What Are Georgia’s Dog Bite Laws?
Georgia’s dog bite law, as dictated by O.C.G.A. 51-2-7, states a dog or animal owner can be held liable for any injuries their pet causes if:
- The animal is “vicious or dangerous.”
- They are careless with restraining the animal (such as not having it in a fenced backyard or on a leash).
- It can be proven that the person who was bitten or injured didn’t provoke the dog or animal.
How Do You Prove a Dog Is Vicious?
The majority of pet owners would never characterize their dog as “vicious.” Dog owners are accustomed to receiving unconditional love and affection from their pets, and many can’t fathom the possibility that their dog would attack another person. To the pet owner, their dog is anything but vicious.
That’s why Georgia law further clarifies the vicious categorization, saying it is “sufficient to show that the animal was required to be at heel or on a leash by an ordinance,” and “said animal was at the time of the occurrence not at heel or on a leash.”
This particular wording is relatively plaintiff-friendly. You could be bitten by the sweetest dog in the world, but if it weren’t at the heel or leashed in an area where it was required by local leash laws, such as in the street or a public park, it would meet the vicious or dangerous threshold.
Animal-related injuries covered by Georgia’s statutes aren’t exclusive to dog bites. If a large dog were to jump on you or one of your children, knocking them over and causing an injury, the same statute would apply.
How Dog Owners Can Defend Against Dog Bite Allegations
Dog bite cases can get complicated quickly in certain scenarios. Although the law grants the plaintiff the benefit in terms of automatically categorizing some dogs as vicious if they aren’t correctly leashed or heeled where it’s required by law, Georgia is still a negligence dog bite state.
That means owners get the benefit of the doubt (especially in a first-bite situation) that they didn’t know the dog was “vicious or dangerous” and, therefore, shouldn’t be held liable for the injuries.
This can come into play in a scenario where you’re walking down the sidewalk, and a dog owner and their leashed dog are coming towards you.
If the owner was doing nothing negligent and the dog decides to bite you as you pass by, your case can get a lot more complicated. The dog owner wasn’t necessarily being careless in the restraint of their animal. If it’s a first-bite situation, they can argue they had no idea the dog was “vicious or dangerous” prior to this bite incident.
Provocation is another critical defense that can complicate dog bite cases. These cases can quickly devolve into “he said, she said” scenarios where it’s the plaintiff’s word against the dog owner’s take on events.
What is clear is the dog owner can’t be held liable if the injured person provoked the animal. If you were shouting at the dog or the owner, throwing things at the animal, or otherwise taking actions that upset the dog, made it scared or defensive, and caused it to attack, the dog owner won’t be held liable.
Grey Areas and Difficult Cases
Dog attacks that occur on the owner’s property can be particularly complex. For example, if you’re a guest at a friend’s house and their dog bites you, liability can be harder to prove. Their dog isn’t necessarily required to be restrained or at heel in their own home, in which case viciousness has to be established based on the dog owner’s knowledge about the dog’s past vicious behavior.
Unless there is a specific record of the dog having bitten someone in the past, it can be challenging to get the dog owner to acknowledge they knew their dog was vicious and a danger to others.
This is again a situation where provocation can be argued. What if you accidentally stepped on the dog’s tail? Were you grabbing something near its food or favorite toy? What the court will and will not construe as provocation can vary on a case-by-case basis.
Trespasser injuries are also a grey area. There’s nothing in the Georgia dog bite statutes that specifically says dog bite liability laws don’t apply to trespassers. There could be a scenario where someone seeks damages after climbing the fence into your backyard and is bitten by your dog.
That being said, provocation is often easier to prove in these scenarios, and Georgia does have separate liability laws that limit how much trespassers can recover if they’re injured on a property they don’t have permission to enter.
What Should a Dog Bite Victim Do After an Incident?
If you’re the victim of a dog bite, your immediate focus should be on seeking medical attention. Dog bite injuries can be just as serious as any other physical wound, and professional medical attention should take precedence over anything else.
Once your injuries are treated and you start to feel better, it’s time to assess the situation and determine how best to proceed. You might want to explore filing a dog bite claim so that you can get compensated for both your medical bills and related expenses.
A personal injury attorney with experience in dog bite cases can be an excellent resource for you. Not only will they have the expertise to help build a case and recover damages, but they can also help you navigate the complexities of a dog bite claim.
It can be intimidating to enter into legal proceedings against a dog owner. Still, it is essential to remember that Georgia’s laws do provide lots of protection for victims in these cases. If a dog attacked you, and the owner was negligent in any way, you are likely entitled to some level of compensation.
If you’re considering filing a dog bite claim, here are a few essential tips to remember:-
- Don’t wait: Dog bite cases can be time-sensitive, so it’s essential to act quickly after the incident occurs.
- Gather evidence: Take photos of your injury and any other relevant information that could help build your case.
- Talk to witnesses: If there were people who saw what happened, they may be able to provide valuable information.
- Seek help: An experienced personal injury attorney can walk you through the process and help maximize your chances for a successful claim.
Has A Dog bitten you?
If you or a loved one have been injured by a dangerous dog, especially if that dog wasn’t properly leashed in a public space where it’s required, you may be entitled to compensation. The Dressie Law Firm is ready to defend your rights and fight for the money you need to recover financially and physically. Call us at 770-756-6333 to schedule a consultation.