Dog Bites and Liability in Georgia
When you buy a pet, that animal becomes your responsibility. You love them like family, and the last thing you want is for them to lash out at another human being. Many variables can lead to a dog becoming aggressive: rescue animals who experienced abuse, temperamental breeds, etc.
Dog Bite Cases Against Homeowners
For liability to be proven in a Georgia dog bite homeowner's case, one of two things must be proven:
- Prior aggression or viciousness
- A violation of a leash ordinance led to the bite
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.” This wording classifies Georgia as a “one bite free” state. With that said, it is best to be proactive and take preventative measures if you think your dog may have aggressive tendencies.
Georgia courts have ruled that a dog barking, growling, or showing its teeth is not enough to show prior aggression. The plaintiff must show a prior lunge, chase, bite, or killing of someone's household pet. There is no breed-specific liability standard to stereotype aggressive breeds.
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
Dog Bites Cases against Landlord's and Multifamily Properties
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.
To recover from a property owner or landlord for a dog bite case, the victim would have to show:
- 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
- The landlord had knowledge of the dog's aggressive tendencies.
Protecting yourself, others, and your animal is a crucial part of having a pet. The CDC reports 4.5 million dog bite injuries every year in the United States, with children ages 5-9 being at the greatest risk. These injuries can vary from a minor scrape to permanent disfigurement or in some cases, wrongful death. Whether you are a victim of a dog bite seeking fair compensation for your injuries, or a dog owner intending to limit your liability in a claim, it is essential to consult with a qualified personal injury attorney. To speak with an experienced dog bite lawyer, call (404) 618-0960 or schedule a call here.