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More than 800 million people in the U.S. receive medical attention for dog bites. South Carolina is one of the few states exempt from the one-bite rule, meaning owners are liable even when their dog has no prior history of violence. However, there may be some exemptions to this liability that you need to know. If another person’s dog bites you in South Carolina, learn how the personal injury lawyers at HawkLaw, P.A. can help you receive compensation. Do not wait to file your case. Call our office today at 888-HAWKLAW to set up a free consultation*.

What Are the Dog Bite Laws in South Carolina?

A woman holding a small dog while a child tries to pet the dog

South Carolina is serious regarding dog bite laws in the state. Owners maintain strict liability for the behavior of their dogs, regardless of whether or not they know the dog’s potential to attack. If a dog bite results in injuries, the owner is generally liable to pay damages to the victim.

More specifically, the dog owner will be liable if the dog attacks a victim within a public space or while lawfully on private property. As long as the bite victim did not provoke or harass the dog, causing it to attack, that liability remains.

South Carolina dog bite law contains what is referred to as a provocation defense wherein if the provoking or harassing of the animal results in biting, the dog’s owner will not be considered liable.

As for fines and penalties, a dog owner can face both. These apply strongly when the domestic animal is identified as a dangerous dog. A dangerous animal is one that the owner knew had a tendency to endanger another person or domestic animal or makes an unprovoked attack resulting in injury or the fear of injury.

If your dog classifies as dangerous, you may be facing a misdemeanor or felony charge, and certain penalties apply. A first offense may result in a $5,000 fine and a potential three-year sentence, while a second one being a $10,000 fine and up to five years. You may incur substantial civil costs depending on the dog attack and injury circumstances.

If you are the owner of the dog that bit someone, seek the legal advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

When Are Owners Exempt from Liability in a Dog Bite Case?

While South Carolina state laws tend to be stricter regarding liability in a dog bite case, there are also four specific exceptions when owners may be exempt.


When a dog bites someone trespassing on the owner’s property, an exemption from liability applies. A trespasser is one who enters another’s property without permission or legal justification (such as the delivery of mail by a postal worker). Businesses or homeowners will rarely be held liable when their dog bites a trespasser.

Occupational Hazard

If a dog bite is a reasonable occupational hazard, the victim may not be able to sue. An occupational hazard involves the understanding that the work being done may involve danger or getting hurt in some way but forging on voluntarily, regardless. Examples of individuals where this occupational hazard and potential for serious injury can occur include a veterinarian, vet technician, groomer, kennel worker, and animal boarder. If a bite occurs, you, as the dog owner, may be able to use the “assumption of risk” defense and limit your liability.

Your Dog Was Under Someone Else’s Care

Under the South Carolina dog bite statute, an individual responsible for taking care of a dog may be liable in the same or similar capacity as the owner should a dog bite occur. In some instances, groomers may fall into this category, or you may have designated someone else to care for your dog for a time that involved a trip to the groomer.

If your dog bit another person while not in your care, your case can become complicated, and the presentation of all relevant details will be essential. For this reason, consulting with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney will be beneficial in placing and proving liability where it legally falls.

The Victim Provoked the Dog

In South Carolina, if a victim has provoked your dog, you, as the owner, are not liable for those dog bite injuries. Provoking the dog may include teasing, harassing, or even abusing the animal directly. If this occurs, the dog’s owners can claim that provocation led to the dog bite and, as such, they are not liable. For this dog bite law defense to be successful, you will need to show that the victim’s actions were indeed the proximate cause of the resulting bite or attack.

If you believe any of these exceptions apply to your case, seek the legal advice of an experienced dog bite lawyer knowledgeable in South Carolina state laws. You do not have to accept liability, and knowing your rights and the necessary steps to avoid a lawsuit will be beneficial.

Can a Groomer Sue You If Your Dog Bites Them?

Yorkshire Terrier at the groomer

For a groomer, a dog bite is a realistic occupational hazard. As such, the groomer most likely cannot sue you. Yet, there is always the potential for a groomer to pursue a lawsuit. They may assert that your dog is exceptionally aggressive, meaning it is beyond the normal risk of working with animals as an occupational hazard. If proven, you may be held liable.

As the owner, you may also risk a dog bite lawsuit if you retained control of the dog before and at the time of the attack or bite. That is, the groomer had not yet become the dog’s keeper, thus not accepting the occupational risk voluntarily.

Can Groomers Collect Workers’ Comp After a Dog Bite?

A dog bite can cause complications, often resulting in such injuries as lacerations, punctures, fractures, nerve damage, and more. Since groomers interact with animals as part of their work, if a dog bites and causes a personal injury, they may be able to collect workers’ compensation benefits. To collect these benefits, however, they will need to show that the dog bite arose out of the conditions of their employment and take the necessary steps to make an injury claim.

The injured dog groomer will need to inform the employer of the mild or serious injury as soon as possible and at least within 90 days of the occurrence of the dog bite. Next, either the employer will file an insurance company claim, or the dog bite victim must request, complete, and submit a form with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC).

If you are a groomer and need help with filing a workers’ compensation claim or appealing a denial, consult with a workers’ compensation attorney. Your attorney will review your case, compile evidence, defend your claim, and meet all deadlines, including the statute of limitations.

Seeking workers’ compensation benefits may be essential not only to your healing but also to your financial stability. Workers’ compensation for dog bites may include coverage for any or all of the following:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Vocational rehabilitation/retraining
  • Partial Disability
  • Total disability
  • Death benefits

It is essential to note, however, that dog bite victims that are independent contractors are not eligible for workers’ comp. An independent contractor is a groomer who provides services under a contract (written or oral) and does not work for an employer. To help cover medical expenses, then, as an independent contractor, you will need to purchase your own health insurance and possibly even a short-term disability policy.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Biting the Groomer

Samoyed wearing a muzzle being trimmed by a groomer

Even if the groomer cannot sue you if your dog bites them, you should still take necessary precautions. To prevent your dog from biting the groomer, you should let them know how aggressive your dog is, schedule regular appointments, and spend time training and socializing your dog.

Let Them Know If Your Dog is Aggressive

Let the groomer know what to expect when working with your dog. Communicate the dog’s temperament with animal care workers. If your dog is aggressive or harbors a tendency to snap or bite when someone touches its paw, ears, or other areas, inform the groomer so they can be prepared and take precautions.

Schedule Regular Appointments

Schedule regular grooming appointments depending on the length of the dog’s fur. Otherwise, the coat may become matted, and grooming may become uncomfortable, even painful, for your dog. When groomers must pull out mats from the dog’s fur, bites are more likely to occur as a defense mechanism.

Train Your Dog!

Take it upon yourself to train your dog and lessen the chances of aggressive behavior and biting. Attend a basic training program with your dog, and continue with other training when possible. Allow your dog to socialize and interact with other people of all ages, as well as with other animals. Also, avoid physically punishing your dog and instead use positive reinforcement measures, such as treats or praise.

Does Your Dog Bite Case Have Teeth? We Will Let You Know

If you experience a dog bite and want compensation, call our lawyers at 888-HAWKLAW today to discuss your case or submit our online contact form to schedule a free case evaluation or consultation.* Our law firm handles both workers’ comp and personal injury cases and will fight for your legal rights and the money you deserve. We value the attorney-client relationship and will work to provide you with the legal services you need when you most need them.

John D. Hawkins

Founder and CEO

John Hawkins is the Founder and CEO of HawkLaw He has been licensed to practice law in South Carolina since his graduation with honors in 1994 from the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he was on the Law Review and Order of Wig and Robe.

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