While most Georgia dog owners are responsible, some fail to protect the community from their dangerous animals. Georgia, in fact, ranked among the top 10 states in the country in the number of dog bite insurance claims in 2019, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).
Those who suffer injuries because of dog bites may be entitled to compensation.
If you have been bitten by a dog, call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 816-0755 to see if a Georgia dog bite lawyer can help you with your case. We offer free case evaluations.
Georgia Dog Laws
In 2012, the Georgia Legislature passed the Responsible Dog Ownership Law, which was designed to provide standards for dog owners across the state in order to keep people and their pets safe from dangerous pets. The law does not preclude local governments from passing stricter ordinances.
Vicious and Dangerous Dogs
The Responsible Dog Ownership Law creates two classifications of dogs that have previously been involved in attacks: “dangerous” and “vicious.”
A dangerous dog has:
- Substantially punctured a person’s skin without causing serious injury.
- Aggressively attacked in a manner that led a person to believe the dog posed an imminent threat.
- Killed a pet animal while off its owner’s property.
A vicious dog has inflicted or caused a serious injury. Dogs that inflict a serious injury more than once must be euthanized, the law says.
All classified dogs—meaning dangerous or vicious dogs—must receive a certificate of registration from a local government’s dog control officer, and no household is allowed more than one certification.
To register a dangerous dog, an owner must have a secure enclosure that confines the dog to their property as well as clearly visible warning signs. Dangerous dogs are not allowed off the owner’s property unless they are on-leash, in a crate, or working or training to work.
To register a vicious dog, an owner must have a secure enclosure, visible warning signs, a traceable microchip in the dog, and at least $50,000 in dog-related liability insurance. Vicious dogs cannot be off property unless they are leashed and muzzled or within an enclosure. They can never be left alone with minors.
Dog Bite Liability
Georgia Code § 51-2-7 says that when a person lets their dangerous or vicious animal loose, and it injures someone, the owner will be liable for the victim’s losses. They would also be liable if local ordinances mandated that the dog has to be on a leash, and the owner failed to follow those rules.
On the surface, this reads like a “one bite rule”—that is, owners are not responsible for nonaggressive dogs’ first bites—but that is not necessarily the case. You do not have to prove that dogs have previously bitten someone to show that their owners were negligent. While Georgia does not have a statewide leash law, many of its cities and counties do. In these jurisdictions, allowing a dog to roam free can show “vicious propensity.”
There are some situations in which a dog is not considered responsible for biting a person, such as if the injured person was trespassing, attempting to commit certain crimes, or had provoked or abused the dog, according to the Responsible Dog Ownership Law.
If you have questions about whether you are eligible to file a lawsuit, call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today to see how a Georgia dog bite lawyer can help you with your case.
If you can prove that the dog was previously aggressive, or that their owner broke local laws leading up to the attack, then you might be entitled to recover compensation for your injuries. Georgia does not cap economic damages for tangible costs such as medical expenses or lost wages, or noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering and mental anguish.
In many cases, the dog owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy pays the victim’s compensation. Georgia law requires the owners of vicious dogs to carry at least $50,000 in liability insurance, but the III says that the typical homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy has between $100,000 and $300,000 in liability coverage. If your damages exceed the amount of the policy, the dog owner is responsible for the difference.
One thing to note: Georgia uses a comparative negligence standard, which means your compensation may be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault, according to Georgia Code § 51-12-33. In other words, if the owner shows that you bear 30% responsibility for the bite—perhaps you were teasing the dog—your award would get knocked down by 30%.
As with other personal injury cases, Georgia Code § 9-3-33 only gives you two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit.
How We Can Help
The Georgia dog bite lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have one priority—to seek justice on your behalf. However, we also want to protect our neighborhoods and children from dangerous dogs and careless owners.
Sometimes, the most difficult part of a dog bite case is tracking down a stray’s owner. When this happens, we are relentless in our investigation, and we never shy away from tough cases. We want you to focus on getting better, and let us take care of getting you compensation. Always remember, our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means we do not get paid until we recover compensation for you.
Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 816-0755 to speak with a member of our team and to schedule your free consultation.