Dog bite statistics show that dog attacks are very common, with over 4 million incidents a year.
Whether you’re a dog owner or someone who’s encountered an aggressive dog, it’s important to know some facts about dog bite laws in Georgia.
Dog bite laws vary from state to state, so one shouldn’t assume a law that stands elsewhere applies to Georgians.
Here, we’ll explain how the law applies to dog owners and victims of dog attacks and what you should do if you’re involved in a dog attack incident.
Do Dog Bite Laws Hold Owners Responsible?
The state of Georgia requires negligent dog owners to give compensation to dog attack victims. However, in order to prove the owner’s liability, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the dog owner was aware that the animal in their possession was dangerous.
In other words, if a dog owner knew that their dog had bitten someone previously or had failed to restrain the dog properly, they can be held liable.
What is the One Bite Rule?
The “one bite rule” states that an owner is held liable for damages caused by their dog if they were aware of its vicious nature. A dog is considered vicious under the one bite rule if it has bitten another person in the past.
Georgia uses a modified version of this rule, where a dog can also be deemed vicious if the owner was negligent in restraining the dog or the attack was unprovoked.
A dog owner may also be held liable if it can be shown they violated local ordinances, such as a requirement for a muzzle or leash.
To put it plainly, victims of dog attacks in Georgia are more likely to receive compensation in many circumstances, as it is easier to show that a dog is dangerous.
Rather than needing to show evidence of a past attack, proof that an owner simply should have known their dog was dangerous is sufficient.
Do Other Factors Determine if a Dog is Dangerous?
In Georgia, a dog is considered harmless until proven otherwise. That means a dog’s breed alone is not enough to win a case against a dog owner.
Many people will argue that pit bulls, for example, are by nature dangerous dogs—however, courts in Georgia will disagree.
A dog does not necessarily need to bite someone in order to be considered vicious. Some of the following aggressive actions may also be enough to determine the owner liable for damages:
- Charging at people and animals
- Attempting to escape its restraint to attack someone
- Excessive barking or snarling
- Other threatening behavior
A dog doesn’t need to succeed in biting someone to be proven dangerous. If the plaintiff can prove that a dog attempted to attack someone in the past, then the court will likely determine the owner should have known it was a dangerous dog.
How Do I Prove Liability in a Dog Bite Case?
There are two ways to hold a dog owner liable for a dog attack. The first of these involves proving the following four points:
- The attack actually occurred.
- The dog is vicious or dangerous.
- The victim did not provoke the dog.
- The owner was negligent or careless in restraining the dog.
There are various ways to establish points 2 and 4. A victim and their lawyer may look at hospital, police, or animal control records to determine if the dog had a history of aggressive behavior.
Testimony from neighbors or other victims may also be helpful.
The second method of proving a dog owner liable is showing the owner violated a law about restraining the dog. Georgia law states:
“…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.”
Under these circumstances, a victim does not need to prove that the dog was vicious or that the owner should have known the dog was dangerous.
If the owner let their animal roam free in an area where leashing was required, they are liable for damages caused by an attack.
Are There Any Exceptions to Liability for Dog Bite Laws?
There are some exceptions to liability for attack cases. Military and police dog bites are exempt, as are dog attacks during which the victim was trespassing or attempting to commit a crime.
Young children, however, may be exempt from the trespassing exception.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Dog Bite Victims?
If a dog has attacked you, a personal injury lawyer may be able to help you receive compensation. Dealing with the pain of dog bite injuries and pursuing litigation can be overwhelming—an experienced law firm will help lighten the load.
A dog bite lawyer will assist in the following:
- Documenting the full extent of your dog bite injury
- Establishing the liable party or parties
- Gathering evidence of negligence
- Calculating and negotiating a fair compensation amount
Damages awarded for a dog bite case should take into consideration factors including:
- Medical bills and future care cost
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Emotional distress
Cobb Personal Injury is a personal injury law firm in Georgia with many years of experience in dog bite cases. We have represented many victims and their families, helping them pursue the right to fair compensation for their injuries.
Visit our website or call today and speak with a personal injury attorney who will listen to you, review your case, and help you understand your legal options. We provide free consultations and do not collect payment from you unless your case is successful.