Designated as the uncontested “man’s best friend,” dogs are revered in the U.S. – as evidenced by the estimated 70% of American households with at least one dog as a member of the family. While many are well-loved and gentle by nature, when they feel threatened or believe their owners or property may be in danger, some frightening natural instincts may kick in. For those dogs that are mistreated or abused, those natural instincts may linger even closer to the surface.
Many laws exist to protect the citizens it covers. When it comes to dog bite laws, they not only protect the victims of an attack – paving the way for them to seek damages, but also potential victims to help ensure dogs are properly restrained from harming others. According to the National Canine Research Association of America, an estimated 4.5 million people fall victim to dog bites in the U.S. each year. While that number may sound staggering, humans only have roughly a 1-in-73 chance of getting bit by a dog. Unfortunately, some of those bites can be devastating and occasionally fatal. DogsBite.org reports that in the 15-year period between 2005 and 2019, 521 Americans lost their lives as the result of being attacked by a dog. 236 of those victims were children.
In the event that you or someone you love is ever the subject of an attack or if you are the owner of a dog, there are four important facts you should know about dog bite laws in Georgia:
What is the Georgia Dog Bite Law and Definition of a “Dangerous Dog”
According to Ga. Code § 51-2-7 (2022) – also known as the Georgia Dog Bite Law:
A person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and who, by careless management or by allowing the animal to go at liberty, causes injury to another person who does not provoke the injury by his own act may be liable in damages to the person so injured. In proving vicious propensity, it shall be sufficient to show that the animal was required to be at heel or on a leash by an ordinance of a city, county, or consolidated government, and the said animal was at the time of the occurrence not at heel or on a leash.
This means that a dog owner has a legal duty to control their pets – particularly in keeping with their local ordinances. In the event that they are unrestrained and injure another person, the owner is financially liable for any damages resulting from that injury.
If the animal is properly restrained according to local ordinances and an injury still occurs, the victim must prove that the dog should be classified as dangerous in order to seek damages. In O.C.G.A. 4-8-21, The State of Georgia defines a dangerous dog as one that, according to the records of an appropriate authority:
Inflicts a severe injury on a human being without provocation on public or private property; or
Aggressively bites, attacks, or endangers the safety of humans without provocation after the dog has been classified as a potentially dangerous dog and after the owner has been notified of such classification.
An exception to this rule is a K9 dog being used to carry out a law enforcement officer’s official duties.
What is the One-Bite Rule and Resulting Liability?
In some states, after a dog has bitten a person for the first time, they can be deemed potentially dangerous by an appropriate authority. The owner should be notified of that status, at which time they must take appropriate measures to secure their animal and can be held liable for a subsequent bite.
This “One-Bite Rule” is a common law rule, so many states – including Georgia – have elected to either reject or modify it by writing their own statute or case law. While it does not designate whether it should occur after the first, third or tenth bite, Georgia’s definition of a dangerous dog (O.C.G.A. 4-8-21) addresses the matter. Much like the “One-Bite Rule,” it indicates that if a dog has been classified as potentially dangerous and the owner has been notified of the classification, the owner may be held liable in the event of a subsequent dog bite.
What Kind of Compensation Can I Expect After an Attack?
Dog bites fall under the category of a Personal Injury. Therefore, you may file a dog bite lawsuit (aka personal injury claim) against the dog’s owner for negligence. If the court finds in your favor, you may be compensated for any of the following that resulted from your dog bite: medical care including surgeries and tests, medications, physical therapy, lost wages and lost earning potential, as well as pain, suffering, and mental anguish.
How Can a Dog Bite Lawyer Help After an Attack?
Much like other Personal Injury cases like a car accident or slip and fall at a local business, a dog bite lawsuit can be convoluted and challenging. That is particularly true of instances when the onus falls on you to prove that the dog owner was negligent. You’ll want to team up with an experienced personal injury attorney, like those found at The Edmonson Law Firm. Not only can we help you gather the necessary information to present a solid case, but we can also ensure that – if the case falls in your favor – you are appropriately compensated for your dog bite lawsuit.
If you or a member of your family has been attacked by a dog and incurred injuries, we urge you to seek medical care immediately to ensure your wounds are appropriately treated and documented. As soon as you are able, contact the capable dog bite lawyers at The Edmonson Law Firm, even if it’s just to assess whether or not you have a case. To schedule your FREE CONSULTATION, call us at 678-271-9111, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, fill out our secure online contact form, or drop by the The Edmonson Law Firm offices – located at 924 Gainesville Hwy, Suite 200, in Buford, GA.