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Injured by a Dog? Understand Your Rights

You’re walking down Scranton Road or Newcastle Street in Brunswick and a dog approaches you. They are accompanied by their owner and everything seems to be fine. The dog appears perfectly friendly. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the dog becomes aggressive and bites your arm causing a serious wound requiring multiple stitches and additional treatment. If this has happened to you or a loved one, you need to consider retaining an experienced Brunswick personal injury attorney.

Georgia Laws Governing Dog Bite Liability

Dog bite law in Georgia is covered under the more generalized section of “liability of owner or keeper of vicious or dangerous animal for injuries caused by animal”, given in Georgia Code § 51-2-7. It provides that “A person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and who…causes injury to another person…may be liable in damages to the person so injured.”

A dog bite accident is also codified in Georgia Code § 51-2-6, which says that if any dog, while not on the premises of its owner, kills or injures any livestock, the owner or person having charge of the dog shall be liable for damages sustained by the killing or maiming of the livestock and for the full costs of action.

Now what does that mean if you are somebody who has been critically injured by an unmanned dog and is now looking for legal relief? In simple terms, you have to prove

  • the dog was either “vicious” or “dangerous” and was kept in an unleashed condition at the time of the accident;
  • the owner of the dog was negligent in keeping the animal under proper supervision; and
  • the injury took place without any provocation from the victim.

A dog bite injury lawsuit must be brought within two years from the date of the accident. Since the law acts on the presumption that dogs are harmless, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff; they must show that the owner of the animal was careless enough to let the injury happen. This is commonly referred to as the “one-bite rule” or the “first bite rule” – which means after the first bite, the owner should be careful and on notice about the dangerous nature of their dog.

It should be kept in mind that comparative negligence plays an important role in deciding the amount of damages that can be awarded to the plaintiff, as apparently non-aggressive dogs can become defensive and attack a person upon sudden provocations.

Georgia also has a Responsible Dog Ownership Act, signed by Governor Nathan Deal and effective since July 1, 2012. According to guidelines under the law, owners responsible for the dogs that puncture a person’s skin with a bite but do not cause serious injury, or those dogs that kill another owner’s pet should:

  • Apply for a certificate of registration for the dog every year;
  • Build a secure enclosure to house the dog; and
  • Post warning signs at all entrances to indicate that a dangerous dog lives on the property.

A dog may be classified as vicious if it gravely injures a person, and the dog owner in that case must also:

  • Microchip the pet; and
  • Maintain at least $50,000 of liability insurance to cover costs in the event that the dog attacks or damages another’s property a second time.

Contact an Experienced Georgia Personal Injury Lawyer Today

As you can see, pursuing a claim for restitution of your medical expenses and other damages related to a dog bite can get complicated. This is why you should reach out to an experienced dog bite injury lawyer today. Gillette Law, P.A. is centrally located to serve clients in Georgia. Contact us online, or call us at 904-358-1304 or toll-free at 888-366-5904. If you are unable to visit one of our offices, we can meet with you in your home or hospital room. We offer a free initial consultation and work on a contingency fee basis, so you pay on a percentage basis only when we win your dog bite injury case.

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