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Atlanta Dog Bites Lawyer
Animal attacks are a frequent occurrence in Georgia. Nationally, over 4.5 million people are bitten each year by dogs and over 800,000 people seek medical attention, half of those being children. Many states have statutes that impose strict liability on dog owners (e.g., Arizona, California, & Colorado), which generally mean that owners are responsible for injuries that are caused by their dogs, regardless of whether an owner knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous.
This raises an important question: Who is legally liable for a dog bite injury? In Georgia, the answer depends on a number of different factors. In this article, our Atlanta dog bite injury lawyer explains the most important things to know about our state’s dog bite liability statute. Our investigations into dog bite-related injuries discovered the following evidence needs to be considered in the claim:
- Identification of where the dog was acquired and any training it had prior to the incident.
- Identification of the dog’s veterinarian. The veterinarian will produce (after a subpoena) the records of the dog. These records can be vitally important in showing prior knowledge. For example, a vet’s tech might note that the dog snapped while the owner was present.
- Identification of the dog owner’s neighbors. Once we can identify the dog owner’s neighbors, we can send a private investigator to canvass the neighborhood to see if the dog owner’s neighbors have had any prior incidents with the dog.
- Were the police, animal control, or paramedics ever called to the dog owner’s house before the subject incident? Generally, we can obtain this information through a Freedom of Information Act Request.
Four Things to Know About the Dog Bite Laws in Georgia
Following an attack by a dog, it is crucial that victims and their families know how to navigate the dog bite laws. Here, our Atlanta dog bite attorney highlights four important things to understand about the dog bite liability laws in Georgia.
- Georgia is Not a Strict Liability State for Dog Bites
Some jurisdictions impose strict liability on dog owners. In these states, a dog owner can be held liable for dog bite injuries without a finding of negligence or wrongdoing. However, Georgia is not a strict liability jurisdiction. Our state operates under another type of legal standard that is sometimes called the one-bite rule.
- Georgia’s One-Bite Rule is a Misnomer
In so-called “one bite” states, a dog owner is liable for injuries caused by their animal if they have reason to know that their dog is dangerous. It is sometimes known as the one-bite rule because each dog gets “one bite” before a higher standard of care is imposed on the owner. However, that is not quite accurate. A dog may be a “dangerous dog” in Georgia even if it never actually bit a person in the past. Dog owners can be held liable for failing to take proper care to protect the public from a dog that has displayed aggressive behavior toward people.
- Georgia Holds Dog Owners Liable for Bites In Violation of Local Leash Law
In Georgia, a dog owner is also legally liable for a bite if it happens while an animal—and its owner—is in violation of a local leash law. Many municipalities in Georgia have leash laws. For example, the City of Atlanta requires all dogs to be leashed while in public unless they are inside the confines of a designated dog park.
- Georgia has a Two-Year Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Injury Claims
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for dog bite injury claims is two years. If a personal injury lawsuit is not filed within two years, the case can be dismissed on procedural grounds. That being said, victims and their families should be prepared to act quickly after a serious attack by a dog. The dog owner and their insurer should be notified. Immediate medical attention is a must. Infections are a major risk associated with dog bites. The sooner you consult with an Atlanta dog bite injury attorney, the better position you will be in to bring a claim.
Dog Owners Must Protect the Public from a Dangerous Animal
Dog owners have a legal duty to protect people from risks posed by their animals. Under Georgia state law (Ga. Code § 4-8-20), a dog owner is strictly liable for injuries caused by a dangerous/vicious animal. If a dog owner knew or should have known that their dog posed a risk to public safety, they will be liable for any resulting attack.
A Non-Owner May Also Be Liable for a Dog Bite
In Georgia, parties other than the dog owner may also be legally liable for an animal attack. To hold a non-owner—business, apartment complex, etc.—legally responsible for a dog bite, you need to prove negligence. Georgia defines negligence broadly as the failure to take due care. An experienced Atlanta, GA dog bite injury lawyer can investigate your case and help you gather relevant evidence.
Local Ordinances May Also Impact that Case
While dog bite injury claims are governed by state law, local law may also affect your rights. As an example, Atlanta has a municipal ordinance in place that requires dogs to be leashed in many circumstances. A dog owner that violates a local leash law in Georgia may be strictly liable for a bite.
An Atlanta Dog Bite Lawyer Will Help You Secure Compensation
Following an attack by a dog, you need money to pay bills and support your family. Unfortunately, the insurance companies that handle most dog bite injury cases can make it hard to get the full payout you and your family need. An Atlanta dog bite lawyer can help. Depending on the nature of the case, dog bite injury compensation may be awarded for:
- Ambulance fees and emergency room care;
- Hospital bills and other health care costs;
- Physical therapy and mental health support;
- Lost wages and loss of long-term earning power;
- Pain and suffering & mental anguish;
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement;
- Physical disability or impairment; and
- Wrongful death of a family member.
Dangerous Dog Breeds
All dogs can be dangerous if they aren’t trained properly, are neglected, or worse abused. There are some breeds of dogs that have a higher chance of attacking people and can do some serious damage.
A study was conducted tracking dog attacks between 2005 to 2017. They reported that dogs killed 433 Americans during this time period. In the study, it was found that 70% of all dog attacks happen to children under the age of 10.
While pit bulls can be wonderful loveable family members, they have the highest rate of fatal dog attacks. Pit bulls make up about 6% of all dogs in the United States, yet account for approximately 66% of all fatal dog attacks.
Rottweilers have incredibly strong jaws, just like Pit Bulls. They form deep bonds with the families they live with but can become aggressive with visitors they don’t know. Rottweiler attacks claimed the lives of 45 people during the aforementioned study.
Historically German Shepards have been used by law enforcement departments and the military. They can tend to be territorial and aggressive defend their homes and owners. During the study, German Shepards claimed the lives of 20 people.
These powerful working animals can jump with enough force to known down an adult. During the study, they were responsible for 15 fatal attacks. The average size for an American Bulldog is about 100lbs and 30 inches high.
Bullmastiffs are fearless, focused, and loyal, which is why so many people cherish them. They are famous for being amazing guard dogs, but if they are not trained properly when they are young they often will attack strangers. The study showed that they killed 15 people.
Siberian Huskies look a lot like wolves, and on occasion act like them. Famous for being powerful sled dogs across Canada and in Alaska, they are incredibly strong. Attacks from them are often triggered by a predatory instinct. Smaller animals, children, or other humans can be attacked under these circumstances. During the study, they accounted for 13 human fatalities.
Common Reasons Dogs Attack
They say fear is a motivator, and it’s true with dog attacks. The vast majority of dog attacks are rooted in being scared. There is a threshold for how threatened a dog can be before it bites. Sometimes it can be someone just too close to the yard, other times it can be when someone is getting too close to them.
Sleeping dogs are pretty cute, but they can be dangerous. Attacks happen often as dogs are being touched or crowded while still waking up. They may not understand what’s going on and attack out of fear.
Protecting People or Property
For a lot of people having a dog is about having a guard dog. An animal that will be at home while they’re not to defend the fort. This is a great characteristic until they attack visitors, like the postal service. Dogs can also attack people who try to take away their belongings (such as toys, treats, or food).
Dogs who feel uncomfortable or trapped may attack out of frustration. This can happen in enclosed spaces and even while walking the dog on a leash. If they can’t go where they want they may bite whatever, or whoever is holding them back.
When They Are In Pain
Older and injured dogs are known for attacking. It’s overwhelming for them to be in pain or sick. It’s critical to tell family and friends if your dog is hurting so they don’t get bit. It’s incredibly dangerous to try to move an injured dog, so do so with caution.
Accidents While Playing
Mouthing is a form of light biting that’s normal when dogs play with other dogs. Their mouths are their primary way of exploring the world around them. There are situations where dogs become frustrated while playing and can bite too hard and cause injuries.
9 Common Types of Injuries
While not all dog attacks result in significant injuries, a lot of them do. The most common types of injuries sustained from dog attacks are:
- Punctured or broken skin
- Broken bones
- Head and neck injuries
- Eye injuries
- Injuries to the face
- Tissue damage
- Nerve damage
When a Dog Bites
Many dog bites incurred each year can be prevented by learning or being taught some basic dog safety skills such as not running from a dog and avoiding direct eye contact with an aggressive dog. Those who do get bitten can suffer a variety of different injuries. Some of the more serious injuries include open fractures, infections including osteomyelitis, and nerve laceration. Medical expenses associated with dog or other animal attacks can be quite high, depending upon the nature of the injury.
Contact Our Atlanta Dog Bite Injury Attorney Today
At Ponton Law, our Atlanta dog bite injury lawyer specializes in trial litigation and catastrophic injury claims. If you or your child was attacked by a dangerous dog, we are here to help you secure justice and compensation. Call us now or use our confidential contact form for a free review of your case. From our law office in Atlanta, we represent dog bite injury victims throughout North Georgia.