In 2016, 31 people died from dog bite related injuries in the United States. Of these 31 fatalities, 42% of the victims were children under the age of nine. Dog bites have unique and often long-lasting physical, emotional, and financial effects on victims and their families. For victims of dog bites, filing a dog bite claim with a skilled injury attorney may be an opportunity for compensation if they find the pet’s owner liable for damages. Compensation for dog bite victims can help pay for medical bills, lost wages, lost future wages, emotional trauma, and other related hardships.
Dog bite laws vary by state, and sometimes even by city. Atlanta, GA for example, has unique regulations for dog owners in public spaces. In Atlanta, a dog must always be on leash on city trails, at parks, or in public spaces, unless it’s in a specified off-leash dog park. Even in designated off-leash dog parks, owners are required to always have control over their pet by voice command and required to remove a dog showing signs of aggression.
While the city has relatively strict dog-specific legislation, when it comes to dog bite law in Atlanta, it often protects the pet’s owner. Some states, like California, hold the dog’s owner strictly liable for any bite or injury almost regardless of circumstance. This means no matter if the owner knew the dog had a tendency toward aggressive behavior or not, the owner or keeper is still liable for damages caused by the dog.
Georgia Dog Bite Liability
Georgia dog bite law is slightly different in that in order to hold a dog owner liable for damages from a bite, the victim and their attorney must prove one of the follow:
- the dog was dangerous; and the owner knew it
- the owner was acting in a negligent manner
- the animal was not somehow provoked by the victim
In the City of Atlanta, if an off-leash dog bites or injures a person while they are within city limits, the owner may be held liable for negligence and the victim may be entitled to compensation. If the plaintiff, or victim, cannot prove the dog was off-leash or not in control, according to Georgia State Law, they must prove the dog was vicious or dangerous and that the owner was aware of it (or should have been aware of it) before the bite occurred. This is known as having “superior knowledge” of a dog’s temperament meaning the owner may be found liable for damages.
Can a Dog Bite Victim Be Found at Fault?
Another factor in Georgia dog bite cases, is proving the plaintiff didn’t provoke the dog. Even if the dog is found to be off-leash or disobeying a city specific law when the bite occurred, the dog owner may still defend his or her actions. By proving the victim provoked the aggression or “assumed the risk” of interacting with the dog, the owner may avoid being found liable for damages. This can include going out of one’s way to touch or pet the dog without the owner’s consent.
While it seems like Georgia dog bite law sides with the pet’s owner, with the right dog bite lawyer, this isn’t always the case. The traumatic experience of suffering a dog bite for any person, but especially a child, can be life-altering and no amount of money can change that, but holding the responsible party accountable and getting the compensation you need can make a difference.