Georgia Dog Bite Laws
Dog attacks on adults and children are all too common in Georgia and throughout the country. Every day in the United States, about 1,000 people require emergency care treatment due to severe dog bite injuries, according to DogsBite.org. Every year, over 14,000 Americans are hospitalized due to injuries caused by dogs.
Dog bites are traumatic experiences and, in extreme cases, can even be life-threatening. The physical, emotional, and financial aftermath of a dog bite can be devastating for the victim.
Spaulding Injury Law has over 25 years of experience handling dog bite claims in Georgia. We understand the complex laws involved in these cases and the elements the injured party needs to prove liability.
Dog attacks typically trace back to some form of negligence on the part of the owner. This could include failing to keep the dog properly leashed, failing to supervise the animal when near children, or placing a dog known to be aggressive in a situation where it might attack.
If you have been bitten by someone else’s dog in Georgia, the attorneys at Spaulding Injury Law will be ready to help you understand your rights and legal options. Call us now to set up a time to speak with one of our Georgia dog bite attorneys during a free case evaluation.
What Are the Laws on Dog Bites in Georgia?
Georgia’s laws concerning liability for dog bites are found in Georgia Code Title 51, Chapter 2, Sections 6 and 7. Section 6 states that if an owner’s animal kills or injures any livestock, they will be liable for all costs incurred due to the attack. Section 7 covers vicious animals, which can pertain to dogs, and the injuries caused by them. Anyone who owns a vicious animal that causes injury to another individual who does not provoke the animal, may be liable for the injured person’s damages.
The common law elements to Georgia’s dog bite laws are known as the “first bite rule,” which means that before the dog owner can be held liable, they must have known that their animal has the propensity to attack someone. While it is known as the first bite rule, the dog does not have to actually bite someone before the owner knows it is dangerous, but there has to be some evidence of it being an aggressive dog.
Georgia’s dog bite laws are complicated, and it’s not always easy for dog bite victims to meet the requirements for liability. The Georgia dog bite lawyers at Spaulding Injury Law are ready to walk you through the legal process involved with your dog bite cases, answering all your questions along the way. We will apply our skills, resources, and experience in helping you maximize your chances of recovering the full and fair compensation you deserve.
What Does It Mean That Georgia Is a Negligence Dog Bite State?
Georgia is a “negligence” dog bite state, which means that a dog owner must be aware of their animal’s propensity to attack in order for them to be held liable for the victim’s injuries. If the dog owner claims they had no prior knowledge of dangerous behavior, it could be very difficult to prove liability. However, if the dog owner allowed their pet to roam freely without a leash in a city where an ordinance requires one, this could be enough to prove negligence.
Nearly all personal injury cases hinge on the concept of negligence. For the injury victim, or plaintiff, to succeed in their lawsuit, they must prove that the defendant was negligent. According to the OCGA 51-2-7, a dog bite victim must prove the following three elements:
- The dog is vicious or dangerous.
- The owner carelessly managed the dog, which led to the victim’s injury.
- The injured individual did nothing to provoke the dog to attack.
It’s important to note that Georgia has a two-year statute of limitations on dog bite lawsuits. This means that if you were the victim of a dog attack, you have two years from the date of the attack to file a lawsuit seeking damages.
Do Counties and Cities in Georgia Have Their Own Dog Laws?
In most Georgia counties, there are statutes on the books to govern dog ownership. While Georgia does not have a statewide leash law, the vast majority of Georgia counties have laws that stipulate how and when a dog must be restrained. Some laws state that confining a dog to your property requires a fence and that any dog which is loose and unattended will be impounded by animal control officers.
Some cities have ordinances relating to certain breeds. For instance, College Park has an ordinance that deems Pit Bulls, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds as “potentially dangerous.” Lawrenceville and LaGrange have ordinances restricting Pit Bulls and setting special regulations for residents who want to own one.
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Insurance Rules and Regulations Related to Homeowners’ Insurance
Homeowners’ insurance typically covers property damage to the home, contents and personal belongings, reimbursements for the additional cost to live at another place if the home is damaged, and personal liability to protect from a lawsuit from others who suffered injury on the property. As with car insurance, homeowners’ insurance can be canceled by the insurer for any reason during the first 60 days of the policy. However, a 10-day termination notice must be given by mail.
After 60 days, Georgia law restricts cancellation. This is known as the “term period.” During this time, the homeowners’ insurance policy may be terminated only if the insurance holder fails to pay the premiums, files a false claim, is charged with a felony, or fails to maintain safe conditions on the property.
Certain breeds of dogs may be excluded on the homeowners’ insurance policy, or the specified breeds could prevent the dog owner from acquiring insurance coverage altogether. For instance, many insurance companies in Georgia will raise premiums or cancel the policy if the homeowner has a Pit Bull, Doberman, Rottweiler, or another breed perceived as dangerous. A homeowner’s insurance policy may require a letter from a dog trainer stating that the dog has completed an obedience course and is found to not be dangerous.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
If your dog bites someone in Georgia, you have several potential defenses under state law, including lack of knowledge, reasonable care, and provocation. Because Georgia is a “negligence” dog bite state, you must know that your animal might be dangerous in order to be held liable for a dog bite. If you had no prior warning, it might not be possible to show liability. However, if you did not have the dog on a leash when the ordinance requires such, this may be enough to show knowledge. You are also not liable if you were not “careless” with the dog, or you did not allow the dog to “go at liberty.”
Georgia law also specifies that you cannot be held liable if the person who as bitten provoked the dog. For example, the injured individual may not tease or abuse an animal, then claim the dog owners is liable when the animal attacks. While state law does not say that an injured person must be lawfully present to recover compensation for an injury, homeowner liability for trespasser injuries could be limited by other laws.
In Georgia, all dogs three months or older must be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Dog owners must periodically have their animal vaccinated against rabies. In Georgia, a rabies vaccine is generally given to puppies at 16 weeks, and the vaccination is good for a year. With adult dogs, the vaccination is good for three years and should be addressed at the time of the dog’s first visit to the vet. For instance, a puppy would get the rabies vaccine at 16 weeks, one year, and again at age 4.
If you’ve been bitten or attacked by a dog, immediately report the incident. Call the police or animal control. If you are able, take plenty of photos of the dog that attacked you and the injuries you sustained. If there were witnesses, make sure you collect their contact information.
Finally, it’s critical that you contact an experienced dog bite lawyer who understands Georgia dog bite laws. A knowledgeable attorney can help you understand how the dog bite laws apply to your case and help you seek compensation. It’s very important that you also record the name and address of the dog owner, as the compensation you recover will likely be from the dog owner’s homeowners’ insurance.
If a loose or stray dog bit you and you cannot identify the owner, call Spaulding Injury Law. We can send investigators to the scene and try to find the owner. It is possible someone in the area will know the dog. We can also find out if the dog has attacked anyone else.
If you are bitten by a dog and do not report the incident, you will likely have to pay out of pocket for any damages and medical expenses that result. You will not be able to pursue legal action against the owner of the dog unless the bite is properly reported.
Homeowners’ insurance often covers damages relating to a dog bite. Georgia has a law that allows the victim of a dog bite to discover all insurance that may cover their damages. The victim should request from the dog owner to provide, within 30 days, the insurance information for each known insurer that can provide coverage for the dog bite, including the homeowners’ policy and umbrella policies written for the homeowner.
As with any personal injury claim, the party responsible for the accident is liable. As a dog bite victim, you can seek financial compensation for the costs associated with your dog bite. You may be able to recover a variety of economic and noneconomic damages, including:
- Medical bills (past, present, and future)
- Prescription medications
- Surgery and physical therapy costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning potential
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish
- Permanent disabilities
The cost of these expenses can pile up quickly. With the help of a Georgia dog bite attorney, you can make a claim against the dog owner for your damages.
A person who has been bitten by a dog that has attacked other people in the past and that person has suffered injuries may be eligible to file a dog bite suit. The owner of the dog could also be liable if the dog had displayed other signs of aggression, such as growling and lunging at people.
People who provoked the dog usually will not be able to recover damages in dog bite suits. People who are bitten by police dogs while the dogs are helping the officers to secure arrests will also be ineligible to file dog bite suits. When a dog attack causes the victim to die, the family members of the deceased may be entitled to file a wrongful death suit.
Get Help from a Georgia Dog Bite Lawyer
A dog bite can result in serious injuries leaving you with long-term physical, mental, and emotional difficulties. A skilled and compassionate Georgia dog bite attorney can help you pursue compensation to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.
The experienced lawyers at Spaulding Injury Law work on a contingency fee basis. We get paid only when you recover compensation. Call the experienced Georgia dog bite lawyers at Spaulding Injury Law today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.