Holding a Dog Owner Liable for a Dog Bite in Georgia
In the United States, over 40 million households own one or more dogs, which means more than one out of every three homes in America houses man's best friend. There is no doubt Americans love their dogs. Most of the time these furry companions make for great pets, providing company to humans, and security to their homes. However, from time to time people have less positive interactions with dogs. The friendly image we have of these animals can sometimes cause us to forget that dogs are hunters with the ability to cause serious injuries when they bite. With so many dog owners out there, what happens when one of their dogs bites a person?
Dog bite laws vary by state, so there is no one answer to this question. In some places, there is strict liability for dog bites, meaning if you are bitten by a dog, the owner is liable because they owned the dog. There are of course defenses to liability as well, which would include a claim that the individual who suffered the bite was provoking the dog, or that the injured individual was trespassing on the dog owner's property. Professionals who work with dogs might also have a more difficult time claiming that the owner should be liable because there is often a presumption that these individuals have accepted the risk by way of their profession.
In other states, there is what is called the "one bite rule." The one bite rule will excuse a dog owner under certain circumstances if the dog bites someone for the first time ever. To someone who has just been bitten and suffered serious injuries as a result, this rule might not seem fair. It is not as clear cut as it seems based on its title though. While a dog who has previously bitten someone would create liability for the owner when they bite again, even on a first bite many owners would find themselves liable for the injuries caused by their dog. This is because it is typical for statutes to include other previous aggressive behavior as a strong enough indicator that the dog might bite someone. If the dog is known to snarl and growl at strangers, or if it has tried to bite people in the past, attacked other dogs or displayed other forms of clearly aggressive behavior, then there is a good chance that the owner could potentially be held liable even if the dog has never actually bit someone before. So if someone has a dog that frequently barks, growls, snarls and tries to break out of its fence every time someone walks by, and that same dog finally escapes its enclosure and bites someone, the one bite rule might not hold up. However, if someone's chubby and cuddly pug suddenly takes a nip out of nowhere, the law might protect that owner from liability because they had no reason to believe that the dog was a risk to anyone.
This presents the issue of breed. It is obvious that a chihuahua is unlikely to present any serious dangers to a human. But what about a 90lb muscled pit bull? Should a dog owner be on notice just because they own a certain breed of dog? In most cases the dog's breed will not automatically mean that the owner should have known it was aggressive. That being said, there are places where certain breeds of dog are deemed dangerous or even banned, in which case the breed might play a factor in the case.
Laws regarding dog bites are different depending on what state you are in, and sometimes even based on local ordinances. If you have suffered an injury from a dog bite, you should contact an attorney at Montlick & Associates to discuss the facts of your case and have your claim evaluated in order to learn about your rights as well as what steps are necessary to protect those rights.
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