In America, there is one dog for every 4.5 people. While most dogs coexist with people peaceably, some have a tendency to attack, and even mild-mannered dogs can attack without warning if they feel threatened. An estimated 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, 20 percent of which require medical attention, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. (Dogs are the usual culprit in animal attacks, but not the only. Lawsuits have also been filed by people who’ve been attacked by squirrels, cats, geese, bats, and livestock, among others.)
Dog bite injuries and their psychological effects can be life altering. Victims often require emergency medical attention and ongoing counseling and have to deal with issues such as nerve damage, permanent scarring, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Dog bite victims may be able to file a claim or lawsuit with the help of an Atlanta dog bite attorney against an owner to recover damages. Obtaining a settlement can help offset past and future medical expenses, as well as compensate you for other damages such as loss of income and pain and suffering.
Understanding Georgia Dog Bite Laws
Georgia dog bite laws, some of which are detailed in Ga. Code Ann., § 51-2-6 to 7, are rather complex and tend to favor the dog owner, rather the victim. Georgia animal owners can be held liable for animal attack victims’ damages only if the following three elements are true.
- The animal was considered dangerous or had a “vicious propensity.” There must be proof (e.g., previous animal attacks or a history of aggressive behavior) that the owner knew the animal was dangerous.
- The animal must be at large through the careless management of the owner.
- The victim must not have provoked the animal.
In addition to state laws, each county or city may have its own distinct rules that apply in dog bite situation, such as a leash law. If there is a leash law requiring the animal to be on a leash, at heel or confined, then attack victims can prove the animal had a "vicious propensity" by simply showing that the animal was required to be at heel or on a leash by an ordinance of the city, county or consolidated government, and it wasn’t. Your lawyer can explain exactly what laws apply to your case and whether or not you qualify to file a claim.
Seeking Compensation for Your Dog Attack Injuries
If you or your child were attacked by a dog, after you’ve tended to your immediate medical needs and called Animal Control, you will want to contact a lawyer to discuss your options for restitution. Most animal attack cases fall under an area of law referred to as premises liability, so make sure the lawyer you speak to handles cases of this nature.
The first route for seeking compensation for damages is to file a premises liability claim against the dog/property owner (defendant). Dog attacks usually fall under the defendant’s homeowner’s insurance or the company’s general liability insurance if the defendant is a business. If the insurance doesn’t cover your damages, you will have the option of suing the defendant in court.