Jackson County Dog Bite Lawyer

Dog bites can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening injuries to adults and especially children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 5 million people are bitten by dogs each year and about half of those victims are children.
If you or your child has been bitten by a dog, you may be able to recover compensation from the owner of the dog or their insurance company for your medical bills, injuries, and other damages. Under Georgia law, the owner of a dog who causes an injury to a person may be liable to the person injured.

What are the Dog Bite Laws in Georgia?

The Georgia Dog Bite Statute:

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.


What do you need to show to bring a case under Georgia’s dog bite law?

  1. In order to support a case for damages under O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7, it is necessary to show two things:
    that the dog was vicious or dangerous; AND
  2. that the owner had knowledge of the dog’s vicious or dangerous propensity.

How do you prove that a dog was vicious or dangerous under Georgia law?

There are two ways to show that the dog has a vicious or dangerous propensity:

  1. The Georgia dog bite statute above says that if the dog was required to be on a leash by a local leash law, and it was not actually on a leash, then that is enough. If the owner violated a leash law at the time of the attack, then you don’t need to prove that the dog had ever been vicious or dangerous before. You don’t need evidence that the dog ever bit someone in the past. It’s enough that the dog was supposed to be on a leash and was not, and it bit a person.
  2. The second way to show that the animal has vicious or dangerous propensity is to prove that there was at least one incident in the past where the dog did something that would put a reasonable person on notice that the dog has a propensity to do the type of harm which it inflicts AND the owner or keeper knows (or has reason to know) about it.

What type of behavior is deemed dangerous or vicious?

There must be some evidence that the dog showed aggressive behavior or did something to that would allow a normal person to think the dog could actually bite a person.

There can be many different types of behavior that would show a dog has a propensity to bite (not just a prior bite – which we cover below). For example, Georgia courts have found it sufficient that a dog had previously “snapped” at someone, even if it didn’t actually bite anyone. An attempt to bite is proof of a propensity to bite.


The dog’s previous behavior does not need to be exactly same as the injury inflicted.

To bring a case, the plaintiff does not need to have evidence of an incident involving the exact same conduct and the exact same injury actually occurred before the owner’s knowledge may be inferred, as long as there is at least one incident “which would put a prudent man on notice to anticipate the event which occurred.”

A previous attack is not necessarily required, but “at least some form of menacing behavior would be.” Although a dog’s attacks on other animals may be generally insufficient to put an owner on notice that the dog might attack people, such attacks may be relevant as to the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s temperament and subsequent notice that the dog might bite someone.


Dogs are presumed harmless, so you must show proof that the dog is dangerous.

Georgia law presumes that dogs, regardless of breed, are “of a harmless species,” and for that reason, our courts require actual proof “of the dangerous nature of a particular dog and … of his owner’s knowledge of [the dog’s] deviation from presumptive harmlessness.”


The owner must know or have reason to know of the dog’s vicious propensity.

Even when it is shown that a dog is, in fact, vicious or dangerous, you still need proof that its owner or keeper knows of the dog’s vicious propensity, which is an essential element of a lawsuit under the Georgia dog bite laws. Although the statute (O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7) does not say that the owner must have knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensity, Georgia courts have ruled that in order to bring a successful case, a plaintiff must show that the owner or keeper knows or has reason to know of the dog’s propensity to do harm of the type which it inflicts.

This knowledge can often be found through a process called “discovery,” so it is not necessary at the beginning of the case for the plaintiff to have evidence showing the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensity. The best Georgia dog bite lawyers will be able to find evidence of the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensity, if there is any.


The “First Bite Rule”

The requirement that the dog’s owner or keeper must be proved to have knowledge of the vicious or dangerous nature of his dog is often called the “first bite rule.” However, the dog does not get a “free bite.” To the extent that the term implies that the requisite knowledge cannot be proved unless and until the dog has actually bitten someone (and the owner knows it), the term is misleading. The Georgia Court of Appeals has noted that the rule “does not literally require a first bite.”

Under the first bite rule, a dog owner will be liable for damages only if the owner has knowledge that the dog has the propensity to do the particular act (biting) which caused injury to the victim. The plaintiff must show that the dog had the propensity to do the act that caused the injury AND that the owner had knowledge of that propensity.


What should I do if I have been bitten by a dog in Georgia?

  1. The first thing you should do is seek professional medical attention for your injuries. Dog bites are generally not stitched up because they carry a high risk of infection and stitching the wound can increase the likelihood of infection. You should definitely have a doctor treat your injuries.Make sure you don’t try to treat the injuries on your own. There have been horror stories of people trying to do this and it never ends well, such as the time the victim’s boyfriend applied super glue to the open wound rather than taking her to the emergency room (it was his dog that bit her). Needless to say, the victim woke up the next morning with injuries that were much worse than they should have been – the super glue trapped the infection inside. Not smart.
  2. The next thing you should do is report the incident to the police or local animal control authorities. If a dog bites a human once, they are much more likely to do it again. Please do everyone a favor and let the authorities handle the situation. You may be the difference in saving a child from harm in the future.
  3. Finally, you should contact a Georgia dog bite lawyer to discuss your options. You have legal rights and you need to act fast in order preserve those rights. If the owner or keeper of the dog is liable to you for the bite, then you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The amount of compensation that is available will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of your case, but may include money to cover:
  • Medical bills;
  • Future medical treatment;
  • Lost wages;
  • Temporary or permanent scars;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • And potentially more.

How much is a Dog Bite Case worth?

This is a very difficult question to answer because the value of a case is based on a number of factors and varies widely from case to case. To determine how much your case is worth, you need to calculate your damages (see the types of damages listed above) and know how much insurance coverage is available and/or the assets of the liable party.


What is the Statute of Limitations in Georgia for a Dog Bite Case?

This is a very difficult question to answer because the value of a case is based on a number of factors and varies widely from case to case. To determine how much your case is worth, you need to calculate your damages (see the types of damages listed above) and know how much insurance coverage is available and/or the assets of the liable party.

In Georgia, a dog bite case must be filed in court within two years from the date of the dog bite or else the defendant may have a valid statute of limitations defense that could get the case dismissed.


But what if I’m not the type of person that wants to sue anyone?

We always try to settle cases out of court because that is usually the best option for our clients. Just because you hire a lawyer to preserve your rights does not mean that you are automatically in a lawsuit or that you’ve sued the dog’s owner. If you’ve been injured, Georgia law provides that you can be “made whole” by the liable party in the form of monetary compensation. There is no other way for the dog’s owner to fix your injuries.

Parisi Injury Law will work to determine whether the dog’s owner or keeper has insurance to cover your damages. It can be difficult to find this information because many dog owners would like to keep it hidden. Our Georgia Dog Bite Lawyer will then negotiate with the insurance company in an attempt to settle your case without going to court. If those negotiations break down for some reason, it is always your choice whether to file a lawsuit or not.

If you’ve been bitten by a dog give us a call today at 404-594-5130. Parisi Injury Law represents dog bite victims in Jefferson, Georgia and throughout Jackson County, Barrow County, Banks County, Hall County, Gwinnett County, metro Atlanta, and all of Georgia.


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We help people who are actually injured get the treatment, care, and compensation they deserve.

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44 Professional Drive, Jefferson, Georgia 30549