Georgia’s Unique Laws Regarding Dog Bite Injuries: Holding Owners Accountable
If you live in Atlanta, Georgia, you may have encountered a friendly or not-so-friendly dog on your daily walks or visits to the park. While most dogs are well-behaved and harmless, some can pose a serious threat to your safety and well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, and about 800,000 of them require medical attention. Dog bite injuries can cause physical pain, emotional trauma, scarring, infection, and even death.
In this blog post, we will explain the unique laws that govern dog bite injury cases in Georgia and how they affect your rights as a victim. We will also discuss the two ways that a dog owner can be held liable for your injuries: negligence and strict liability. Finally, we will highlight the importance of hiring a personal injury lawyer to help you pursue compensation and justice for your damages.
What is a Dog Bite Injury and What Damages Can You Claim?
A dog bite injury is any injury caused by a dog’s teeth, claws, or body that breaks the skin or causes bruising, swelling, or bleeding. A dog bite injury can also include injuries caused by a dog knocking you down or causing you to fall. A dog bite injury can affect any part of your body, but the most common areas are the face, neck, arms, and legs.
If you suffer a dog bite injury in Georgia, you may be entitled to claim various types of damages from the dog owner or their insurance company. These damages can include:
- Medical expenses: This covers the costs of treating your injuries, such as doctor visits, hospital bills, medication, surgery, physical therapy, and future medical care.
- Lost wages: This covers the income that you lost or will lose due to your inability to work or reduced earning capacity because of your injuries.
- Pain and suffering: This covers the physical pain and emotional distress that you experienced or will experience because of your injuries.
- Disfigurement: This covers the permanent changes to your appearance or function that result from your injuries, such as scarring, nerve damage, or loss of limb.
- Loss of enjoyment of life: This covers the negative impact that your injuries have on your quality of life and ability to participate in activities that you enjoyed before.
- Punitive damages: This covers the additional compensation that you may receive if the dog owner acted with malice, fraud, or gross negligence.
How Can a Dog Owner Be Held Liable for Your Dog Bite Injury?
In Georgia, there are two ways that a dog owner can be held liable for your dog bite injury: negligence and strict liability. These are different legal theories that require different standards and evidence to prove.
Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care to prevent harm to others. To prove negligence in a dog bite injury case, you must show that:
- The dog owner had a duty to control their dog or prevent it from harming others
- The dog owner breached that duty by failing to take reasonable steps to restrain their dog or warn others of its dangerous propensities
- The dog owner’s breach caused your injury
- You suffered damages as a result of your injury
For example, if a dog owner lets their dog roam freely in a public place without a leash or supervision, and the dog bites you without provocation, the dog owner may be liable for negligence.
Strict liability is the responsibility for harm caused by one’s actions regardless of fault or intent. To prove strict liability in a dog bite injury case, you must show that:
- The dog was vicious or dangerous
- The dog owner knew or should have known of the dog’s viciousness or dangerousness
- The dog owner carelessly managed or allowed the dog to injure you
For example, if a dog owner has a history of complaints or lawsuits about their dog biting people, and they fail to secure their dog properly or warn you about its aggressiveness, the dog owner may be liable for strict liability.
The main difference between negligence and strict liability is that negligence focuses on the conduct of the dog owner, while strict liability focuses on the nature of the dog. Negligence requires proof of fault or carelessness on the part of the dog owner, while strict liability does not. However, strict liability also requires proof of viciousness or dangerousness on the part of the dog, while negligence does not.
What Defenses Can a Dog Owner Raise to Avoid Liability?
A dog owner may try to avoid liability for your dog bite injury by raising one or more of the following defenses:
- You provoked the dog: This defense argues that you did something to anger or frighten the dog before it bit you, such as teasing, hitting, or chasing it. This defense may apply to both negligence and strict liability cases, but it depends on the circumstances and the evidence.
- You trespassed on the dog owner’s property: This defense argues that you entered the dog owner’s property without permission or legal right, and that the dog was acting to protect its territory. This defense may apply to negligence cases, but not to strict liability cases, unless the dog was confined or restrained on the property.
- You assumed the risk of being bitten: This defense argues that you voluntarily exposed yourself to the risk of being bitten by the dog, and that you knew or should have known of the potential danger. This defense may apply to both negligence and strict liability cases, but it depends on your knowledge and consent.
Why Should You Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Dog Bite Injury Case?
If you have been bitten by a dog in Georgia, you should consult a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to evaluate your case and protect your rights. A personal injury lawyer can help you by:
- Investigating the facts and circumstances of your dog bite injury
- Gathering evidence to prove the liability and damages of the dog owner
- Negotiating with the dog owner or their insurance company for a fair settlement
- Filing a lawsuit and representing you in court if necessary
- Advising you on the best course of action for your situation
Dog bite injury cases can be complex and challenging, especially in Georgia, where the laws are unique and favorable to dog owners. You need a personal injury lawyer who has the experience and expertise to handle your case effectively and efficiently. A personal injury lawyer can also help you maximize your compensation and recovery for your dog bite injury.