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What is the “One Bite” Rule?

November 10, 2017

The “One Bite” Rule as Explained By Our Experienced Dog Bite Attorney in Georgia

Dogs are possibly the most favored pet in the United States. With over 77 million pet dogs living in American households, there are bound to be some mishaps with these popular companion animals. As it turns out, approximately 4.5 million people in the U.S. experience dog bites each year. While the severity of these bites varies greatly, there are occasions when dog bites lead to serious injuries, hospitalizations, infections, blood loss, and disfiguring scars. When someone suffers painful and costly consequences as the result of an aggressive dog, it is often possible to hold the owner legally liable for the injuries caused by their dog.

What is the “One Bite” Rule?

The laws regarding owner liability for dog bites vary from state to state, but “one bite rule” is one law that is fairly common and often discussed when these claims occur.  In many jurisdictions, it is a rule that says that the owner of a domesticated animal can be held liable for injuries caused by the animal only if the owner knew or should have known about the animal’s dangerous or vicious propensities, which may have occurred in the past.  

Although Georgia does not have an actual "One Bite Law, a dog having attacked another person is usually enough to put an owner on notice of his/her dog's dangerous propensities.  Georgia's dog attack law says that a person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and  who, by careless management or by allowing the animal to go at liberty, causes injury to another person who does not provoke the injury by his own act may be liable in damages to the injured person.  Violation of a leash ordinance is also sufficient in Georgia to show negligence of the owner, a step further than the "One Bite Law."

Why would laws allow one free bite or attack?

The 'One Bite Rule" is based on the idea that an owner who has no reason to believe their dog is dangerous should not be held liable if the dog surprises everyone by suddenly biting someone. Once the dog has taken that action, the owner would then be considered “on notice,” because they would have reason to believe that the dog posed a risk to people. If the dog then bit someone again, the owner would then be liable to the injured person.

What if a dog seems dangerous, but has never bitten someone?

While the name implies the dog really has to have sunk his teeth into someone before the owner becomes liable, the truth is there are many other behaviors that would typically amount to aggression. For instance, if the dog had previously growled and snarled at people, or attempted to bite them, then this aggressive behavior might also indicate that the owner should have been on notice. Thus, even if the dog never actually managed to bite someone, if it tried, or acted as though it might, the owner might still find themselves liable. Certain behaviors, such as barking, are probably not enough to say the owner should have known the dog might bite. The behavior would have to be something considered aggressive.

What if the dog that bit me was a breed known for aggression?

If the dog was a breed that has a reputation for being aggressive or dangerous, this does not necessarily mean that the owner would have been on notice. The behavior of the individual dog is much more important than the breed of the dog. With that said, there are places that have enacted breed specific legislation determining that certain breeds are to be considered dangerous, and in these places, the owner might be more likely to be found liable in the event their dog caused an injury. It is also possible that a judge or jury might hold a bias towards an intimidating looking dog that they would not have towards a more docile appearing dog such as a golden retriever.

How does my behavior towards the dog impact my claim?

It is sometimes the case that a dog bites because it was provoked. If you provoked a dog by poking it in the eye, the owner might have a strong defense against your dog bite claim.

Dog bite laws vary by state, and every claim is different. If you were bitten by a dog, you should contact a Georgia Dog Bite Attorney at Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, to have your claim properly evaluated as soon as possible.

Put Our Law Firm's Over 37 Years Of Legal Experience To Work For Your Case!

If you have been injured in any type of accident caused by someone else's negligence, contact Montlick & Associates today for your free consultation. Montlick & Associates has been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and in the Southeast for over 37 years, 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.

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Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law
17 Executive Park Dr NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
Telephone: 1 (800) LAW-NEED
Telephone: 1 (404) 529-6333

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.