If you own a dog in Georgia, or you've been injured by someone else's dog, the state's dog bite injury liability rules and related laws may be of keen interest to you. In this article, we'll discuss:
Under laws called statutes of limitations, all civil lawsuits are subject to strict limits on how much time can pass before the case must get started. In every state, different kinds of cases are subject to different time limits, but the price you'll pay for missing the filing window is the same: the court will almost certainly dismiss your case as "time-barred," unless a rare extension of the filing deadline is called for.
In Georgia, dog bite (or dog-caused injury) claims almost always fall under the larger umbrella of "personal injury," so the state's statute of limitations for personal injury cases (Off. Code of Ga. Ann. section 9-3-33) usually applies. This statute gives you two years, starting from the date of the underlying accident or incident, to file an "action for injuries to the person." In the context of a dog bite lawsuit, that means you'll need to file your personal injury complaint in the appropriate Georgia court within two years of the date of the bite or other injury.
Off. Code of Ga. Ann. section 51-2-7 establishes a couple of scenarios in which a dog owner might be deemed liable when an injury is caused by his or her dog.
Under section 51-2-7, a dog owner can be liable to anyone injured by the owner's dog if:
So, what is a "vicious or dangerous animal"? The statute goes on to declare that, in proving vicious propensity, it's enough to show that the animal was required to be on a leash (or otherwise controlled) under local law at the time of the incident. Learn more about fault rules in dog bite cases.
Note that if a claimant is injured by a dog in Georgia, but the "vicious or dangerous animal" factor isn't applicable to the situation, the claimant can still hold the dog owner liable if the owner's negligence results in a dog bite or other injury.
So, for example, if the dog was not required to be on a leash by law, but the animal's owner knew (or should have known) that the dog posed a danger to others, and the owner failed to take even the most basic precautions to prevent the animal from injuring someone (i.e. warning people not to try to pet the animal) the owner can be held liable for the claimant's injuries and related losses (damages), including compensation for medical bills, "pain and suffering," and other effects of the incident and resulting injuries. Learn more about proving negligence in a personal injury case.
Though the applicability of a claimed defense will depend on the specific circumstances in which the bite or other injury occurred, typically if the injured person provoked the dog, the animal's owner might not be liable for the claimant's damages. And if the claimant was trespassing on the animal owner's property, the owner may also avoid liability for any losses resulting from a bite or other animal-caused injury.
If you find yourself involved in a dog bite claim in Georgia—either as a dog owner or as someone who suffered a bite or other injury—it may be time to discuss your situation with a personal injury lawyer.