Dogs are often considered a member of the family. They are loved and well cared for. But every year, thousands of pets attack and bite other people, leading to injuries and even fatalities. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 4.5 million dog bite in the U.S. every year. Some of these bites occur in Georgia, where the owner or person taking care of the dog can be held responsible for the victim’s injuries.
If you were hurt in an animal attack, contact the Augusta dog bite attorneys at Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. today.
Georgia Dog Bite Laws
Georgia has two statutes that deal with the responsibility of dog owners. Georgia Code Title 51, Chapter 2, Section 6 discusses the liability of owners or keepers of animals, including dogs. It states that if any animal, not on its owner or keeper’s premises, kills or injures any livestock, the owner or person in charge of the dog shall be liable for all costs sustained due to the attack.
GA Section 51-2-7 talks about vicious animals – which could include dogs – and injuries caused by them. Any person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind that, by being careless in management or letting the animal go free, causes injury to another person who does not provoke his or her own injury, may be liable the injured person for damages.
Making Sense of the Elements of the Law
There are many parts of these statutes to unwrap. How do you know if the animal is vicious or dangerous? It could be that the animal attacked another person before or has behaved aggressively toward people. Also, viciousness under the law may not be what you think. Section 51-2-7 says it can be sufficient to show that the dog was required to heel or be on a leash and was not at the time of the injury.
The next element is that the owner or keeper of the dog must have been careless in managing the dog or let the animal go at liberty. Careless management of a dog could mean multiple things, like not keeping your dog on a leash in public areas despite it being required by law. An owner might also satisfy this element of the law if he or she has an unfenced yard and lets the dog run throughout the neighborhood regularly. Either way, this element shows the owner or keeper did not have the animal under control like he or she should have.
The third element of the dog bite law is that the injured person must not have provoked their own injury. The victim cannot recover if it can be shown that he or she taunted the dog or behaved in an aggressive way toward it.
The victim must show that he or she sustained an injury, but this does not mean he or she was bitten. Georgia law covers all types of attacks and injuries, such as being knocked down and hurt by a large dog.
If you were hurt by a dog or another animal, you usually have two years to bring a case against the owner or keeper of the animal. This gives you time to fully understand the extent of your injuries and costs associated with them. It also allows you to seek legal counsel and investigate your situation.
It is common to need to investigate the animal and its owner or keeper to understand if you are likely to succeed in a case against them. For instance, a small amount of research can tell you whether the dog previously attacked anyone else or if the owner was breaking an animal-related law at the time of the incident.
Prove Your Case With the Help of an Attorney
If you were hurt by someone else’s animal and choose to take the owner or keeper to court to hold him or her responsible, you must prove all of the elements of the case:
- The animal was vicious or dangerous;
- The owner or keeper was careless or let the animal go free;
- You were injured; and
- You did not provoke the dog.
This type of case is similar to a lawsuit based on negligence. You are going court to say, “This person had a duty to keep others safe from this animal and he or she did not.” However, you will work to demonstrate the elements of the specific statute, not the elements of a general negligence case.
Every pet is presumed harmless in Georgia. If you bring a lawsuit, you have to show the judge or jury this dog was not harmless and demonstrate that the dog’s owners or keeper knew – or should have known – that the dog was vicious or dangerous. This must be previous knowledge regarding the animal’s character – not information discovered by this attack. Your lawyer will have investigated the animal and its owner or keeper to determine if this can be shown in court. Also, during the discovery phase of your case, your lawyer will seek additional information from the owner or keeper that can help your case.
You must next prove the owner or keeper was careless or let the dog run at liberty. This can be easy or difficult depending on the specific situation. If you were bitten by a dog running free at a local park, it is simple to show the owner or keeper allowed the dog to run free. However, if the dog was where it was supposed to be, such as its own property, and did not require a leash at the time, you will need to find proof of the owner or keeper’s carelessness. If the dog was previously aggressive toward guests, you may be able to demonstrate to the court that the owner or keeper should have kept the animal in a kennel while other people were on the property.
Proving your injuries may require showing your medical records and costs in court as well as pictures of your injuries. An experienced dog bite attorney will know how to exhibit your injuries to a judge or jury in order for them to understand how these have negatively affected your life.
Last, you must demonstrate your own behavior at the time of the attack, focusing on how you did not provoke the animal in any way and lead to your own injuries. If other people were present at the attack, they may be witnesses in court to support your argument. Without witnesses to your own behavior, it can become a he-said-she-said battle in court about what led to the attack.
Contact an Augusta Dog Bite Lawyer
If you were injured by a dog or another animal, do not hesitate to call an experienced personal injury attorney in Augusta, GA. By working with a lawyer like those at Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A., who have litigated dog bite and animal attack cases before, you are more likely to prove your case in court and receive a beneficial settlement or jury award.