How to Win Your Dog Bite Claim by Proving Owner Negligence

Key Points:

  • If you have been attacked by a dog, you must prove that the owner was negligent to receive compensation.
  • The at-fault party’s homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, or even business policy may cover your dog bite injury claim if negligence by their client is proven.
  • To establish a dog owner’s liability in a dog bite case, the dog must have a documented history of aggression, or the dog owner must have negligently handled the dog.
  • If your case successfully proves negligence, you may be eligible to receive compensation for medical bills, lost income, physical pain and suffering, mental distress, scarring, and disfigurement.

Being bitten by a dog does not automatically guarantee compensation. To receive dog bite compensation, you must prove that the dog owner was negligent in handling their dog, and that this negligence directly resulted in the bite. Proving negligence requires gathering evidence, which can be a demanding task. Without evidence, you have no case. The legal system will not acknowledge the occurrence of a dog attack if there is no evidence, as evidence not only proves negligence but also verifies that the attack happened. Therefore, collecting evidence is the main foundation of proving negligence and winning dog bite compensation.

Georgia Dog Bite Laws: Establishing Grounds For The Dog Owner’s Liability

Under Georgia law, there are at least two general ways to hold a dog owner liable for your injuries. Either the dog has a provable history of aggression, or the dog owner acted with negligence in handling the dog. Let us fully unpack these two concepts for clarification.

1. History of Aggression

Under Georgia law, O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7, and indeed in most other states, there is an aggressive dog standard, commonly referred to as the “One Bite Rule.” Although strictly speaking “one (previous) bite” is not required, the Rule is an interpretation of the statute which maintains that a dog owner should not be held responsible for injuries caused by their animal if the owner was truly unaware that the dog might behave that way. After all, no one knows for sure what a dog is capable of until something happens.

Proving that a dog owner actually knew, or should have known, that their dog was aggressive or dangerous can be as easy as discovering prior animal control reports regarding that animal. There may also be statements or testimony from surrounding neighbors who have had experiences with the dog at issue. Some neighbors are eager to tell their story when it involves a dangerous animal in the area.

Judges in Georgia have even established that if a dog is known “lunge” at people or aggressively chase or threaten people, even while restrained, this can be enough to inform the owner of the dog’s vicious propensity, noting that it is essentially just an attempted, but unsuccessful, bite. This would be enough to put the dog owner on notice in the eyes of the law, and any future “successful” bites would not be protected under the “One Bite Rule”.

2. Negligent Handling

If there is no evidence of previous aggressive behavior from the dog, there still may liability on the part of the dog owner. If they managed the dog carelessly or let it wander free in violation of local ordinances, known as leash laws, they can still be held responsible for any injury it may cause.

For instance, under Fulton County Ordinance Article VI Division 1, Sec. 34-205, a dog may not leave the owner’s premises unless it is fully retrained on a leash. Most cities and towns in Georgia have such an ordinance on the books.

When a dog “digs out” or jumps the fence, this too can be considered negligent handling by the dog owner. It is the owner or keeper’s responsibility to ensure that the animal is restricted to owned property when not on a leash.

When a dog owner violates this law and allows the dog to run free, he or she can be held liable for any injury the dog may cause, even if the dog had no previous indications of viciousness.

We will research local ordinances and public records. We can also gather witness statements and visual evidence to prove the dog owner’s liability. As our attorneys collect evidence to prove your claim, we also will focus on evidence that may be useful in disproving the dog owner’s version of the attack.

Provocation: The Disqualifier

We do caution that to win a dog bite claim or case, the attack must be unprovoked by the victim. The statute states this in O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7.
There are obvious behaviors that are considered provocation such as striking the animal or otherwise trying to harm it. However, attempting to pet or play with, or put your face into the face of an unknown dog can sometimes be considered provocation and provide a defense to the dog’s owner. In any case we recommend that you be very careful if you encounter an unknown or unaccompanied animal in public.

Determining The Amount of Compensation for Your Dog Bite Injuries

As a dog bite victim, you may be able to recover several kinds of damages. You may be eligible to receive payment to cover your medical bills, lost income, physical pain and suffering, mental distress, scarring and disfigurement. A dog bite, no matter how severe, is always traumatic, and the victim is never quite the same.

In some cases, you may have a right to seek punitive damages. These may arise if the dog owner acted with flagrant disregard for the safety of others in controlling the dog. In cases where the victim was a child or the attack was particularly severe or prolonged, the Court may add monetary damages intended to punish the owner for the unacceptable behavior.

Evidence used to show how the dog bite occurred can also be used to establish how much you should recover especially where there are “aggravating” factors like the ones listed above. An experienced attorney will often work with highly qualified experts to analyze this evidence and arrive at a dollar figure to fairly compensate you for your losses, your injuries and your pain and emotional distress.

Dog bites often leave permanent scars. Puncture wounds, tears and abrasions can linger for months or years. If these are on a visible and obvious part of the victim’s body, it can mean additional compensation. Medical experts can help establish a suitable value for this component of your claim.

Thank you for believing on the community and believing in education. Thank you for responding to communication and helping in all the ways that you can.

five stars
Jennifer M.
linkedin icon