Earlier this year, the Georgia Supreme Court changed the law on dog bites in a way that may affect the way injured people can seek compensation when they are injured by a dog. Previously, people who suffered injuries after being bitten by a dog had to prove that the dog had bitten another person in the past, and that the dog owner’s knowledge of the previous bite showed that the owner knew the dog was vicious or dangerous. This is referred to as the one bite rule, and it did not apply if the dog had simply snapped at someone or otherwise exhibited aggressive behavior.
As may be expected, this was a tough standard for the injured person to meet in some cases, especially in cases in which the dog owner reasonably should have been on notice of the dog’s viciousness because the dog had a history of snapping at people. This is why the decision by the Supreme Court is expected to change the way dog bite cases are handled.
In the case, a woman suffered serious injuries after she was bitten by a neighbor’s dog, and she filed a lawsuit against the dog owners. The dog owners asked the court to make a judgment in their favor based on the fact that the injured woman could not show that the dog had previously bitten anyone, and therefore, she could not prove that the dog owners were aware of the dog’s dangerous nature. The case was dismissed and the injured woman appealed.
The Supreme Court cited previous Georgia cases to hold that there is no requirement that a dog have previously bitten another person in order for the injured person to receive compensation from the dog owner. The injured person still has to prove that the dog owners were aware of the dog’s dangerous nature, but now he or she can do so by relying on evidence of the dog’s aggressive behavior without having to rely solely on prior bites.
In the case discussed above, the woman could prove that in the week before she was bitten by the dog, the dog had twice snapped at other people. The Court essentially recognized that a snap is a bite that had missed its mark, and the Court found that was enough to put the dog owner on notice that the dog was aggressive by nature. The Court also noted other behavior by a dog, such as an attempted bite, snapping, and nicking a person with its teeth, or otherwise using its mouth to attack someone even without a resulting injury, were enough to put the owner on notice.
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People who have been injured by a dangerous dog may now have a clearer path to seeking compensation from a negligent dog owner who fails to properly restrain a dangerous dog. Dog bites can mean long term hospitalization and even cosmetic surgery. These medical costs and other costs associated with the bite could be compensated in a case against the negligent dog owner. If you or a loved one suffered injuries as a result of a dog attack, contact an Atlanta dog bite lawyer from Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C. for a consultation.