Macon Dog Bite Attorney
For many Americans, pets are family. Many Georgians raise them with proper training and abide by the laws of the state. Unfortunately, not everyone cares for their dogs in the same way. Some owners may coddle an aggressive dog or turn a blind eye to the dog’s behavior. Others neglect and/or abuse their animals. These owner behaviors create a perfect storm for dog-bite cases.
Any serious accident is traumatic, but dog-bite incidents are particularly scarring – both physically and emotionally. Many dog-bite cases tragically involve children. Dog bites can cause severe scarring, disfigurement, and emotional trauma. Some individuals may never experience the same level of ease or comfort around a dog in the future.
The consequences for a dog’s behavior lie squarely on the owner. In many cases, a dog owner may face criminal charges as well as a civil lawsuit. While a criminal case against the owner offers punishment in the form of fines and potential jail time, it does nothing to help a victim recover. A civil lawsuit is the only way a victim and his or her family can obtain financial compensation to cover the economic and noneconomic losses associated with a bite.
Dog-Bite Laws in Georgia
At Nelson & Smith, we understand the complexity of dog-bite laws. Georgia law operates under the assumption that dogs are harmless and must be proven to be vicious in dog bite cases- commonly referred to as a one bite rule. Per O.C.G.A. 51-2-7 :
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. The foregoing sentence shall not apply to domesticated fowl including roosters with spurs. The foregoing sentence shall not apply to domesticated livestock.
Unless a dog unrestrained in an area where local ordinances required them to be at heel or leash, a plaintiff must prove that the dog was A) vicious and B) that the owner had knowledge of (or should have knowledge of) this fact. Both facts must be present.
Reducing the Risk of Dog Bites
Any dog can bite, from the smallest Pomeranian to a family-friendly dog like a Saint Bernard or Labrador retriever. The difference between bites is in the size of the animal and its unique circumstances. Always use caution when approaching any strange dog.
Teach children how to respect a dog’s space and always to wait for an owner’s permission before running up to pet a seemingly friendly animal. If you live in a neighborhood that has a high rate of unleashed dogs or strays, you may want to go over how to handle a dog attack. Never run from a growling or aggressive dog. Do anything you can to inflict pain and stop the attack. Cover your neck and head if you are pulled to the ground.
What to Do After a Dog Bite
Seek medical attention immediately after any animal bite. You may need to receive a tetanus booster, stitches, and other treatments to reduce the risk of infection. If you can, document as much about the dog, the owner, and the scene as possible. Save any bloody or torn garments. Determine if the dog has had a rabies shot. Do not take matters into your own hands and try to shoot a dog or physically confront the owner after the fact, although you can do whatever is necessary in self-defense during an attack. Reach out to an attorney as soon as possible.
Making a dog-bite claim does not mean that you hate the dog or the owner. In fact, we handle many cases in which the dog owner is fully compliant. Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance will often cover the damages awarded. What is important is that you take action to address the situation. The next time, a victim may not be as lucky.
For more information about dog-bite claims or dog-bite laws in Georgia, reach out to Nelson & Smith in Macon today.