In general, there are two ways dog bite laws work in the United States. Some states hold the owner directly responsible for any bad behavior the dog demonstrates, while others hold the owner legally responsible only if that owner was aware of their dog’s vicious propensities. The type of law that applies can greatly affect victims’ legal cases and financial recoveries.
Georgia dog bite laws fall into the second category. However, this does not mean you will not be able to seek compensation for your medical care and other damages following a bite. That will depend greatly on the facts of your case. A personal injury attorney can help you understand your options.
Understanding Georgia’s Laws About Dog Bites
Georgia’s dog bite laws are codified under O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7. Under these laws, the dog’s owner or handler must be aware that it is “vicious” to hold them legally responsible. This, in theory, means the dog could bite one person with no consequences. This is when the owner would learn of their dog’s bad behavior. An additional bite would be covered by the state dog bite statute.
However, Georgia law goes a step further than some states with similar laws. The statute also includes the detail:
“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.”
This means that a violation of local leash laws or failing to keep the animal under control when off their own property is enough to show the dog had vicious propensities, regardless of previous behavior. In effect, if the owner was not responsibly handling their canine when the attack occurred, and this violated a law, the owner is legally liable for any injuries under Georgia’s dog bite statute.
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Negligence and Holding the Dog’s Owner Legally Responsible
Most violations of the Georgia dog bite laws and civil cases based on attacks depend on the victim’s ability to prove the owner was negligent in controlling their dog, either by leash or voice command. Proving negligence in these cases requires:
- Showing they owed a duty of care to the victim, usually because of a local leash law when the dog was off its property
- Proving they violated this duty of care
- Showing their lack of control of their dog caused or allowed the attack to occur
- Proving the victim suffered physical, psychological, and financial damages as a result
Dog Bite Injuries Often Require Medical Care
Some people may think of dog bite injuries as minor punctures or scrapes, but they can vary widely in severity. In addition, most dog bites that break the skin require a trip to the doctor, if not the emergency department. Puncture wounds can easily become infected because of the bacteria in a dog’s mouth. They need to be cleaned, and antibiotics may be prescribed.
In more serious cases, hospitalization, surgery, skin grafts, and reconstruction may be necessary. Some injuries suffered in dog bites and attacks include:
- Broken bones
- Loss of fingers, hands, ears, and other appendages
- Significant scarring and disfigurement, often of the hands and face
- Damage to soft tissue, including muscle, tendon, and ligaments
- Serious bleeding
Children and the elderly are at an increased risk for serious injuries from a dog bite. If you, your parent, or your child is bitten, and the bite breaks the skin, dial 911. Report the bite incident to the police and ask for paramedics. First responders can determine if your injuries require a trip to the emergency room or if you need to see your doctor.
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How Can I Hold the Dog’s Owner Legally Responsible After a Bite Incident?
The best way to learn more about your legal options following a canine attack is to discuss your case with a dog bite lawyer. Personal injury law firms that know how to prove negligence and document damages usually handle these cases. They may be able to help you recover monetary damages to pay for:
- Medical assessment and treatment
- Prescription drugs
- Surgery (if necessary)
- Future related medical care
- Psychological counseling
- Lost wages and other income
- Pain and suffering
- Other intangible losses
Dog bite lawyers generally provide free consultations for victims and may represent you with no upfront costs and no attorney’s fees unless you win.
Talk to Bader Scott Injury Lawyers About Your Options Today
A team member from Bader Scott Injury Lawyers can sit down with you to discuss your case for free today. We will assess your options with you and talk about how we might approach your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. We can answer your questions and explain our services. Reach out to learn more today.