Everything Dog Bite Victims Must Know about Owner Liability Laws in Georgia

If you’ve been injured by a dog bite in Georgia, you may be entitled to some compensation by the owner, at least in theory. In reality, however, Georgia’s owner liability laws sometimes make it challenging to prove fault in dog bite cases. This is why it’s critical to hire a knowledgeable personal injury attorney with specific experience with dog bite cases in Georgia. Hiring the right attorney can make the difference between whether you get the compensation you deserve or walk away with nothing. The good news is that with the right lawyer, you can certainly succeed in proving that the owner of the dog is liable; however, it’s important that you go into the process with your eyes open. Here are some important things every dog bite victim should know about owner liability laws in Georgia.

Georgia law leans in favor of dog owners

The laws of some states automatically assume that the owner of a pet is legally liable for any damage the pet causes. However, here in Georgia, the laws are much more lenient in favor of the owners. In particular, Georgia law starts with the assumption that dogs are harmless, basically making it the responsibility of the victim to prove otherwise. This means the burden of proof is on you, the victim. Needless to say, this puts dog bite victims in Georgia at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to proving their case, which is why it’s in their best interests to hire an experienced attorney who understands the nuances of these laws.

What you will need to prove

Because the default position of Georgia law is that dog owners are not automatically liable, you will need to prove three important things to demonstrate otherwise:
  • You will need to show that the dog is dangerous. This may be proven by a number of things in combination, including documentation of your injuries, photos/videos, and any previous record of attacks by the dog. (More on this in a moment.)
  • You will need to show that the owner was negligent. In other words, you must make the case that the owner was aware of the dangers of the dog and didn’t do enough to protect the public.
  • You will need to convince the court that you did nothing to provoke the dog. This one is highly subjective and may be the most difficult to prove.

Things that may work in your favor

Despite the fact that proving owner liability in dog bite cases can be challenging in Georgia compared to other states, your attorney can employ a number of strategies that can greatly improve your chances for success. Here are some factors that may work in your favor if they are applicable to your case:

Local leash laws

While state law is a bit lenient toward owners, local ordinances sometimes make it easier for victims to prove liability. If a city or county has a “leash law” requiring pets to be kept restrained, this could help your case if the dog was off-leash when it attacked you. When leash laws come into play, the default stance of the law is reversed: It assumes an unleashed dog is vicious, AND it assumes the owner was negligent by failing to leash the dog.

The “dangerous dog” law

Georgia also has a provision in which dogs with a prior history or propensity to attack must be reported and registered. Owners whose dogs are classified as vicious must take extra precautions for confining and restraining their pets. In fact, in the summer of 2017, the Georgia legislature approved harsher penalties on owners for violations of this rule. Your attorney should be able to access these records to discover whether the dog that attacked you was registered as vicious. If so, this can go a long way toward getting you a positive outcome. At Sutton Slover Law, we have extensive experience and understanding with dog bite cases and the owner liability laws in Georgia. We know what the courts are looking for as far as proof of liability, and we know how to devise a winning strategy for such cases. If you or a loved one has been injured by a dog attack, we would love to help. For a free case evaluation, call 404.768.0292.