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a mailman running from a pit bull n the sidewalk

Officials at the United States Postal Service (USPS) recently released its annual ranking of top states for dog bites against postal workers and North Carolina has made the list. According to the report, North Carolina had the eighth-most dog bites on postal workers in 2023 with 185 cases. This was an increase of 39 incidents from the previous year. Nationwide, 5,800 mail carriers were bitten.  

The rankings were released as part of the USPS’s 2024 National Dog Bite Awareness Campaign which launched in early June. This year’s theme is “Don’t let your dog bite the hand that serves you.”

How to Prevent Dog Bites

Even if you think a dog is not aggressive, there is an instinct for a canine to protect its turf. This means that even a non-aggressive dog could lash out when someone arrives on their property, including a postal worker simply trying to deliver the mail. While mail delivery can get interrupted by unforeseen circumstances, it is often delivered at the same time each day. This can help dog owners develop a routine of making sure their dog is in a designated area during the time of expected delivery to prevent an attack from occurring.

The USPS recommends that dogs be kept inside the house or behind a sturdy fence to protect postal workers or others from dog bites. If the mail carrier must deliver mail directly at the door, owners should make sure their dog is a safe distance from the door, in a room away from where the mail carrier will arrive, or on a leash.

It is also important to remember that along with protecting their property, dogs are well-known for protecting children. Dog owners should be sure that children do not get in harm’s way when the mail is delivered. Children should not take mail directly from a letter carrier as the dog may view the carrier as a threat to the child.

The USPS stressed that if a bite does occur and a postal employee is injured, there is a strong chance that the dog owner will be legally responsible for the worker’s medical bills, lost wages, uniform replacement costs, and pain and suffering for the carrier.

What To Do After a Dog Bite

Postal workers are not the only ones who experience dog bites. More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year, and many of those sustain severe dog bite injuries that can be very expensive. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average cost per insurance claim for a dog bite is $64,555. 

It is important to seek medical attention soon after a dog bite. Animal bites often become infected, warranting a need for an antibiotic and follow-up care. Here are other steps to take after a dog bite:

  • You should record details of the attack as soon as it happens, including noting the address of where it took place and the name and phone number of the owner.
  • Ask the owner for proof that the animal has an up-to-date rabies vaccination. If not, you may need to undergo preventative treatment for the disease (rabies has a fatality rate of 99 percent among humans, if not treated).
  • Contact your local health department or animal control agency right away. Under North Carolina law, any dog that bites a human must be quarantined for ten days. If an owner does not quarantine their dog, they could be found guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor offense.

The North Carolina “One Bite Law”

Handling the aftermath of a dog bite may be difficult, and to achieve the best outcome, both when it comes to public safety and holding negligent dog owners accountable for their actions (or inactions), it is recommended to have a knowledgeable North Carolina dog bite lawyer on your side.

If you or a loved one suffers an injury from a dog in North Carolina, recovering compensation for the harm endured oftentimes is not easy. North Carolina is regulated by the “one bite rule,” which could protect a dog owner from liability for the canine’s first attack unless you can prove they had prior knowledge that the dog was dangerous or aggressive.

In some states, an owner can be proven negligent simply based on the fact that the dog was allowed to roam freely, or “at large.’’ However, in North Carolina, a dog owner is not strictly liable for a canine-inflicted injury unless he or she “intentionally, knowingly and willfully” allowed a dog at least six months of age to run at large, at night, unaccompanied by its owner or a member of the owner’s family.

It is important to have a lawyer who understands North Carolina dog bite laws and has the expertise to determine whether the dog owner should be held legally responsible for injuries (as well as defend the victim from being accused of provoking the dog).

The North Carolina dog bite attorneys at the Whitley Law Firm understand the intricacies of dog bite cases and have the experience necessary to offer the legal protection and compensation you deserve. Call (919) 785-5000 or contact us online for more information or to schedule a free case evaluation.

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