Georgia Dog Bite Cases: Dog Owner Responsibility

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- Pamela Jean Bourassa

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Since 1993 Atlanta Attorney Bruce Millar and the dog bite injury lawyers of The Millar Law Firm, have represented hundreds of Georgia residents, like you or your family.

We help people injured in a dog bite or dog attack incident in Atlanta and all across the State who want the best dog bite lawyer and law firm they can find.

If you are thinking about making a dog bite or attack claim, or just want to know more about how Georgia’s dog bite laws we are here to help.  Below you will find common questions and answers about Georgia law.

When a dog attack occurs, you may have questions about how to sue for a dog bite, such as:

We’re here to answer your questions and help you seek justice. 

If you have a question that is not answered here, would like to learn more about Georgia law, or would like to see if we can accept your case, please contact us today. We answer our phones 24/7.

Dog bites are a frightening, serious business.  Need immediate help? Our lawyers are available to talk with you today (daytime, evenings and weekends) by phone or in-person at no charge.

How do I hold the dog owner responsible or liable under Georgia law?

Owner Liability for Georgia Dog Bites

Liability (responsibility) for dangerous animal bites, including dog bites, is found in O.C.G.A. 51-2-7.  This Georgia statute says that a person who:

“…owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous (dog)…and who by careless management or by allowing the dog to go at liberty… may be liable in damages” to the person injured, and that an animal’s (dog’s) vicious propensity (nature)” is shown by proving when the attack happened the animal was required by a local ordinance to be at heel or on a leash. 

In plain language, a dog owner is liable for a bite or attack by proving their dog is dangerous or vicious.  Under the statute if the owner fails to keep the dog on a leash or at heel or confined safely on its property, the dog is automatically presumed to be vicious.  Usually, this means keeping the dog safely inside a fence.

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Two ways to prove your claim against a dog owner:

Under Georgia law, there are at least two different ways that a dog owner may be held responsible for a dog bite injury.

First, the owner can be sued if they owned a dangerous dog, and the owner knew or should have known the dog was dangerous and carelessly handled the animal.

Second, the owner can be liable for carelessly managing a dog or allowing it to roam free, in violation of a local ordinance (city or county leash law).  For example, the owner may be legally responsible if the dog is let outside to roam or if the dog is not confined by a fence or gate, even if the fence or gate are broken or the dog jumps over or tunnels under the fence.

Georgia and Local Animal Control and Leash Laws Explained

Many different areas throughout Georgia have local leash laws. For example, in Fulton County and in the County of Atlanta, dogs must be kept on securely private property.  When dogs are in public, in both Fulton County and Atlanta dogs must be kept on a leash and under the owner’s control.  There may even be restrictions on the length of the leash.   Under the Fulton County Ordinance dogs are required to be on a leash that is six feet or shorter.

The dog owner may be liable if the dog bites or injures someone when an owner allows a dog to run “at large” in violation of leash laws and other county ordinances.  In this case, the dog bite victim does not need to prove that the owner knew the dog was dangerous or aggressive.

Our legal team will investigate your case and decide the best way to hold the owner responsible and recover money to pay your medical bills and for your pain and suffering.

Can I file a claim against the dog owner to pay medical bills caused by the attack?

A dog owner who fails to live up to his or her obligations can be held legally responsible for any harm the dog causes, including medical bills.

Can I file a claim against the dog owner to pay medical bills caused by the attack?

A dog owner who fails to live up to his or her obligations can be held legally responsible for any harm the dog causes, including medical bills.

The dog owner’s homeowners’ or renter’s insurance policy may reimburse a person who was bitten for their costs.

What is an average Atlanta or Georgia dog bite case worth?

According to a recent report, overall dog bite claims in the U.S. averaged a payout of about $30,000 per claim in the U.S. in 2012 and the average dog bite settlement in Georgia was over $32,000 in 2014.  However, many dog bite claims are much larger.  Additionally, Check out our recent blog post about a case where a Georgia business insurance policy paid $350,000.00 to settle an aggressive dog attack claim.

As the attorneys of The Millar Law Firm know, any dog attack can result in hefty medical expenses.  This can mean the costs of emergency treatment, X-rays, stitches, medication, plastic surgery and therapy. We will seek full payment for all medical costs.  This includes current, past, as well as expected future medical costs that a bite victim faces.

Who pays for my bite injury, scars and nerve damage?

In many cases a dog owner’s homeowners or rental (renters) insurance will cover a dog bite case. There may be some exceptions. for example, some insurance policies exclude certain breeds of dogs like Pit Bulls or Rottweilers.

The goal of a dog bite lawsuit is to bring you as close as possible to life before the attack. For instance, this means seeking compensation for medical treatment that can prevent permanent damage.

When you prove a Georgia dog owner is responsible, he must pay for treatment such as plastic surgery.  The owner should also pay for any scar revision, nerve, muscle, ligament or cartilage damage caused by the dog bite.

How do lawyers determine the value of a dog attack claim?

At The Millar Firm we work with medical experts to determine the full extent of dog bite injuries. Moreover, our team will help determine past and future medical expenses and recover this from a careless dog owner.

Do I have a case if a dog did not bite me, but still injured me?

Yes. Even if a dog did not bite you, but you became injured when a dog chased or lunged at you or jumped on you, you may have a case. We have handled cases where dogs knocked children and adults from bicycles. Some of our cases involve deep lacerations caused by a dog’s claws. Additionally, other cases involve injuries to walkers and joggers hurt while trying to escape an attack.

Such cases may or may not directly fall under Georgia’s traditional ‘dog-bite’ laws.  These cases may be proven by showing that the dog owner was negligent in controlling or confining the dog.

Will I be able to recover damages for emotional distress after a dog bite?

When a victim suffers emotional injuries in a vicious attack, a dog owner can be held liable for all damages. This includes emotional distress.

A dog bite, especially when it occurs to a child, can be a horrifying, traumatic experience. We understand that a serious attack can leave anyone, child or adult, with serious emotional distress.

Many dog bite victims suffer from a condition called “post-traumatic stress disorder,” or PTSD.  This is because for months or years after an attack, the victim may experience flashbacks, sleeplessness or experience extreme anxiety.

You want a lawyer committed to seeking full compensation for your injury, including emotional harm.  We understand and share that commitment.

When a dog owner fails to live up to his obligations, and a dog injures someone as a result, the bite victim can get compensation from an insurer outside of court or can file a personal injury lawsuit for damages.

Our experienced dog bite investigators and lawyers assist people bitten or attacked by dangerous dogs. We will explain your legal rights and help you take action.

To learn more about how we assist clients with a dog bite claim, give us a call or contact us online today.

Have a Question?

Contact us with any questions you have and we’ll get back to you!