical bills get paid, or which insurance company is responsible for compensating your family, call me at 803-280-2800. You do not have to take on insurance giants or billing agencies by yourself. Let us help level the playing field for you and your child.