Keeping Owners on a Short Leash: Georgia’s Dog Bite Laws.

Personal Injury, Real Estate Law

One of the questions we often get as Georgia dog bite lawyers is whether a dog gets “one free bite” here in Cumming, Georgia. The truth is, that there is no simple “yes” or “no” answer.

It requires a little explanation.

The “One Free Bite” Rule from the Common Law.  

Often referred to as the “one bite rule,” the idea that a dog gets “one free bite” (at the leg) is based on common law.

Unless it could be shown that the owner knew or should have known of his/her animal’s vicious propensities, at common law an owner was not held responsible for the actions of his/her animal.

At this point, most states have replaced the common law rule with statutes that govern an owner’s liability for dog bites. Some states, like California, hold dog owners strictly liable for all dog bites.

Other states, however, still follow the common law “one bite rule.” In those states, if it can be shown that the owner had no prior knowledge or reason to know that the dog would bite someone, (generally because it had never shown aggressive tendencies or bitten anyone before), the owner will not be held liable.

Then there are other states whose laws do not exactly follow the common law, but don’t exactly hold dog owners strictly liable either.

Like Georgia.

Georgia’s Dog Bite Statutes.

Georgia’s laws are considered to be “mixed statute” laws. They don’t hold dog owners strictly liable for their pet’s behavior, but they also don’t allow a dog “one free bite.” Instead, Georgia’s dog bite statute is a mixture of both the common law and strict liability.

Thus, in Georgia, unless the dog was in violation of a leash ordinance at the time of the bite (in which case the owner would be held strictly liable for the bite), before liability is imposed on the dog owner, the plaintiff must prove:

  1. that the dog was vicious or dangerous, and
  2. that the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s vicious propensities.

Because Georgia does impose strict liability for leash law infractions, and local ordinances vary from county to county, if you are the victim of a dog bite, it is important to check your county’s leash laws.

Keep in mind, however, that dogs do not always have to bite someone in order to cause serious injury. So, for example, if you let your dog jump up on people, that will be considered a “known propensity.” Then, if/when your dog jumps up on someone and injures them, you can be held liable for those injuries. (Just one exceptionally good reason for all dog owners to do a little basic obedience with their dogs.)

Injuries caused by dogs can be anything from a knockdown to a nip, to maulings that can end in a person’s death. When dealing with such cases it is important to have a skilled Georgia dog bite lawyer to help you navigate Georgia’s dog bite laws.

Personal Injury Attorneys in Cumming, Georgia. 

The personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, P.C., are here to help you. We serve clients in Atlanta, and in a number of counties throughout Georgia, including: Clayton County, Cobb County, Dekalb County, Douglas County, Fulton County, and Paulding County, among others.  To find out how we can help you, call us at: 770-888-7707. Or contact us here.

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