Dog Bite Liability Laws in Georgia

Written By: Lisa Bero

Date Posted: 06.04.24

Category: General

If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog in Georgia, it’s important to understand your legal rights. Georgia has strict dog bite liability laws that hold dog owners responsible when their animals cause injuries. A knowledgeable dog bite lawyer in Marietta, Georgia can help you navigate the legal process and pursue the compensation you deserve.

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Seeking Medical Treatment After a Dog Bite

If you’ve been bitten by a dog, your first priority should be seeking medical attention. Dog bites can cause severe infections, scarring, nerve damage, and psychological trauma. Be sure to keep copies of all medical bills and records related to your treatment, as these will be important evidence in your case.

Georgia’s Dog Bite Laws

Marietta Dog Bite Cases

Georgia has a combination of statutory law and case law that governs dog bite liability cases. Under GA’s dog bite statute (O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7), a dog owner can be liable for injuries caused by their animal if:

  • The dog is considered “vicious” or “dangerous.” This means the dog has previously bitten someone without provocation, has a history of aggressive behavior, or the owner knows the dog has a propensity to bite.
  • The dog was “at fault” for causing the injury by acting aggressively or not being properly restrained.
  • The injured person did not provoke the dog.

If these conditions are met, the dog owner can be held strictly liable for the victim’s injuries, even if the owner had no prior knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities. Strict liability means the owner is responsible regardless of whether they acted negligently in handling or restraining the dog.

In cases where the dog bite statute does not apply, Georgia’s negligence laws allow a victim to recover compensation if they can prove the owner failed to use reasonable care in controlling or restraining the animal. For example, if a dog with no history of aggression escapes from the owner’s property due to a broken fence and bites someone, the owner may be considered negligent.

Understanding the “One Bite Rule”

Understanding the One Bite Rule

Some states follow what is known as the “one bite rule,” meaning a dog owner is only held liable if they knew or should have known their dog was dangerous, typically because of a previous biting incident. However, Georgia’s dog bite statute has largely made this rule obsolete.

Even if a dog has never bitten anyone before, a Georgia dog owner can still be held strictly liable if the dog causes injury while at large or acting aggressively. Don’t let an insurance company or dog owner rely on the “one bite rule” to deny your valid claim.

Owner Defenses in Dog Bite Cases

In some cases, a dog owner may try to avoid liability by arguing the injured person provoked the dog or was trespassing at the time of the attack. However, Georgia law states that a lawful visitor on public or private property other than the owner’s has a right to be safe from dog attacks. Children under the age of 13 are presumed by law not to have provoked a dog.

If the attack occurred while the victim was on the dog owner’s property, the specific facts of the case become important. A person invited onto the property by the owner would likely have a strong case for holding the owner liable. But if the victim was trespassing without permission, it may be more difficult to prove owner liability unless the dog had known dangerous propensities.

An experienced Georgia dog bite lawyer can assess the specific circumstances of your case and build a strong argument for owner liability.

Reporting a Dangerous Dog

After a dog bite occurs, it’s important to report the incident to your local animal control department or public health office. In Georgia, a dog that has bitten someone must be reported to the authorities and quarantined for at least 10 days to monitor for signs of rabies.

Additionally, Georgia law (O.C.G.A § 4-8-21) allows a person to file a dangerous dog classification petition with the authorities if a dog:

  • Inflicts a serious injury on a person without provocation
  • Aggressively attacks and causes injury to a person in a place where the person is lawfully allowed to be
  • While off the owner’s property, kills a pet animal

If a court determines the dog is legally “dangerous,” the owner must comply with strict safety measures such as keeping the dog in a secure enclosure, posting warning signs, and muzzling the dog in public. Reporting a dangerous dog creates an official record of the animal’s behavior that can serve as crucial evidence in your injury case.

Damages in a Dog Bite Case

If you’ve been bitten by a dog in Georgia, you may be able to recover various types of damages depending on the extent of your injuries and the impact on your life. These damages may include:

Medical Expenses

If you’ve been bitten by a dog, you may need medical treatment for your injuries. This can include things like:

  • Going to the emergency room or urgent care
  • Having surgery to repair wounds or damaged tissue
  • Taking medications like antibiotics to prevent infection
  • Getting shots to prevent tetanus or rabies
  • Seeing a doctor for follow-up visits and check-ups
  • Doing physical therapy to help you heal and get back to normal
  • Talking to a counselor if you feel scared or traumatized after the attack

All of these medical services can be very expensive. But if the dog owner is held responsible for your injuries under Georgia law, they may have to pay for your treatment. It’s important to keep copies of all your medical bills and receipts. A dog bite lawyer can help you get the money you need to cover these costs.

Lost Income

Depending on how badly you were hurt, you might have to miss work for days, weeks, or even months after a dog bite. This can make it hard to pay your bills and support your family. If your injuries keep you from doing your job, the dog owner may owe you money for the paychecks you missed out on.

To get paid for lost income, you’ll need to prove how much work you missed and how much money you would have earned. Things like timesheets, pay stubs, and a note from your doctor saying you couldn’t work can help show this. A lawyer who knows the law can make sure you don’t get shortchanged by the insurance company.

Loss of Future Earnings

Sometimes, a dog bite is so severe that the victim can’t go back to the same job they had before. They may have permanent injuries or disabilities that make it hard or impossible to do the tasks they used to do. This can be especially tough if their job requires them to be active and use the injured part of their body, like an arm or leg.

When this happens, the victim has the right to get money for the paychecks they would have earned in the future if they hadn’t gotten hurt. This is called “loss of future earnings” or “lost earning capacity.”

Figuring out how much money the person would have made can be tricky. It depends on things like:

  • Their age and how many more years they would have worked
  • The kind of job they had and what skills it required
  • How much they were making before the injury
  • Their chances of getting promoted or earning more over time

In these cases, the dog bite lawyer might need to hire experts to help estimate the victim’s lost income. This can make a big difference in getting them all the money they deserve.

Pain and Suffering

It’s not just physical wounds that hurt after a dog attack. Many victims also go through a lot of mental pain and emotional suffering. They may have symptoms like:

  • Feeling anxious or afraid of dogs
  • Having nightmares or flashbacks of the attack
  • Not wanting to go outside or do things they enjoyed before
  • Feeling angry, sad, or depressed about what happened
  • Having trouble sleeping or concentrating
  • Straining relationships with family and friends

These struggles can be just as hard as the physical recovery process. That’s why Georgia law says dog bite victims can get money for their pain and suffering. But because you can’t see emotional injuries like you can see cuts and scars, it’s important to have a lawyer who can explain how much you’ve been through and push for fair compensation.

Scarring and Disfigurement

Dog bites can leave behind serious scars, especially when they happen on the face, arms, or legs. These scars may be painful, itchy, or numb. They can also make the victim feel self-conscious or embarrassed about how they look. Some bad scars need surgery to fix and may never fully go away.

Scars are about more than just looks, though. They are a permanent reminder of a frightening experience. Every time the victim sees their scars, they may relive the trauma of the attack. It can change how they feel about their body and their life.

Georgia law recognizes that scars and other disfigurements are a big deal. They can impact the victim’s quality of life in many ways. An experienced dog bite attorney will know how to document the scars with photos and medical records. They can also collect evidence of how the scars have affected the victim’s day-to-day activities, relationships, and emotional well-being. All of this helps show what the victim’s scars are really worth in terms of money damages.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life

One of the hardest parts of a serious dog bite injury is when it keeps you from doing the things you love. Maybe you can’t play sports anymore because of a mangled leg. Or you’re too afraid to go hiking or to the dog park like you used to. Even little things like gardening or giving your kids a bath can become difficult and joyless if you’re in constant pain.

This loss of enjoyment of life is a real harm that deserves real compensation. But it can be hard to put a price tag on it. How do you measure the value of a hobby you can no longer do or special moments with your family that you have to miss out on?

This is where a skilled dog bite lawyer can help. A lawyer can paint a picture of how your life has changed since the attack. They can talk to your friends and family members about the activities you used to love and how your personality may have changed. They can also use legal research and past case results to put a dollar figure on your lost enjoyment.

It’s not about replacing what you’ve lost – nothing can do that. But it’s about making sure the dog owner takes responsibility for all the ways their animal has impacted your life.

Property Damage

While it may seem minor compared to the physical and emotional injuries, property damage is another part of many dog bite cases. This can include things like:

  • Torn or bloodied clothing
  • Broken glasses or jewelry
  • Damaged cell phones or other electronics
  • Smashed bicycle or vehicle parts if you were riding or driving when attacked

You shouldn’t have to pay to fix or replace your belongings because of someone else’s dangerous dog. Keep any damaged items and get photos or repair estimates to show what it will cost to make you whole. Your lawyer can include these expenses as part of your overall demand to the dog owner or their insurance company.

In rare cases involving extreme misconduct by the dog owner, punitive damages may also be awarded to punish egregious behavior and deter future wrongdoing.

Valuing a dog bite claim requires careful analysis of your bills, receipts, medical records, pay stubs, and other documentation of your losses and expenses. An experienced Georgia dog bite attorney can help you assess the full scope of your damages and fight for the maximum compensation you’re owed.

Time Limits for Filing a Dog Bite Lawsuit

Under Georgia’s statute of limitations (O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33), you generally have two years from the date of a dog bite to file a personal injury lawsuit against the owner. If you fail to file suit within this time window, the court will likely dismiss your case.

However, certain factors may extend or toll the deadline, such as if the victim was a minor at the time of the attack or if the dog owner concealed their identity. Don’t make assumptions about your filing deadline. Consult with a Georgia dog bite lawyer as soon as possible to protect your right to compensation.

Don’t Delay – Contact a Georgia Dog Bite Attorney Today

If you or someone you love has been attacked by a dog, don’t wait to seek legal guidance. The sooner you involve a knowledgeable Georgia dog bite lawyer, the better your chances of recovering the compensation you need to heal and move forward with your life.

Remember, you have the right to hold negligent or reckless dog owners accountable when their animals cause harm. Georgia’s strict liability dog bite laws are designed to protect innocent victims like you. But you need a skilled attorney on your side to assert your rights and fight for the justice you deserve.

Contact a dedicated personal injury attorney today for a free case evaluation. Let an experienced legal advocate handle the stresses of your claim while you focus on your physical and emotional recovery. You’ve been through enough – now let a caring professional fight for the compensation and closure you need to put this traumatic experience behind you.

About the Author

Lisa Bero is a personal injury attorney at The Champion Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C..