The traditional law governing liability for dog bites was based on the English "one bite rule." This rule held dog owners liable if their dog caused injury to others only if the owner knew that the dog had a propensity to bite, which could be proven by showing that the dog had bitten someone previously. Thus, the rule allowed dog owners to escape liability the first time their dog bit someone, but after that, they were on notice that the dog had a propensity to bite and liability would attach upon subsequent bites. Modern jurisprudence has largely done away with the one bite rule and courts will normally hold dog owners liable if any time their dog bites someone.Georgia's Dog Bite Law
The law concerning dog bites in Georgia is codified at O.C.G.A. 51-2- 7. It reads, in relevant part:
Liability of owner or keeper of vicious or dangerous animal for injuries caused by animal:
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. 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.Proving Liability for Dog Bites in Georgia
As the statute makes clear, a dog owner is liable whenever his or her dog bites someone, regardless of whether he or she knew that the dog had a propensity to bite. Although the statute requires that the animal be "vicious" in order for liability to attach, this is a very low bar. Notice that the statute considers any dog to be "vicious" if the dog is required to be on a leash and was not on a leash at the time of the incident. Since Atlanta and almost every other town of any reasonable size in Georgia is covered by a leash law, a dog's "vicious" propensities are very easy to prove. Notice also that the statute requires that the injured person did not provoke the dog. If it appears that the dog attacked because the injured party was abusing it in some way, the owner is off the hook.
Thus, in order to prove liability for a dog bite in Georgia, the plaintiff must show:
- The dog was vicious, and
- The owner was careless with the dog or the dog was not on a leash at the time of the incident
- The injured person did not provoke the dog
If you have been bitten by a dog and suffered injuries, you may be able to seek compensation from the dog's owner. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677 or by sending us an email through our online contact form. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Richmond County, Newton County, and Walker County.