Throughout the United States, almost five million people suffer from dog bite injuries on an annual basis. Dog bites can be catastrophic depending on the severity of the attack – especially if the victim is a child – and in rare cases, they can be fatal. Georgia has state laws surrounding dog ownership and dog bite attacks to help reduce the risk of these attacks, but unfortunately, they do still happen.
If a dog injured you or your child, you may be entitled to compensation for the losses and suffering you endured. A dog owner has a responsibility to keep their pet under control, and you shouldn’t have to suffer financial hardship as a result of your injuries, in addition to the trauma of the dog attack.
At Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C., our award-winning Alpharetta attorneys represent victims of dog bite injuries and help them recover compensation for their injuries, pain and suffering, and more. Contact us today at (770) 205-8827 to schedule your free consultation with our legal team and learn about your rights and legal options.
What to Do After a Dog Bite Injury
First, while you’re still at the scene of the dog bite, collect contact and insurance information from the dog owner. It’s often the case that people are bitten by the dogs of friends or family, and the thought of seeking compensation from that party may feel uncomfortable or stressful. In fact, in almost all cases, you don’t actually seek compensation directly from the dog owner. Instead, the dog owner’s home insurance policy will likely cover your dog bite incident and provide the compensation you need to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and more.
If you were bitten in a public place and don’t know the dog’s owner, collect information from witnesses who saw the attack. Your attorney can use this information to help track the owner of the dog and build a case on your behalf. Take photos of the dog bite, as well, so that you have documented proof of the injuries that the dog inflicted on you.
If the bite is serious, call 9-1-1 immediately so they can get to you quickly and transport you to the nearest hospital. Even if the bite does not seem severe, you should still seek medical treatment so that you have it for your records. If you don’t know the dog, rabies may be a concern. Additionally, dog bites can easily get infected, and your doctor may want to prescribe medicine to mitigate that risk.
Next, make sure you also file a report about the dog bite with animal control. This documents your case legally so that you will have this evidence if you decide to file an injury claim.
Finally, contact an Alpharetta dog bite lawyer. They will be able to develop a strong case for compensation on your behalf. For example, they can determine if the dog has attacked anyone else before and is considered a dangerous dog. They’ll negotiate assertively on your behalf for the full compensation you need.
Georgia Dog Bite Laws
According to Ga. Code Ann., § 51-2-7, you must prove that:
- You did nothing to provoke the attack
- The dog owner should have reasonably known that their dog was considered dangerous or vicious
- The dog owner carelessly managed their animal by allowing it to “go at liberty”
In addition, owners of dangerous dogs or potentially dangerous dogs must adhere to the following restrictions:
- The dog has to be registered in Georgia.
- The dog needs to be securely leashed or restrained inside or outside. Outside dogs must be kept in by a fence that is strong enough and tall enough to keep them in the owner’s yard.
- There must be visible signs on an owner’s property that they own a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog.
- If the dog is outside and not in a fenced-in area, it must be on a leash, chain, or muzzle held by a person.
- Dangerous dog owners are also required to hold liability insurance for their dog or dogs and should have enough to cover any potential injuries they may cause.
While the state itself does not impose restrictions on any breeds, some cities within the state do. For example, Marietta prohibits breeds like Rottweilers and pit bulls from city dog parks and other off-leash areas, and the town of West Point has an extensive list of “vicious” breeds that include Presa Canarios, pit bulls, Rottweilers, Chows, German shepherds, and Doberman Pinschers.
Alpharetta itself does not have breed restrictions, but apartment complexes and homeowners’ associations may have their own restrictions, and if owners violate those, they could be facing even more liability.
Why You Need a Dog Bite Lawyer on Your Side
Georgia has some of the most complex dog bite laws in the country, and, in addition, insurance companies will do all they can to deny your claim or minimize their payout to you.
An experienced, qualified dog bite attorney will know how to build the case that you deserve full and fair compensation. The amount of compensation you receive will depend on the details and circumstances of your case. Your attorney will know what questions to ask and what evidence to seek to make a case for the maximum financial reward. They will be able to skillfully negotiate with the insurance companies and determine the best ways to solve your case efficiently, so that you can move forward with your life.
Your lawyer will also handle all the details related to your case, which may include obtaining witness statements, talking to neighbors to learn more about the dog and its owner, getting a copy of the animal control report, your medical records, and much more.
Filing a Dog Bite Claim
If you decide to file a dog bite claim, you can proceed under three different doctrines: scienter, statutory liability, or negligence. Information about these doctrines is below, but the lawyers at Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C. will help you understand the best approach for your case.
- Scienter: This is also referred to as the one-bite rule. If the dog has bitten someone else before attacking you and their owner was aware of the aggression, then you can follow the scienter doctrine and file against the owner in this circumstance. For most cases, this would also include negligence per se, which would indicate that the dog’s owner did not follow local leash law ordinances or keep their dog properly restrained.
- Statutory Liability: Under this doctrine, you must prove that the owner willfully disobeyed Georgia law regarding dog ownership by failing to keep the dog restrained.
- Negligence: This is less commonly leveraged in dog bite cases, but a negligence case would require proving that the owner was negligent in preventing harm. In Georgia, we use comparative negligence laws. This means that you could be assigned part of the blame for the accident, but you can still collect damages so long as you are not assigned 50 percent or more of the blame. For example, if you are attempting to break into someone’s home and their dog attacks you, you would more than likely have a hard time recovering damages.
Your lawyer will try to present your case in a way that reduces any blame that may be assigned to you by using the evidence they gather to support your case.
Types of Compensation Available
Once you know you are eligible to seek damages, your lawyer will work with you directly to help determine the types of compensation you can claim, which may include:
- Lost wages: If the attack was fairly severe, then you will need time at home to recover, which means time away from your job and money lost. You may be able to recoup those lost wages from the dog owner.
- Medical bills: Surgeries, stitches, prescription medicines, and follow-up doctor visits can all add up quickly. If the dog attack was the owner’s fault, then you should not be stuck with accrued medical debt.
- Pain and suffering: You deserve to be compensated for your pain and suffering, but unlike economic damages, non-economic, or intangible, damages are much harder to calculate. An experienced attorney can help you determine the compensation you should expect for your pain and suffering.
- Permanent disability/scarring: You may have sustained severe injuries that result in permanent disability or permanent scarring. In this case, you could claim these as part of the compensation that you seek.
Have You Suffered a Dog Bite Injury in Alpharetta, GA? Contact Us Today
At Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C., we help dog bite injury victims recover damages in Alpharetta and the surrounding areas of Georgia. If you have suffered from a dog bite injury, then give us a call at (770) 205-8827, so that we can explore the details of your case in a free initial consultation. We are here to help you.