Dogs are a lot like people, in that they have personalities and behavioral tendencies all their own. While most dogs are friendly and not prone to aggressive behavior, others will attack with little to no warning.
If you’ve been bitten or otherwise seriously injured by another person’s dog, you may be able to hold the dog owner liable for your injuries and collect compensation. But Georgia dog-bite laws are not as straightforward as those in other states. In today’s post, we’ll try to provide a simple overview of liability laws in this legal area.
Pet Owner Liability
In many states, dog owners are considered liable for a dog bite simply because they own the dog and it attacked someone. This is known as “strict liability.” Under Georgia law, however, dog owners may be held liable if their dog was considered dangerous and they were negligent in preventing the attack/bite.
Generally speaking, a dog is considered dangerous if it has previously shown aggressive or violent behavior, including:
- Previously biting humans hard enough to result in “substantial puncture of the skin”
- Aggressively attacking someone beyond just showing teeth, barking or growling
- Killing a pet animal while off of the dog owner’s property
In short, owners can be held liable if they knew (or should have known based on the criteria above) that their dog was dangerous and failed to properly restrain the dog or protect others from it.
Certain Situations Negate Owner Liability
In most cases, a dog will not be considered dangerous (and owners won’t be considered liable) if the victim was committing certain illegal actions or threatening the dog before being attacked. This would include:
- Abusing the dog or provoking it to attack
- Trespassing on the owner’s property
- Attempting to commit a crime that would cause physical harm to another person or threaten their safety/freedom (assault, homicide, kidnapping, etc.)
Not all illegal actions would just justify or excuse a dog attack. The examples cited above should hopefully provide some guidance in this area.
The Law Is Complex – Talk To An Attorney
Georgia dog-bite laws are admittedly complex and very dependent upon context. The information provided above is a guide, but there is no substitute for case-specific advice. If you’ve been bitten and want to know whether you have an actionable case, contact us to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney today.