Personal Injury

Marietta Dog Bite Accident Injury Attorney

Georgia Law On Dog Bites And Animal Attacks

In Georgia, the liability laws concerning a dog or a vicious/dangerous animal attack can be confusing. The first important thing to know is that thankfully dog/animal owners in Georgia are frequently held responsible for attacks committed by their dogs/animals, but it can be a long and difficult path to prove.

In general, if there is reasonable evidence that the owner had knowledge of the dog/animal’s tendency to lunge, bite, or show harmful aggression, then they can be held liable for attacks by that dog/animal. You have probably heard something about the “one bite” rule. This is a shorthand way of saying that once a dog owner knows about “one bite” by the animal, then he or she is responsible for any bites thereafter, but not before. A more legal way of saying this general rule is that an owner of an animal (such as a dog) will only be responsible for injuries caused by that animal if the owner actually knew (or should have known under the circumstances) about the animals inclination to do harmful things because of that animal’s harmful or aggressive behavior in the past.

Cases where the owner knows about the animal’s prior harmful behavior are, not surprisingly, sometimes difficult to prove because owners are often reluctant to admit knowledge about the animal’s previous behavior (call it a convenient memory, if you will). So, if it’s difficult to show knowledge about a prior “one bite,” can the owner still be held responsible for injuries inflicted by that animal? The answer is yes, but you really should consult with an attorney because Georgia law can be tricky with regard to this question.

Marietta Animal Bite Accident Injury Attorney

For example, the main Georgia statute for holding someone responsible for an attack by his or her dog/animal is O.C.G.A., Section 51-2-7 which states:

  • 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.

Holding an owner responsible for an attack by his animal under this law can be complicated because there are often no witnesses to the attack itself. Nonetheless, under this Georgia law, a person who violates an animal control law/ordinance can usually be held responsible under the doctrine of negligence per se (which is a fancy way of saying since they violated a local or State law, they can be held responsible for the attack). A violation of state or local law is an often overlooked “cause of action” in the field of dog bite law; yet, it is a very viable means to get around any prior case law which requires that the owner have knowledge about at least “one bite” by the animal.

Marietta Animal Bite Accident Injury Law Firm

Of course, the cornerstone of any negligence per se law is the violation of a local animal control law, such as a leash law, prohibition against dogs running at large, or prohibition against dogs trespassing. These are often found in municipal and county codes. Just as importantly, the key elements of negligence per se in a dog bite case generally are (a) there was a local law in effect at the time of the attack, (b) the intent of local law was to protect fellow residents from animal attacks (c) the owner of the animal violated the law without any legal excuse, (d) the victim was actually hurt by the animal/dog, and (e) the attack would not have happened if the owner had not violated the local law. The State of Georgia is not unique with regard to this type of law as virtually all of the states hold, in one way or another, that violation of a leash law and/or other animal control laws are a proper way to hold an owner responsible for an attack by their dog/animal.

Ultimately, it’s important that you consult a legal professional for these types of cases. The experienced professionals at Christopher L. Phillips Law Group are prepared to manage your case and guide you through these complicated questions of law and proving damages. A negligent dog owner can and should be held responsible when someone is hurt. At Christopher L. Phillips Law Group, consultations are free and non committal, so you have nothing to lose.

Emotional Distress After The Attack

Victims of animal attacks often suffer terrible emotional distress and/or PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder). The National Center for PTSD defines PTSD as a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or an assault. In short, it’s normal to have upsetting memories, flashbacks, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after this type of mental trauma to the point where these problems become debilitating.

Incredibly, victims of an animal attack are often re-victimized by the careless or intentional actions of the animal owner after the attack as occurred. For example, shocking as it may be, but it is a fairly common occurrence for a dog owner to intentionally let the attacking dog out, without a leash, when that same adult or child victim comes home and/or walks onto a playground. Such negligent or intentional confrontations with a known animal attack victim can be grounds for claims of assault, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. These separate “causes of action” should entitle the victim to compensation. Just as importantly, such actions may very well turn a jury against an owner.

Common Defenses Thrown Up To Avoid Liability

As one should expect, anytime an animal owner gets sued for an attack by his animal, then frequently “everyone and everything” will be blamed by that owner for the attack except, of course, their own action or inaction. Common defenses can include a whole host of things including such accusations as (a) it’s the victim’s fault because he/she provoked the animal (b) the attack victim was trespassing (c) the victim was committing a crime against the dog owner (d) the victim knew what he or she was doing and “assumed the risk” of being attacked or bitten (e) the victim was a professional who “assumed the risk” of attack (f) or the attacking animal was a police or military dog in the course and scope of its work.

Naturally, these types of defenses can be asserted in many different ways. Further, victims of animal attacks, particularly in Georgia, will likely be subject to the defense of comparative and/or contributory negligence (which is a legal way of saying that the percentage of liability assigned to the owner will be reduced by the percentage of liability assigned to the dog bite victim). Finally, even when a victim’s claim is based entirely upon a dog bite statute like the one discussed above, you should expect the owner to likely fashion a defense by parsing and “hairsplitting” the wording of the statute itself to the point of being ridiculous.

We Can Help!

As discussed above, the old saying that “every dog gets one free bite” is not a correct summary of dog bite law in the State of Georgia. Even in States such as Georgia which follow a “one bite” rule, a dog bite victim still has a number of legal paths which may lead to recovery for injuries caused by an animal attack.

A “dog bite” lawyer has to have a working knowledge of the law which controls how one can recover damages for an animal attack. Further, in this day and age of city living, dog bites are extremely common, but victims often don’t receive legal recovery for their injuries because so many victims fail to file a claim or lawsuit against the insurance companies which collect premiums to pay compensation for these exact type of cases. Finally, animal attack cases typically have a short statute of limitations, which varies by state. In Georgia, the expiration date is 2 years. In other words, if a case is not filed within 2 years after the attack, the claim is likely to be thrown out in court.

Don’t wait: reach out to Christopher L. Phillips Law Group today if you’ve suffered a dog bite or dog attack. Call or visit online to schedule a free consultation. There’s no need to worry about your legal rights when you suffer a personal injury—Christopher L. Phillips Law Group will earn you the compensation you deserve.

At Christopher L. Phillips Law Group, we have the experience, knowledge and compassion you need for the results you deserve