Did you know that almost every minute of the day, someone has to be treated for a dog related injury? It’s true. Dogs bite people, often. The question for you, and probably the reason why you are reading this article, is: can I recovery from the owner of the dog that bit me? In Georgia, the answer is not as simple as you may think. Just because a dog bites you doesn’t mean that you can recover. Although complicated, these are few details to consider.
For years, Georgia law has provided owners with a way out: the first bite rule. The courts considered two things. First, did the dog exhibit the propensity to bite or attack before the incident occurred? Second, did the owner have knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensity to attack? If the answer to either of those questions was no, then there stood a good chance that, in Georgia, you could not recover for your injuries. The courts basically reasoned that owners should not be held liable for an unforeseen and unforeseeable act of his dog just because the dog was not in his immediate control. The times and the law however have changed.
In 2010, the first-bite rule has some exceptions, and lawyers have developed crafty ways to get there clients the compensation they deserve for their injuries. A legislative change to Georgia law is that, now, a violation of a local leash law ordinance, or another ordinance designed to protect the public from an “at-large” dog such as restrictive ordinances designed to keep dogs confined, may be sufficient to overcome the “vicious propensity” standard found in Georgia law. Around 1985, Georgia lawmakers decided that it was just too irrational that an owner violate a leash law and still escape liability because of the vicious propensity rule. However, addressing leash laws and other ordinances is not so straightforward and requires the knowledge of a good attorney.
In addition, new case law indicates that courts may consider whether the owner had prior knowledge of her dog’s tendency to attack someone and superior knowledge of her dog’s tendency. This standard, if used by a court, provides much more “wiggle” room than the vicious propensity standard, for a seasoned attorney to make your case and win compensation for your injuries.
Furthermore, you should also consider a new route that many lawyers have taken to advocate strongly for clients who have suffered injuries inflicted by a dog attack: negligent undertaking. Basically, if an owner agrees to restrain his dog before you come onto his property and fails to do so, then a court may find that the owner is liable even if the dog had shown no prior vicious propensity.
Lastly, did you know that even if a person did not own the dog that bit/attacked you, that person may be held liable if she had undertaken to “care” for the dog and while caring for that dog, the owner violated a dog-related ordinance or applicable law? Or did you know that when a dog is part wolf or wild animal, the owner will be held strictly liable, meaning you or your attorney do not have to prove “vicious propensity” or even “superior knowledge.”
As you can see, dog bite cases are complex. The point of this article is to show you that in order to maximize your recovery for a dog-related injury, you need a good lawyer who knows this area of law; ultimately your case, your recovery, depends on how well your lawyer can apply the facts of your situation to the nuances of Georgia law, to either win in court or deal effectively with insurance companies who want to pay you little-to-nothing for your injuries.
Call the Oinonen Law Group LLC for a consultation, today.