FAQ's About Atlanta Dog Bite Laws

Our Atlanta, Georgia injury lawyers at The Millar Law Firm know how frightening it can be when you or a loved one is bitten or attacked by a dog. Dog bites can cause very serious injuries that have a lasting impact. The trauma of being attacked by a dog can leave both bodily and emotional scars in many cases.

Georgia law holds owners responsible for their dogs, including being liable for people’s safety around animals that are dangerous. Under our state’s laws, a person injured by a dog that attacks, bites or mauls them may be able to obtain compensation from the dog’s owner for their injuries and losses.

Because Georgia’s dog bite laws are complex, we have compiled some answers to questions we frequently hear from clients about dog bites. If we can help you further, a Millar Law Firm dog bite attorney is available to discuss your concerns in a free telephone or in-person consultation.

Dog Bites

What is the average dog bite case settlement in Atlanta, Georgia?

How much is my case worth? The answer is that each dog bite case in Atlanta is different. The value of a dog bite settlement in Atlanta and across Georgia depends mainly on the severity of the injury and what scars and permanent injuries are left behind. Small dog-bite cases involving relatively minor injuries and scars may have a settlement value of up to $50,000.00. According to some insurance industry studies the average dog bite settlement is in the range of $25,000.00 – $40,000.00.

More serious injuries tend to have much greater settlement and verdict averages. For example, our law firm has settled many cases for between $100,000.00 and $300,000.00 (and more) when the injuries are serious and leave behind permanent disfigurement and disability.

In Georgia, larger cases tend to involve injuries to children, facial bites with scars (women’s cases are usually more valuable than men’s), and cases with loss of fingers, ears, noses or involving nerve damage. The size of some cases is limited by the limits of the homeowner’s or renters insurance policy.

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Georgia Dog Bite FAQ: What steps should I take if a dog has bitten me or someone in my family?

Georgia Dog Bite FAQ and Legal Questions Answered:  What should you do if a dog bites you or a family member?  Getting immediate medical attention is always a priority after a dog bite incident, even if the injuries do not seem serious. You may need stitches, a tetanus shot or other treatment to prevent infection. In addition to obtaining the medical care you need, seeing a doctor will provide documentation of what happened as well as your injuries, and the records will provide evidence to support your claim or legal action.

If you seek compensation from a dog’s owner after being bitten by a dog, documentation of injuries and medical treatment will be the primary evidence to support your injury claim. You should keep any torn or bloodied clothing and get photos of your dog bite injuries. This evidence can help to demonstrate the extent of the harm you (or a loved one) suffered.

After a dog bites you or a family member, you should also get information about the dog’s owner, including his or her name and address, and information about the dog, such as how recently the animal received a rabies shot. Get the names and contact information for witnesses to the bite incident in case the dog’s owner tries to claim the dog was provoked. If the dog owner is cooperative, get the name of their homeowners’ or renters’ insurance company.

If the dog owner has home-owner’s insurance, or in the case of a business — a business liability policy, dog bites are generally covered by the insurance policy to pay a settlement you receive  or a verdict resulting from a lawsuit.

If you do not know who owns the dog or it is a stray, you should try to contain it, such as in a fenced area, if you can do so safely.

Contacting animal control is a good idea regardless of who owns the dog. Animal control will test the dog for rabies and may issue a citation.

Finally, you should contact an experienced Georgia dog bite lawyer. Georgia law makes dog owners responsible in certain situations when their dogs bite or attack. Certain city ordinances may also be important to review and interpret.  For example, most metropolitan Atlanta cities and counties have dog bite ordinances which may be important to proving whether the dog owner may be liable for the injury as a result of a violation of a local leash law.  A lawyer experienced in Georgia dog bite laws will know how to find and review the local animal control laws and how investigate the case, how to discover whether the dog owner was negligent, and the value of your claim.

Georgia Dog Bite Laws and Legal Resource: How does the law hold a dog owner responsible for a dog bite incident in Georgia?

Georgia Dog Bite Laws and Legal Resource:  How does Georgia law hold a dog owner responsible for a dog bite or attack?  Fortunately, Georgia has some dog bite law that is very favorable to victims.   In Georgia, you may be able to hold a dog owner liable if you can show that the owner was aware that the dog was dangerous; that is, that the owner knew or should have known the animal was aggressive or a bite-risk, and that the owner was careless in handling the dog or allowing it to be around other people.  People often refer to this as the “one free bite” rule, which is a bit misleading, because proving a prior actual bite is not always necessary.  The standard is whether the dog owner knew or should have known that the dog had a tendency to cause the injury in question.

Another way of proving a dog bite case against the owner is to show that there were leash laws or local ordinances dealing with at-large animals, and that the dog owner violated these laws. If you are bitten by the dog while the dog is unleashed or running free, you may be able to take action against the dog’s owner by showing that the owner wrongfully or carelessly failed to obey requirements to secure the animal.

For more information, view our legal video, GA Dog Laws – Proving Liability.

Georgia Dog Bite Laws: What damages can I recover after being bitten by an aggressive dog?

Georgia Dog Bite Laws – your questions answered:  What damages can be recovered if you are bitten by an aggressive dog?  In Georgia, a dog bite victim may be compensated for both financial losses and for pain and suffering. In some cases, a plaintiff may also be awarded punitive damages as a means of punishing a defendant who acted with total and willful disregard for others’ safety.

The three types of damages that can potentially be recovered in dog bite cases in Georgia are known as general (for pain and suffering), special (for economic loss) and punitive (to punish or deter) damages.

  • Special damages are for the actual financial losses due to medical expenses, property damage (such as clothing or jewelry), lost income and, in the case of a death, funeral and burial expenses. It is important to calculate past and future medical expenses, such as for impending re-constructive surgery, as well as future income loss because of diminished earning power for a dog bite victim who has been disfigured or disabled.
  • General damages are compensation for non-financial or non-economic losses, such as physical and mental pain and emotional suffering, mental and emotional distress and, in a fatal dog attack, loss of companionship. The amount of general damages obtained through a dog bite lawsuit would be decided by a jury, or through negotiations with the defendant’s insurance company. Often they are calculated as a multiple of total special damages awarded.
  • Punitive damages are intended to punish a dog’s owner if the owner was especially reckless or negligent in his or her conduct leading to the bite incident. They also serve as a warning to others who would act as recklessly. Punitive damages are generally capped at $250,000 in Georgia.

As your dog bite claim representative, a Millar Law Firm dog bite lawyer will gather the evidence to show how badly you were harmed by your injuries and seek the full amount of special and general damages that your case supports.  Punitive damages, if available, can be negotiated into the settlement in some cases, or awarded by a Jury to punish or deter the at fault party.

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?

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.

Georgia Dog Bite Legal Questions Answered: My neighbor is claiming my child provoked her dog to bite. Can I still take legal action?

Georgia Dog Bite Legal Questions Answered:   What is the law in Georgia if a person (or a child) provokes a dog to bite? Failure to keep a dog secure can be considered negligence on the part of the owner, but if a victim was partially responsible for provoking the dog this factor could reduce, or even eliminate, the amount of compensation paid for a claim, or whether there is a claim at all.  O.C.G.A. 51-2-7

In any dog bite claim or case, it is often necessary to first determine whether the dog owner was negligent. When a chain or leash breaks, this can be considered careless handling of a dog. If the dog’s owner knew the animal was vicious or if there are ordinances prohibiting the dog from running free, the dog’s owner may be liable for an attack, even if the animal broke a chain or leash to get to the victim or escaped from the owner’s yard.

One defense that dog owners frequently raise is provocation.  Under Georgia’s Dog Bite Statute, O.C.G.A. 51-2-7, if the victim is determined to have provoked the bite or attack, a dog owner may have a complete defense.  Therefore, it is important to determine exactly what happened.  This is where eyewitness testimony and prompt investigation can make the difference between winning and losing a case.  Keep in mind that many dog owners also falsely claim that the bite was provoked.  Therefore, careful and thorough investigation of any dog attack is advised.


Your Atlanta, Georgia Legal Questions Answered: Can a workers’ compensation insurance carrier take some of the money I receive for dog bite injuries suffered on the job?

Your Atlanta, Georgia Legal Questions Answered:  Can a workers compensation carrier or other insurance company take part of my settlement?  Maybe – if your rights are not properly protected. If you are bitten by a dog while doing your job, such as many postal workers and other deliverymen are, you may be able to obtain workers’ compensation for your injuries. If you go on to receive a settlement or verdict from the dog owner’s insurer, the workers’ comp insurer would have a right to ask for its money back. But, in our opinion, this should not dissuade you from pursuing a claim.

Workers’ compensation benefits are intended to cover medical bills and pay stipends to make up for a portion of lost wages when a worker is injured while performing the duties of their job. Compensation received in a dog bite personal injury claim are intended to cover not only medical bills and lost income or pay, but also property damage, such as torn clothing, and the victim’s pain and suffering.

Under Georgia law, a workers’ compensation insurance company  is only entitled to recover the medical bills it covered and lost wage benefits it paid you if the insurance carrier is able to prove that the victim was “made whole” for the entirety of all of the losses the victim suffered.  An experienced personal injury should be familiar with the laws and rules governing such reimbursements, and can advise you whether a workers compensation insurance company is entitled to be reimbursed, and in what (if any) amount.

Because a workers compensation insurer is unlikely to voluntarily honor the “made whole” rule (that is, they will ask you to repay them in full, even if you were not fully compensated), we encourage all of our clients and anyone who has been hurt on the job to speak  with our Atlanta Dog Bite Attorneys or another Georgia personal injury law firm before allowing the insurer to claim part of your settlement.  Don’t make a potentially expensive mistake because you were afraid to, or did not want to, talk to an attorney.

How to Hire A Lawyer in Georgia, FAQ: How much does The Millar Law Firm charge up-front for my dog bite case?

How to hire a lawyer in Georgia for a dog bite case?  At The Millar Law Firm, our attorneys handle many Georgia dog bite cases and understand your concern about paying legal fees on top of the medical bills you are dealing with after a serious dog bite injury.  If we are able to accept your case, we do not charge an up-front fee.  Any fee you pay us will be a percentage of the compensation we obtain for you through a negotiated settlement of your injury case or verdict from a Court or Jury.  You won’t pay anything if we don’t recover money for you.

We believe that representation on a contingency-fee basis is a win-win for our clients.  You do not pay legal fees unless we win the case and collect money for you. If we don’t win the case, you have had a full investigation of your claim without cost to you.

When you win, our legal fee will be an agreed-upon portion of the compensation paid to you. In most cases our fees are 33.33% of the amount recovered if no lawsuit is filed, and 40% after a lawsuit has been filed.

Our goal is to help our clients, not simply to “make money” from you.  We screen and evaluate all cases carefully.  If we honestly think that you will be better served without an attorney, we will let you know immediately.  Not all cases need an lawyer.  Those that do usually find that after the legal fees and cases expenses are paid, they come out much further ahead than had they tried to represent themselves.

The Millar Law Firm’s attorneys have obtained more than $100 million in past verdicts and settlements.  This includes successfully representing adults and children in dog bite cases.

To learn more about how we help children who have been hurt in dog attacks, watch our video, A Dog Bite Case We’re Proud Of.

To learn more about the legal services we provide, watch our video, Dog Bite Attorneys in Georgia. You can also contact us today online or via phone to schedule a free consultation.

Legal Advice For Your Dog Bite Case – Anywhere in Georgia

Bitten or attacked, and curious or unsure as to whether you have a case or need a lawyer?  Feel free to call our law office, we will answer your questions at no charge.  Because we specialize in dog bite and dog attack claims, we can help!