Frequently Asked Questions about Georgia Dog Bites


December 18, 2013

While dogs are commonly referred to as man's best friend, they also can act in unpredictable ways that cause injury by charging and knocking over small children or bicyclists, or more ominously biting and mauling unsuspecting victims. Most people do not anticipate that they will be attacked by a dog and suffer serious injury because they regard dog bites and other animal-related injuries as extremely rare anomalies. However, dog bites are far from a rare occurrence with approximately 4.7 million people suffering dog bites annually according to the U.S. Human Society. Of these dog attack victims, approximately 800,000 suffer injuries serious enough that they must receive medical treatment. These dog bite injuries result in approximately a billion dollars per year in insurance industry payouts.

Because the risk of being involved in a dog attack incident which causes a victim to incur medical expenses, lost wages and other forms of loss is fairly common, we have provided some key facts for Georgia dog bite victims. While we have addressed many issues that dog attack victims face, we invite those with more specific questions to contact our experienced Atlanta Dog Bite Lawyers.

Is the dog owner definitely liable if his or her dog bites me?

This concept of liability without proving negligent conduct by the dog owner is referred to as strict liability. While some states impose strict liability on a homeowner whose dog bites someone regardless of fault, the law requires more before liability will be imposed in Georgia. Georgia imposes the one bite rule in dog bite cases. This name is somewhat misleading because some assume it means that an owner will not be liable if their dog has never bitten anyone prior to the bite at issue in a particular case. The so-called one bite rule only requires that the owner have some reason to know that the dog has violent propensities. Although the fact that the dog has bitten someone on a prior occasion generally would satisfy this knowledge requirement, other forms of behavior by the dog including lunging, charging, attempting to bite or similar forms of aggression may suffice. Alternatively, an owner who posts a sign that reads "Beware of Dog" or muzzles a dog also might be determined to have sufficient knowledge to impose liability. If the owner has knowledge of the dog's vicious tendencies (also referred to as the "scienter requirement"), liability may be imposed without evidence of negligence by the dog owner.

Will the claim that my child provoked the dog impact a claim for financial compensation?

Insurance companies frequently defend dog attack cases based on asserting a provocation defense. If a child is poking a dog with a stick or otherwise antagonized the dog, this might permit the insurance company to shift some or all of the fault to the dog bite victim.

If the dog was not on a leash as required by the local leash law will that affect a personal injury claim?

Generally, the violation of a leash law may constitute an independent basis for imposing liability under the doctrine of "negligence per se." When an individual violates a law, statute or ordinance designed to protect the public from injury, the party who fails to comply with the statute may be liable for damages and injuries that are caused by such a violation. Liability may be imposed in this situation even if the owner had no prior reason to believe that his or her dog posed any danger to others.

What if we do not have a leash law and the dog has never acted aggressive in the past?

Liability may still be imposed on a dog owner where the scienter requirement is not satisfied and no leash law is applicable if the dog attack was the result of the owner's negligence. The dog owner might fail to repair a board that fenced in the dog or leave the gate unlatched allowing the dog to escape and attack someone in the vicinity of the home.

Are dog bites the only types of injuries for which a dog owner may be liable?

Many injuries involving aggressive dogs are caused by dogs chasing someone trying to flee from the dog. A bike rider might tip over and hit his head on the sidewalk or a pedestrian might slip and fall when fleeing or even run into the path of a speeding car. When a dog chases a person in an aggressive manner, this can result in liability for falls that cause broken bones, head trauma and other forms of injury.

How does breed specific legislation and ordinances impact liability in personal injury claims?

There are many Georgia cities that have passed ordinances declaring certain breeds of dogs to be "potentially dangerous breeds" or "dangerous breeds." These statutes usually impose requirements that make it easier to locate and track the dog if it gets loose and attacks someone. This may include registering and implanting a chip in the dog along with providing a picture of the dog to the local animal control. These laws also may require owners of such dogs to carry certain minimum amounts of insurance so that there is a source of funds to pay a personal injury settlement or judgment. These breed specific laws differ between municipalities so you should consult with one of our experienced Atlanta Dog Bite Lawyers if you have questions about breed specific legislation or particular breeds of dogs.

What types of evidence may be used to prove a dog has vicious propensities?

This is a fact specific inquiry so an investigation, review of public records and witness interviews may be necessary to gather evidence to satisfy the scienter requirement. Family, friends and neighbors may have witnessed behavior by the dog evidencing aggressive tendencies. Further, public agencies like animal control or emergency medical responders may have dealt with prior animal attacks involving the dog. Signs may have been posted that warn that the dog bites or other similar types of evidence may all contribute to establishing that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had violent propensities.

Contact the Experienced Atlanta Dog Bite Lawyers at Montlick and Associates Today!

If you or someone you love has been involved in a dog attack in Georgia, our Atlanta Dog Bite Attorneys at Montlick and Associates have been representing injury victims for over thirty years throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.

No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.