Georgia Dog Bite Injury Laws & Owner Liability Rules

When is the owner liable for dog bite injuries in a personal injury claim or lawsuit in Georgia?

Georgia statutes contain a few key points that might come into play in dog bite injury cases, and we'll discuss those laws in this article. First we'll examine the deadline for filing a dog bite lawsuit in Georgia's civil court system. Then we'll look at Georgia's dog bite statute and Georgia's status as a "negligence" state when it comes to dog bite cases. Finally, we'll talk about the possible defenses a dog's owner might raise when facing a Georgia dog bite injury claim.

Deadlines for Georgia Dog Bite Lawsuits

The  statute of limitations  is the law that dictates how long an injured person has to file a lawsuit in court after the injury occurs. Each state has its own statute of limitations to deal with injury cases (such as those arising from dog bites). In Georgia, you have  two years  after the date of a dog bite to bring a case to court.

Cases that are filed after the two-year statute of limitations has expired will almost certainly be thrown out by the court. Therefore, it's important to know when the statute of limitations runs out on your dog bite case and to make sure you file your lawsuit before the deadline arrives.

Georgia's Dog Bite Statute

Georgia's dog bite statute can be found at  O.C.G.A. 51-2-7  in the state's code of laws. In addition to dog bites, the statute also covers injuries caused by other animals. In order to prove that an animal's owner is liable under the statute, the injured person must show that:

  • the animal is vicious or dangerous,
  • the owner was careless with the animal or let it "go at liberty," which caused the injury, and
  • the injured person did not provoke the animal.

Georgia's statute covers nearly any kind of animal, and nearly any kind of animal behavior that causes injury. For instance, if you are injured when a large dog jumps on you and knocks you down, you may be able to seek compensation under this statute.

Georgia's "Negligence" Law for Animal Injuries

Georgia is a "negligence" state when it comes to dog bites and other animal-related injuries. This means that in order to prove liability, an injured person must prove that an animal's owner knew that the animal was "vicious" or "dangerous" and acted without reasonable care to restrain the animal or protect other people from injury. The Georgia statute specifies that a leash ordinance may be used to prove that a dog had "vicious propensities."

For instance, suppose that you are walking down a public sidewalk one day. You see a person and his dog coming towards you, and the dog is not on a leash; instead, it comes up and bites you. If the place you were walking required dogs to be on leashes, showing in court that the dog was not on a leash is enough to prove the dog was "vicious" for the purposes of Georgia law, even if the owner had no reason to think the dog might bite.

Finally, and not that you were necessarily wondering, but this rule does not apply to "domesticated fowl," including roosters that have their spurs, or to "domesticated livestock."

Defenses to a Georgia Dog Bite Injury Claim

An animal owner who faces an injury claim has several possible defenses under Georgia law, including lack of knowledge, reasonable care, and provocation.

Because Georgia is a "negligence" dog bite state, an owner must generally know that a dog might be vicious or dangerous in order to be held liable for a dog bite. If an owner has no prior warning, it may not be possible to show liability. However, failing to have an animal on a leash where a law or ordinance requires one is enough to show knowledge.

Also an animal's owner is not liable if he or she was not "careless" with the animal or did not allow it to "go at liberty."

Finally, Georgia's dog bite law specifies that owner is not liable if the injured person provoked the animal. For instance, an injured person may not tease or abuse an animal, then claim the owner is liable if the animal bites as a result. Georgia's dog bite law does not state that an injured person must be lawfully present in order to recover damages for an injury. However,  homeowner liability for trespasser injuries  may be limited by other Georgia laws.

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