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Much like their human owners, dogs are not legally presumed to be dangerous in the state of Georgia. This means that it is up to the victim of a dog bite to establish that the dog was dangerous.
An owner’s liability for a dog bite in Georgia is governed by Ga. Code Ann. § 51-2-7, which provides that a dog’s owner can be held liable for injuries caused by the dog if the following elements are met:
One of the most common ways for a personal injury attorney to establish that a dog owner was responsible is by showing evidence that the dog was required by city or county ordinance to be leashed or at heel, but was not at the time of the attack.
If you have been bitten by a dog, it’s important to file a dog bite report as soon as possible after the incident. Who you should report the dog bite to depends on the county in which the attack occurred. Generally, a dog bite is reported to the county’s Animal Control or Animal Services facility. An Animal Control officer will then create the dog bite report.
You may also contact the local police or sheriff’s department about the attack. The police or sheriff’s department will usually notify Animal Control when you contact them.
If you were severely injured by the dog, call 911 immediately so that you can receive immediate medical attention; otherwise, you can contact the police department’s non-emergency number to report the incident. The operator will then dispatch an Animal Control officer to the scene of the attack, and the officer will write up a dog bite report.
In Georgia, most hospital emergency rooms will report your bite or attack to Animal Control, and an officer may respond to the hospital to make a report. If you have not contacted Animal Control and the hospital failed to do so, we suggest you call the police or Animal Control as soon as possible to make your report.
Even if the injury doesn’t seem severe to you, it is still a good idea to seek medical advice. We have a legal guide which outlines some of the reasons you should take any animal bite seriously.
Oftentimes, those who are bitten by a dog are hesitant to file a dog bite report, whether because they know the owner and do not want to cause animosity or because they fear for the safety of the dog itself. However, if you were bitten by a dog in Georgia, the importance of filing a dog bite report cannot be understated.
Dog bite reports are important for a number of reasons, including:
The outcome of your dog bite doesn’t change the fact that a report should be filed after the incident. A dog attack should be reported to Animal Control even if you walked away from the attack unscathed. This is for the safety of others — while you may not have been injured by the dog bite, if the dog attacks someone in the future, he or she might not be as lucky.
If you’ve been searching for advice online following a dog bite, you may have noticed a common theme from the articles you’ve read: It’s critically important to discuss the attack with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
The reason that this advice appears so often from so many different sources is because of laws called “statutes of limitations,” which set a hard deadline for a victim of a dog bite to file a claim for his or her injuries.
In Georgia, a person who is bitten by a dog has two years from the date of the attack to file a personal injury claim. After the two-year time limit provided by the statute of limitations has expired, it is nearly impossible for a dog bite victim to recover compensation for the injuries suffered during the attack.
While two years may sound like plenty of time to file a claim, it’s important to speak with an attorney who has experience handling dog bite claims as quickly as possible. Setting the foundation for a successful dog bite claim does not happen overnight, and searching for legal assistance at the eleventh hour can leave your attorney without adequate time to gather the evidence needed to file a claim.
When filing a dog bite report, there is no such thing as too much evidence. Providing ample evidence to an Animal Control Officer can help establish that the dog bite actually occurred—especially if your injuries are not obvious. If you have been bitten by a dog, you can use a variety of evidence to prove the attack and resulting injuries, including:
Eyewitnesses can also be helpful in proving that the dog was not leashed at the time of the attack, where the attack happened, and that you did not provoke the attack. Each of these things can help establish the owner’s liability for your injuries.
A dog bite report should provide a general overview of the incident and can include:
If you receive a copy of your dog bite report and it does not contain these important items of information, you may contact Animal Control and provide the missing information, and ask that the report be supplemented or updated.
A dog bite report is intended to document the details of the incident. While a dog bite report is not required in order to file a personal injury claim, the report can be one of the most critical pieces of evidence that your attorney can use to establish the owner’s liability for your injuries. A dog bite report can help make your claim for personal injuries stronger and more successful.
For example, personal injury lawyers often send the dog attack report to the dog owner’s insurance company to show the adjuster that the victim has a strong claim.
If your dog bit someone and a dog bite report was filed, you might receive a citation for the dog bite. In some cases, this may be the only penalty for the bite. If the bite caused bleeding, however, Georgia law requires a dog to be quarantined for a period of 10 days following the incident. Each county has its own rules governing how and where a dog can be quarantined following a dog bite. Locations can include your veterinarian’s office, the county animal shelter, or—in some cases—your own home.
Whether a claim will be filed with your insurance company following a dog bite depends on what steps the person who was bitten takes after the incident occurs. The fact that someone filed a dog bite report does not automatically mean that your insurance company must pay the claim or that you will definitely be sued. Whether to file a personal injury claim is a decision for the victim of the dog bite to make.
Regardless of the circumstances, if your dog bites another person, it’s a good idea to notify your homeowners or renters’ insurance company. You may also want to consult with a dog bite attorney to discuss what steps you should take, along with what defenses may be available in the event that the injured party files a dog bite claim.
Whether or not the dog that attacked you has a prior history of aggression can make a huge difference in your case. First, to win your dog bite case in Georgia, you must prove the owner’s liability for your injuries. Usually, this means proving that the owner knew that his or her dog was aggressive or that the owner failed to properly restrain their dog at the time of the attack. Local police and animal services departments may have reports and records that can provide evidence as to whether the dog that bit you has had any previous reports of attacks.
Secondly, if the dog has a history of attacking humans, the owner may be responsible for paying punitive damages. Punitive damages are an additional payment or civil penalty added on to punish a dog owner who knowingly or recklessly keeps and carelessly manages a vicious dog.
If you’ve suffered injuries as a result of a dog bite in the Atlanta area, a dog bite lawyer can investigate your case, start to finish, and help you recover compensation for the injuries you sustained from the dog bite.
When you bring a dog bite claim against the dog’s owner, it’s important to know that, in most injury cases, you are actually fighting against the dog owner’s insurance company. These companies are well-oiled machines that are represented by adjusters and attorneys whose main objective is to reduce your compensation in order to save the insurance company money.
Insurance companies will require a large amount of documentation, such as the Animal Control Report, your medical bills and records, photographs of your injuries, reports from medical doctors, and eyewitness statements before paying your claim.
Insurance adjusters and defense lawyers must be convinced you can win your case in a courtroom before they will consider paying what your case is truly worth.
When you entrust your dog bite claim to The Millar Law Firm, you can rest assured that your claim is being handled by an experienced legal team. We have been handling and winning dog bite cases all across the State of Georgia since 1993.
To schedule a free case evaluation with an attorney at The Millar Law Firm, call 770-400-0000 today.