Atlanta Dog Bite Lawyers
Representing Dog Bite Victims in GEORGIA
If you were recently attacked by a dog, you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year nearly 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs and half of these victims are children. At Paisley Law LLC, we have more than 35 years of collective experience representing dog bite victims in Georgia, and we would be glad to help you too.
Why choose our firm?
- 10.0 Superb Avvo Rating.
- We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Attorney Paisley is a former state prosecutor.
With our background in insurance defense and prosecution, you can rest assured that we have honed our negotiation and courtroom skills, and we will use these assets to your advantage at all times.
Georgia's Dog Bite Statute
Dog bite cases can be complex and highly specialized. We work our way through various statutory elements and try to find insurance coverage that will adequately pay the damages. Dog bite injuries can be tragic, and sometimes there is no insurance coverage for the most horrific of injuries. The legal hurdles on a bite case can generally be overcome with some diligence. Dog bite laws are a tangent on basic premises liability laws and duties for homeowners and landlords. Landlords and homeowners already have a duty to invitees to keep the premises and approaches safe1. The dog bite laws further clarify specific elements we must show and extend even when an incident doesn't take place on the homeowner's property.
Dog Bite Cases Against Homeowners
2 Ways to Establish Liability:
To prove liability in a Georgia dog bite homeowner's case, the plaintiff must show either:
1. Prior aggression or viciousness2, OR
2. That a leash law type ordinance was violated that led to the bite
Showing Prior Aggression or Viciousness
O.C.G.A. 51-2-7 says “a person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and who, by careless management or by allowing the animal to go at liberty, causes injury to another person who does not provoke the injury by his own act may be liable in damages to the person so injured.” Because of this wording, Georgia is classified as a “one bite free” state. It might be hard to prove liability if a dog is inside his home, a friend comes over and is bitten while sitting on the couch. If there was absolutely no aggressive behavior before that then recovery could be problematic.
So how creative can we get showing prior incidents of aggression? Georgia courts have ruled that a dog barking, growling, or showing its teeth is not enough to show prior aggression. 3 The plaintiff must show a prior lunge, a chase, a prior bite, or even the killing of someone's household pet. There is no breed specific strict liability standard to stereotypical aggressive breeds.
Ordinance Violation in lieu of Prior Aggression
The statute goes on to say “In proving vicious propensity, it shall be sufficient to show that the animal was required to be at heel or on a leash by an ordinance of a city, county, or consolidated government, and the said animal was at the time of the occurrence not at heel or on a leash…”4 Any county or municipality will have leash law ordinances that prohibit a dog from being off a leash or outside of an owners control.
Abusers or those who provoke a dog are barred from recovery. Trespassers are also excluded but there are exceptions for small children. If someone is bitten by a police dog, they typically would not be able to recover.5
Finding Insurance Coverage
Most homeowners will have some kind of general liability coverage. Most of the time, getting in touch with the homeowner is impossible when they know I'm a lawyer about to sue them. We will send letters telling them they are required by law to send us insurance information, but they never seem to respond. If knocking on their door and calling them fails, we will file suit hoping for some kind of response. If I get a chance to speak with them, I am very clear that I want nothing to do with their personal assets and all we are looking for is insurance coverage. When we file suit, we are usually able to ascertain quickly whether there is insurance.
Dog Bites Cases against Landlord's and Multifamily Properties
Let's say John is walking his dog through the courtyard of his apartment complex, and out of nowhere, the dog lunges at Bill (another tenant), biting him. John is a renter and even keeps rental insurance as required per his lease, but his policy excludes dog bite incidents. If John has an umbrella policy, then maybe Bill could recover from John if the dog bite statutory elements are met. Otherwise, Bill might be stuck seeking liability against the property owner/landlord if the landlord knew of the dog's prior aggressive incidents.
O.C.G.A. §44-7-1 addresses civil liability for landlords who have fully parted with rights of possession to a property and says they are not liable for the negligent actions of their tenants to third parties. Conversely property owners have a duty under O.C.G.A. §51-3-1 to keep their premises and their approaches safe for invitees. A multifamily landlord can logically part with rights of possession to all the interior units in a multifamily apartment complex, but still has a duty to keep the common areas safe. Single family residence home rental cases are much harder to prove against landlords because they have usually parted with their rights of possession and have no public common areas for invitees so O.C.G.A. 44-7-1 would apply.
In addition to showing the bite happened in a common area, the property owner/landlord must also have knowledge of the dog's viciousness or prior attacks. Without proof of the landlord's knowledge of the dog's aggressive tendencies, motion for summary judgment would likely be granted and a plaintiff would be barred from recovery.
To recover from a property owner or landlord for a dog bite case, the victim would have to show:
1. The bite or attack occurred in a common area where the landlord had a duty to keep the area safe under O.C.G.A. §51-3-1, AND
2. The landlord had knowledge of the dog's aggressive tendencies.
Finding Evidence of Prior Aggression or Bites
I have a recent case where we were easily able to show prior aggression by doing a search on the county court clerk database with the homeowner's name. After that we did an open records request for all police reports filed at that property and determined the dog had bitten at least two people prior to the incident with my client. Other ways one could investigate prior events is talking to neighbors or to the animal control officer and see if they had contact with the landlord. After filing suit, much can be discovered during litigation. Requests for production of documents could reveal prior complaints, as well as current and former employees and tenants that made complaints.
Contact our Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney
Dog bites can cause minor lacerations to serious scarring and disfigurement, and in worst cases, death. If you or someone you love has been attacked by a dog, an Atlanta personal injury lawyer from Paisley Law LLC can help.
After reviewing the details of your case, we will explain your legal options and which strategies we would use to pursue maximum compensation on your behalf. Don't wait any longer to pursue the compensation and justice you deserve. Contact us today to speak with one of our Atlanta injury lawyers about your case.