The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta estimates that nearly 2% of the U.S. population will be bitten by a dog each year – this is more than 4.7 million dog bites. Of those attacks, nearly 800,000 of the bites will be serious enough to require medical attention. Luckily, only about 12-15 people will die. Fatal dog bites occur more often in children than in adults. In fact, dog bites are one of the leading causes of injury to children – second only to playground injury.

The Insurance Information Institute reports that dog bites annually cost insurers between $300 and $350 million. This sounds like a lot of money, until you realize that dog bit victims will suffer over $1 billion in monetary losses each year, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Georgia has one of the country’s most owner-friendly dog bite liability statues, requiring that the owner may only be liable for injuries in two cases:

Owner Knowledge
The first way requires the victim to prove (1) that the animal was dangerous or vicious, (2) that the defendant knew the animal was dangerous or vicious, and (3) that the defendant either carelessly managed the animal or allowed it to roam free.

Leash Law Violations
The second requires a local ordinance. If your local government has passed a law requiring the dog to be at heel or on a leash and you can prove that the defendant was not in compliance, you might have a case. Importantly, if the owner is violating a local ordinance, it does not matter whether or not he knew that the animal was vicious or dangerous.

Georgia & The “One Bite” Rule
While Georgia law does not explicitly state that “one bite” is required, the courts have said that Georgia traditionally adheres to a “first bite” rule and will only hold dog owners liable for their dog’s actions if the owner knows that the dog has a “propensity to bite.”

The last thing to know in Georgia law is that a plaintiff may not be able to recover if he or she “provoked” the dog before the bite. If the plaintiff was teasing the dog or struck it, he will likely be unable to recover under the laws of Georgia.
Jason R. Schultz
Helping Georgia area residents with car accident, medical malpractice, and personal injury claims since 1991.