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Dog Bites: When Is the Owner Liable for Injuries?

If a dog bites someone in Georgia, the pet owner may be held liable for the bite victim's injuries. Dog bite victims can file a personal injury lawsuit seeking compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering and other damages sustained in connection with the animal's attack.

For a dog owner to be liable under the Georgia dog bite statute, the injured party must prove that a vicious or dangerous dog caused the injury, that the victim did not provoke the dog and that the bite occurred due to the owner exercising careless management or allowing the dog to roam free.

There are two ways for a bite victim to establish a dog owner’s liability under the statute. They include:

  • Showing the dog had a vicious propensity that the owner knew of or should have known of
  • Showing that the dog was not kept at heel or on a leash, as required by an ordinance of a city, county or consolidated government

If a violation of an ordinance is proved, that is sufficient to establish that the dog is vicious or dangerous, regardless of the owner’s knowledge.

There are a few circumstances in which pet owners can avoid liability. For example, pet owners are not liable for injuries caused by an animal while an individual is trespassing on the owner's property.

Also, if the dog doesn't have a history of aggressive behavior, the owner may be able to avoid liability by asserting a "good behavior" defense, as long as there is no violation of an applicable municipal ordinance.

When a pet owner informs an individual that their dog is not friendly and to not approach them, but the person touches the animal anyway, that may be considered provoking an attack, which could be a defense to liability if the person is injured.

Victims only have two years from the date of the incident to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages incurred from an animal attack. If a claim is not filed within this period, you may be barred from seeking compensation.

At Jason & Bradley, LLC, we represent clients in the Atlanta area who have been injured in a dog bite attack. Please call us at 404-297-9933 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation. Our office is in Stone Mountain. If you cannot meet us there, we can come to your home or hospital room.