Who Is Liable for a Dog Bite in Georgia?
In any dog bite personal injury case, answering the question of liability is crucial for reaching a successful result. Georgia operates under a negligence statute for dog bite cases, meaning injured plaintiffs must prove that the dog’s owner knew the dog was dangerous and failed to act with reasonable care, causing the plaintiff’s injuries. Read on to learn more about Georgia’s dog bite laws and if you have any questions, consider speaking with a knowledgeable Atlanta dog bite injury lawyer.
Almost every personal injury lawsuit hinges on the legal concept of negligence. For the plaintiff to succeed in his lawsuit, he must prove the defendant was negligent. Meeting the criteria for negligence for dog bite injuries means:
- The plaintiff must show that the dog was vicious or dangerous, and the dog’s owner was aware of this fact. In some situations, Georgia state law dictates that keeping a dog off a leash in an area requiring leashes is enough to qualify any dog – even those with no known history of aggression – as “vicious” under Georgia state law.
- The plaintiff must then prove that the owner had a duty to act with reasonable care and failed to meet this duty. This could mean careless supervision or voluntarily releasing control of the dog.
- Finally, the injured plaintiff must prove she did not provoke the dog.
It’s also important to note that Georgia imposes a two-year statute of limitations on dog bite lawsuits, meaning that injured plaintiffs have two years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit.
Other Facts About Georgia Dog Bite Laws
Unlike most other states, Georgia’s dog bite laws operate under the presumption that dogs are harmless. In strict liability states, dog owners are entirely responsible if their dogs bite people, regardless of almost all circumstances. Georgia dog bite victims must prove that the dog’s owner knew the dog was, in fact, not harmless, which can be a difficult task in many situations.
When a dog has a recorded history of biting people, the dog’s owner then has established knowledge of the dog’s dangerousness. This qualifies as “superior knowledge” of the dog’s temperament and can be enough to qualify the dog’s owner as negligent should the dog bite another person. In Georgia, dogs are essentially innocent until proven guilty. Once a dog bites a person, the dog’s owner is on notice about the dog’s potential danger to others, and the owner should take reasonable precautions and exercise reasonable care to prevent future bites.
Defenses Against Dog Bite Lawsuits in Georgia
Even though Georgia is one of the most generous states when it comes to dogs in personal injury lawsuits, it’s still vital for Georgia dog owners to know how to defend against dog bite lawsuits. Since Georgia operates under a negligence statute for these cases, a Georgia court may not find the owner liable if he or she had no prior knowledge of the dog’s violent tendencies. Something as simple as failing to leash a dog in an area requiring leashes is enough to meet the requirement for negligence, and thus place liability on the dog owner.
Dog owners also may successfully defend against lawsuits if they can prove they were not careless with their handling of the dog at the time of the attack, or did not intentionally release the dog. For example, dropping the leash carelessly could constitute liability, whereas a dog managing to break free from a leash without the owner’s consent would not. Finally, dog owners are not liable for injuries their dogs cause to trespassers. For a plaintiff to succeed in a personal injury lawsuit for a dog bite in Georgia, the plaintiff must have been lawfully present at the location where the attack took place.