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Is Georgia a One Bite Rule State?

A seemingly friendly dog may bite someone on occasion for reasons that we simply don’t understand. A dog attack can be an extremely traumatic experience for the victim. If you have been bitten or attacked by another person’s dog in Georgia, you need to understand your legal rights.

You may have heard that a dog owner can be held liable for injuries inflicted by their dog only if the dog has previously bitten someone. This is a legal doctrine known as the “one bite rule.” However, the law in Georgia governing dog bite injury liability is more complicated. An experienced dog bite injury lawyer can review the circumstances surrounding your injury and discuss whether you have a valid dog bite claim.

The attorneys at Adamson & Cleveland, LLC can help you hold a negligent dog owner accountable for injuries you or your loved one suffered from a dog bite or attack. Our personal injury attorneys provide professional legal representation with a personal touch to clients in Norcross, Atlanta, Athens, and across Georgia. We maintain a family atmosphere in our firm, relying on teamwork among our staff to ensure that each client’s case receives prompt attention. We care about you and your physical and emotional recovery from your injuries.

Contact us today for a free initial case review to discuss your legal options if you have been bitten or attacked by someone else’s dog or pet animal. We want to help you pursue full financial compensation for your injuries and losses from the animal’s owner.

What Do Georgia Dog Bite Laws Say If There Is No One Bite Rule?

Georgia laws hold dog owners financially liable for bites or other injuries that occur while a dog is in violation of local county or municipal leash laws. When a dog owner fails to abide by county or municipal leash laws and lets a dog run loose, for example, the owner may be held financially liable for any injuries caused by their unleashed dogs, regardless of whether the dog has previously harmed someone.

Dog bite victims also can hold dog owners responsible if the animal owner should have known the dog was dangerous or vicious and failed to control the dog. For example, if the owner knows that their dog has vicious tendencies and fails to muzzle the dog in public or fails to warn other people not to pet the dog, the owner might be held liable.

Under Georgia Code §51-2-7, a dog owner is liable if their dangerous dog bites someone without provocation due to the owner’s negligent care of the dog. The statute expressly states that viciousness or dangerousness can be shown by proving that the dog or animal was required to be at heel or on a leash by a local ordinance.

Under the one-bite rule applied in some states, a dog is not considered dangerous or vicious unless the dog has demonstrated aggressive tendencies, typically through having bitten or attacked a person or another animal. A dog owner cannot be held liable for injuries inflicted by their dog the first time if the owner did not have prior knowledge of their dog’s dangerous or vicious nature. After that, the dog owner is on notice of their dog’s potentially dangerous nature should the dog bite someone else in the future.

Does the One Bite Rule Really Only Apply to “Bites”?

Although the one bite rule most commonly involves prior bites or attacks to establish a dog owner’s knowledge of their animal’s dangerous behavior, the rule also encompasses any other types of behavior or warning signs that should put a reasonable owner on notice of their dog’s dangerous or vicious propensities.

For example, an owner might be held liable if their dog has previously attacked or killed other animals, such as other people’s pets or wild animals (unless the dog is specifically bred or kept to hunt vermin), or if the dog regularly displays signs of aggression towards people, like growling, barking, or lunging.

How Is a Dog Owner Held Liable for Bite Injuries?

An owner may be held liable if local ordinances require dogs on leashes or at heel and the owner violates those ordinances. An owner may also be held liable for other negligence that leads to a dog attack, such as failing to maintain fencing on their property, which allows the dog to escape and roam freely.

A dog owner may try to avoid liability for bite injuries by trying to raise one of several possible defenses to a dog bite injury claim. For example, liability does not attach to a dog bite injury if the injured victim was trespassing and not lawfully at the place where the dog attack occurred. A dog owner may argue that the injured victim was trespassing on the owner’s property or trespassing on another property when the bite occurred.

Dog owners may also be excused from liability if the injured victim provoked the dog into attacking, such as by taunting the dog, chasing the dog, poking the dog with a stick or touching the dog in an annoying way, or when the dog clearly is demonstrating signs of stress by growling, snapping, or barking.

When Should You Seek Legal Help After a Dog Bite?

You should seek prompt medical treatment and speak to a dog bite injury attorney as soon as possible if you have sustained a dog bite. Georgia’s statute of limitations requires you to file any lawsuit to pursue compensation for dog bite injuries within two years of the date of injury. Contacting an attorney as soon as possible after your injury will give you and your lawyer the maximum amount of time to investigate your claim and prepare a strong case to present to the dog owner’s insurance company or to present in court if necessary.

Don’t hesitate to begin the process of seeking financial compensation for your injuries and losses. Contact Adamson & Cleveland, LLC, today for a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced dog bite attorney to learn more about how our firm can assist you in seeking compensation through a dog bite claim.

kevin adamson

Kevin Adamson is a former college baseball player who brings a competitive spirit to personal injury trials and settlement negotiations. Kevin played baseball at LaGrange College and went on to earn his MBA from Lynchburg College and his J.D. from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. Since 2001, he has focused on personal injury law and secured numerous six- and seven-figure results for his clients. He is also a registered arbitrator and mediator with extensive experience handling contract negotiations for a variety of professional services, including athletic contracts. Kevin also owns his own airplane and makes frequent use of it for his law practice, which has taken him to 18 states.