When is a Dog Bite the Owner’s Fault?

When is a Dog Bite the Owner’s Fault?

Dog lovers have a favorite saying: There’s no such thing as a bad dog, just a bad dog owner. Whether this saying is entirely accurate might be up for debate, but the underlying message is reflected in several anecdotes about rescue dogs and studies about canine behavior.

The burden of responsibility on a dog owner is also reflected in our laws. If a dog bites someone or causes someone harm, it is the owner of that dog who is generally considered responsible for the damages. Laws vary from state to state when it comes to the specifics of a dog attack.

Looking at Georgia’s Dog Bite Law

Georgia law says that if an owner or keeper of a “vicious” or “dangerous” animal allows that animal to go “at liberty” through careless management, then the owner may be liable for damages caused by the animal. In other words, to prove that a dog owner is liable for damages, the victim must prove that the owner of the dog knew the dog was dangerous and that the owner failed to keep the dog under control.

There are several parts of the law which are very open to interpretation. First, a person must prove that an animal is “vicious” or “dangerous.” Depending on the statute, they might also need to prove that the owner knew the animal was vicious or dangerous. Then, the victim must prove that the owner “carelessly managed” the dog.

That seems like a lot to ask of someone trying to prove an owner’s liability, but experienced dog bite attorneys know that it isn’t as difficult as it seems. In many cases, these factors are clear, and an attorney also has the benefit of experience on his or her side. For example, an experienced attorney will know that a city or county’s ordinance might have a leash law, in which case the dog owner can be held liable for damage caused by a dog that is roaming free.

Dog Bites are Often Very Serious

A dog bite case often involves very serious injuries. To give you a better idea of how serious the issue is, DogsBite.org offers these statistics:

  • Around 4.5 million dog bites occur every year in the United States.
  • Dog bites result in around 9,500 hospitalizations every year.
  • Every year, Americans have a one-in-50 chance of getting bitten by a dog.
  • Nearly 20 percent of dog bites become infected.
  • One 12-year study found that pit bulls and Rottweilers accounted three-quarters of all dog attacks.

Owners of pit bulls have several counterarguments to the fact that so many dogs of this breed account for dog attacks. Many pit bulls have been bred and, in some cases, trained to be aggressive. In that regard, it might very well be the case that it is owners who are at fault for a dog’s actions. Many people own pit bulls and find them to be very sweet, loving animals.

Unfortunately, dog bites are much more common than people realize. They can cause serious injuries, disfigurement and costly medical bills. Whether you want to fault the owner or the dog for a dog attack, the law leans toward the belief that the owner should be held liable for damages caused by a dog bite. Depending on where the attack occurred, a case for an owner’s liability might be strengthened by local leash laws.

Georgia Dog Bite Attorney

If you or your loved one has been bitten by a dog, or if you have any questions about this topic, contact the Mann Law Firm at 478-742-3381 or use this convenient online contact form.