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Georgia Dog Bite Laws and Pit Bulls FAQ: Can a dog owner be punished for letting a pit bull wander in the yard unleashed around children?

Published February 12, 2018 by Bruce Millar

Georgia Dog Bite Laws and Pit Bulls FAQ:  In some lawsuits, a jury may award punitive damages (compensation) to punish a defendant for acting with willful or wanton recklessness. A dog owner who allows any dog that has been declared vicious to wander unleashed or un-supervised could potentially be considered wantonly reckless.  Although pit bulls are known to be notoriously dangerous breeds, the fact that a dog is a pitbull does not automatically mean the owner is negligent or reckless in allowing it to be around children.  The question is, rather, whether the dog — any dog — has shown a tendency to bite or attack in the past.

Punitive damages are specifically designed to punish the defendant financially and are appropriate in situations where the dog’s owner was not merely negligent but where there was “willful misconduct, wantonness and entire want of care.”

In other words, if someone is really careless or purposefully does something wrong, punitive damages make him pay. Although the punitive damages are a punishment, the money goes to the injured victim who has taken legal action, unlike criminal fines, which go to the government.

An example might be a daycare supervisor who has a pit bull or other dog that has bitten people before and who lets the pit bull wander free in the yard where children are playing.

The state of Georgia has imposed a cap on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded at $250,000 in most cases not involving an intentional tort or alcohol/drug-related driving incident.

A dog owner could also potentially face criminal punishment for gross negligence that led to a dog bite.

The Millar Law Firm’s investigation of your dog bite case would indicate whether the dog owner’s behavior was such that punitive damages are appropriate. If they are, we will pursue them aggressively.

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