It has been reported that there are twelve deaths per year that are the result of dog bites around the nation. While each factual circumstance of a case may differ, it is helpful to understand dog bite laws in Atlanta, Georgia.
A dog bite can cause serious harm, including nerve damage or disfigurement, and may require expensive medical treatment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 4.5 million people suffer dog bites annually, making these events fairly common. A skilled Atlanta dog bite lawyer at Bethune Law Firm can help you if you were hurt in Georgia. State laws regarding dog bites are fairly complex, and our personal injury lawyers are equipped to help you understand your position and guide you in deciding how to proceed.
What Should I Do After a Dog Bite in Atlanta, GA?
If you are the victim of a dog bite, the first thing to do is get as much information as necessary about the owner of the animal. You should also try and get as much information as you can about the dog. If you are familiar with dogs, you should take note of the breed, height, weight, color, and whether or not it was on a leash. If you are able to, take photographs for evidence.
You should also seek medical attention as soon as you can. Even if you think the bite is minor, animal bites are well-known to cause infection, and if you leave your wound untreated, the bite could lead to a serious injury. You may also not know if the dog has had its rabies vaccination, no matter what the owner may tell you. Further, medical attention will help preserve evidence by allowing the doctor to document the specific details of your wound.
While most dog bites may not be serious, there are those that can be severe, resulting in costly medical expenses. If you are bitten by a dog that was not being properly and responsibly supervised, you are entitled to explore a suit for compensation of medical bills, lost wages, lost future income, disfigurement, permanent injury, pain and suffering, and even lost future income.
Liability in an Atlanta Dog Bite Case
When it comes to determining liability, it is held that all dogs are innocent until proven otherwise, but once they do bite another person, the owner will be placed on notice that the animal is potentially dangerous and special precautions must be taken to ensure other people’s safety.
Even in instances where the owner of the dog is determined to have violated a local ordinance or behaved in such a way that gives rise to his or her liability, the owner may still attempt to defend his or her actions by claiming that the person that was bitten assumed the risk of interacting with the animal.
It is worth noting that the defense of assumption of the risk can hamper recovery when evidence shows that the victim chose a course of action with knowledge of the danger involved and while exercising his or her free choice as to whether or not to engage with the dog.
For example, if the victim took the decision to approach the dog and its owner in a community park and then proceeded to stroke the dog without the owner’s go-ahead, if that dog bites, a court could rule that the victim knew there was a risk in stroking an unknown dog and that he or she knowingly took that risk. In such a case, the victim will not be able to recover compensation against the owner.
Dog Owners Are Liable for Injuries in Atlanta, GA
Georgia has a specific dog bite law codified at O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7. The law provides two ways in which a person bitten by a dog may hold its owner responsible. The first requires the victim to prove several facets:
- The dog is vicious or dangerous;
- The owner acted carelessly or let the animal roam free off-leash;
- The dog injured the victim; and
- The victim did not provoke the animal.
Georgia courts have interpreted the first element to mean that the dog’s owner must have known the pet had vicious or dangerous tendencies, usually proven by evidence showing that it previously attacked another person. This can be a challenge, but an experienced dog bite lawyer can help search for information necessary to establish this fact.
Proving carelessness might be accomplished by showing that the owner lets a dog he or she knew was dangerous to interact with children, for example. Even having a potentially dangerous animal off-leash may be sufficient to meet this element.
As with other personal injury cases, causation is comprised of cause in fact and legal cause. In most dog bite cases, it can be established by showing that the bite caused the physical and financial harm that the victim has identified.
The final element also sometimes poses a challenge. Allegations that the injured person provoked the dog may be hard to disprove without the necessary evidence. Witness testimony, if it is available, is a good way to overcome this challenge.
The Law on Dog Bites in Atlanta, Georgia
Under our state’s law, there is a belief that dogs are harmless, so if someone is the victim of a dog bite, he or she must show that the dog owner had superior knowledge that the dog was not actually harmless.
The law in Georgia provides liability for dog bites under statue O.C.G.A 51-2-7 outlines the liability of dog owners and keepers of dangerous or vicious dogs and injuries caused by the dogs.
If you are the victim of a dog bite, unless there is evidence that the animal was not on a leash or not at heel at the time of the incident, you will need to prove that the dog was dangerous or vicious and that its owner either knew or should have known about its tendency to be dangerous.
It should be noted that the owner’s knowledge and the dog’s nature are separate issues, and proof of both is required for financial compensation. It is important that dog owners remember these components since superior knowledge of the dog’s nature is what provides proof of liability in such cases.
For instance, if a dog has previously been aggressive towards another person and the owner knew about the incident or would have known about it as a responsible pet owner, he or she will be held to have superior knowledge of the dog’s propensity. Therefore, in cases of dog bites in Atlanta, Georgia, the true test of liability is the dog owner’s superior knowledge of the temperament of the animal.
Dog Owners Violating the Leash Laws are also Accountable in Atlanta, Georgia
The second way to prove liability under Georgia law is by showing that the owner violated some kind of leash law. This could be a county, city, or other municipal ordinance that requires dogs to be leashed or even a rule that limits the length of dog leashes. The statute allows a violation of a leash law to establish the first and second elements above, thereby negating the need to show the dog’s dangerous propensity.
The victim must still establish causation and lack of provocation. If he or she can prove the case by using either method, he or she can collect damages for the physical, emotional, and financial injuries caused by the attack. These can extend to economic losses, like medical bills, and non-economic harm, like pain and suffering.
The Dangerous Dog Control Law
In our state, the Dangerous Dog Control Law necessitates that dangerous dogs be registered, placed within adequate enclosures and that owners purchase either a surety bond or an insurance policy against liability for personal injuries the dog may inflict.
According to O.C.G.A 4-8-20 to 4-8-30, a dangerous dog is defined as one that, according to the authority records, inflicts a severe injury on another person without being provoked and on a private or public property. A dangerous dog is further defined as one that attacks, bites, or endangers the safety of people without provocation after the animal has been classified as potentially dangerous and after its owner has been notified of the classification. The General Assembly aims to hold the owner of a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog solely liable for the injuries or even death of a person caused by the animal.
Contact an Experienced Dog Bite Lawyer in Atlanta, GA
Since Georgia’s dog bite laws generally put a substantial burden on victims, it is in their best interests to hire an experienced attorney. The experienced dog bite lawyer at Bethune Law Firm can help you assert your rights in Atlanta and throughout the state, if you have been hurt by a pet owner’s carelessness. He is able to gather evidence about a vicious dog, deal with insurance companies, and litigate your case, depending on the best course of action for you. To schedule a free consultation, call 404-875-7800 or fill out our contact form.
Contact a Skilled Atlanta Dog Bite Lawyer
Georgia victims of dog bites have a substantial burden, which is why it is a good idea to enlist the help of a dog bite attorney. A premises liability lawyer at Bethune Law Firm understands how to litigate such cases and can help you fight for the compensation you deserve if you have been hurt as the result of a dog owner’s negligence. Call the experienced dog bite lawyers at Bethune Law Firm or use the contact form to book a free consultation today and discuss the way forward for your dog bite case.