Despite the saying “a dog is a man’s best friend,” millions of people suffer from dog bites every year, according to the American Veterinary Association. Nearly 30,000 victims require reconstructive surgery to repair the damage of a canine attack.
If you are a resident of Atlanta and have suffered injuries or trauma due to a dog bite, you might have a claim for damages against the dog’s owner or handler. Contact an Atlanta personal injury attorney as soon as possible for consultation. An Atlanta dog bite lawyer could advise you on whether you can receive compensation for your injuries and may help you achieve peace of mind in the aftermath of this traumatic event.
The Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group Handles Dog Bite Cases
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert founded the Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group. She was the victim of a serious accident but found dealing with the insurance companies afterward to be a difficult task. She founded her law firm on the principle of helping victims of personal injury seek justice.
The attorneys at Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group can provide you with expert legal advice and representation for your personal injury claim. With our years of experience, we can help you choose the best path for seeking financial compensation. You shouldn't deal with the complexities of the law on your own. You can get a free case review to find out how we can help you with your dog bite injury claim.
We can help you no matter where your dog bite happened. Whether you were on private property or a public park, you may have a case.
We can assist you after a dog bit you or someone you love in these or any other Atlanta locations:
- Atlanta Memorial Park
- Grant Park
- Freedom Park or Freedom Barkway Dog Park
- Piedmont Park or Piedmont Dog Park
- South Bend Dog Park
Owner Liability for Dangerous or Vicious Dogs in Atlanta
Many states have laws that hold owners responsible for damages their pets cause, including dog bites. In Georgia, an owner is liable for dog bites in certain conditions under the Responsible Dog Owner Act.
Georgia Dog Bite Law
If the person did not provoke the attack, the owner of a vicious or dangerous dog may be liable for the victim's damages. Georgia considers a dog vicious if it is not under its owner's control in a locality that requires leashes or restraints. The owner must carry $50,000 of liability insurance to cover any injuries a dangerous or vicious dog might cause.
Owner Knowledge or Carelessness
If the owner of the dog that bit you knew their dog was dangerous, they may be held liable for your injuries in the state of Georgia. Your case must establish the dog owner was negligent, allowing it near other people despite requirements that they restrain the animal or knowing it was a threat.
Some people are familiar with a dog bite liability concept known as the "first free bite rule," but this is not an accurate label. Despite common assumptions about this law, a dog (or an owner) does not automatically get to bite someone for “free” with no liability attached.
However, once the dog bites someone, the law can label it as dangerous or vicious—and even stricter requirements will apply to the dog and the owner.
What Is Georgia’s One Bite Rule?
As mentioned, the so-called “one bite rule” does not mean that there are no consequences after a dog’s first bite. The rule establishes that, after their dog bites someone for the first time, the dog owner must ensure:
- The dog does not leave the owner’s premises without a leash or without being inside a crate
- The dog is under supervision when around minors or small children
Under Georgia’s Responsible Dog Ownership law, dogs may be categorized under two different definitions after they bite someone for the first time.
If a first bite breaks the skin but isn't serious, the law may label the dog dangerous. If the first bite inflicts serious injuries, they could fall under an even more serious category of vicious. The law can order a vicious dog euthanized if it attacks a second time.
What Is the Leash Law in Atlanta?
The City of Atlanta's Municipal Code requires that animals, including dogs, be at heel or on a leash under the owner's control when off the owner's premises and within the confines of the city. This law obligates dog owners to supervise and control their dogs' movements and activities at all times.
Failure to control a dog can be a violation of Atlanta law. A local attorney could use this violation to demonstrate that a dog is “vicious” under the definition provided by Georgia statutes regarding dog bites. This would make the owner liable for damages to the injured person.
How Will I Get Compensation for My Atlanta Dog Bite?
Every dog bite case is different. Your possible compensation source would depend on the location of your attack, the type of property involved, and who is deemed liable.
Below are a few possible situations that may apply to your dog bite injury.
Private Property Insurance
If someone's dog bites you on their personal property, the owner's homeowners insurance or renters insurance would likely be the first and primary source for your financial compensation. While these sources are the most common, they are not the only sources. An Atlanta dog bite lawyer knows how to look for possible sources of compensation from the dog owner.
While many homeowners carry homeowner insurance, not all policies will cover a dog bite—especially if the dog was on a list of dog breeds excluded from insurance coverage. If the dog owner was prudent and knew they were housing an aggressive or dangerous dog, they may have a liability insurance policy for animal attacks.
Did a dog bite you at a business? Some businesses may have guard dogs to protect their belongings or premises. Other businesses may have a personal pet on the business's premises. The business may have a liability policy to compensate visitors after a dog attack or other injuries. A liability insurance policy covering the premises could offer you compensation for your injuries.
What Kinds of Compensation Could I Receive?
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may qualify for the two most common kinds of financial compensation for personal injury, with the possibility of a third if you can prove malicious intent. The two most likely forms of damages are economic and non-economic, with punitive damages as the third possibility.
Economic damages are tied directly to financial costs stemming from your injuries. Typical economic damages include your medical expenses, such as medication, physical therapy, or emergency room visits.
If you can't go back to work while you recover from your injuries, you may cover your lost income. If your injuries stemming from the attack are severe enough to prevent you from ever returning to work, you may recover compensation for the loss of future earning capacity.
This form of compensation is for pain and suffering, or other damages not directly tied to specific financial costs. It is very difficult to attach a dollar amount for your emotional duress or other forms of suffering stemming from your injuries. Instead, an Atlanta dog bites lawyer from our team can fight to help you receive fair compensation for these non-financial damages.
You may also receive additional compensation if you are permanently disfigured or scarred.
Though rarely awarded in injury cases, punitive damages punish the wrongdoer for malicious or intentional harm. If the dog owner tried to intentionally harm you with a dangerous dog, a jury may award punitive damages specifically to punish the defendant.
A dog attack attorney from our team can help you evaluate your case to determine whether punitive damages may apply.
How an Atlanta Dog Bites Attorney From Our Office Can Help
An Atlanta dog bites lawyer can investigate your case and the circumstances surrounding it.
The investigation can include:
- Examination of the attack location
- Gathering medical records that show the extent of your injuries
- Interviewing witnesses to the attack
- Looking into the history of the dog owner and the animal for past instances of aggressive or dangerous behavior
One of our attorneys can also handle negotiations for possible settlements to your claim. We can keep you updated on the progress of any negotiations throughout your case.
Landlord Liability for Dog Bites
If a dog bit you on the property of a person renting from someone, you may wonder if you can hold the building's owner liable. Landlord liability for the actions of a renter can be a tricky legal situation. The case of Griffiths v. Rowe Props., 271 Ga. App. 344 (2005) demonstrates the difficulties of suing a landlord when a renter’s dog attacks a person.
After a tenant's dog attacked her small child, the mother sued both the dog owner renting the property and the leasing agent for the building. Ultimately, the courts ruled that the leasing agent did not know about the dog's aggressive tendencies. Further, because the attack happened inside the renter's apartment, the landlord was not liable. The tenant's apartment was not a common area the landlord would normally access.
To hold a landlord responsible for a tenant’s dog attack, it must be proven the landlord had prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressiveness. If the dog attack happens in a common or public area and the landlord knew ahead of time the dog was dangerous or vicious, you can hold them liable, as shown in Lidster v. Jones, 176 Ga. App. 392 (1985).
Swift Action Yields Best Results
Georgia requires individuals to file personal injury claims within two years of the incident that led to the injury. This may seem like a long time, but the longer a claimant waits, the more difficult it becomes to present a strong case.
An attorney will want access to all available evidence for a personal injury claim. When a victim waits to contact a legal professional, it becomes harder to obtain the necessary evidence and witness testimonies. Victims should consult with an attorney in the community as soon as possible following a dog attack.
Before a dog bites or attacks someone, the owner should prevent it. A dog owner must protect people from their animal. When they fail to do this, the dog bite attorneys at the Atlanta Personal Injury Group can seek justice for your injuries and suffering.
Allow an Atlanta Dog Bite Attorney to Guide You
Dog bite victims may be tempted to negotiate directly with a dog owner or their insurance company, especially when the dog or its owner was known to the victim before the incident. No one wants to be involved in legal proceedings with a friend or neighbor.
To ensure that personal considerations are not a factor in the settlement, allow an experienced attorney to handle your case. A legal advocate could guide you through difficult and delicate negotiations and may also increase your chances of fair compensation. If you have suffered injuries in a canine attack, consult an Atlanta dog bite lawyer for a complimentary case review.