Georgia Dog Bite Lawyers Discuss Georgia’s Modified One Bite Rule

Georgia Dog Bite Lawyers from the Scholle Law Firm present this article on proving liability in dog bite cases. Specifically, they discuss the “one bite rule” and how or whether it applies to Georgia dog bite cases. If you have a question for our Georgia dog bite lawyers regarding this topic give us call.  We are happy to discuss this topic or any other injury / accident-related matters, so please contact us for a free case evaluation.

Modern American culture is pet friendly. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) website indicates that the percentage of American households including dog and cat family members are 38.4 and 25.4, respectively. Think about where you see dogs and where you do not? People have their dogs in their cars. Retail stores allow dogs (not only as service animals). Even dogs wind up on planes. It is probably easier finding pet and dog friendly places than finding places where pets are not allowed.

These statistics indicate that there is greater than a 1 in 3 chance of finding a dog in a random house. If you believe that dogs are man’s best friend, this is a good thing. However, there are also some things to be concerned with. For instance, an increase in dog ownership statistically leads to the potential for increased injuries caused by dogs. To be clear, any dog is capable of biting.  We will not be blaming dog bite injuries on a specific breed. However, we will be discussing negligent dog ownership.

In fielding dog bite injury calls at Scholle Law, our attorneys frequently hear from prospective clients concerned with dog bite liability. It is fair to say that 99% of these prospective callers are adamant about holding the dog’s owner responsible for their injuries. This is not a novel concept. In America, legal protections for those injured by the animals of others date back to the 1700’s.

Strict Liability

The oldest civil legal protection for dog bite victims in the United States is strict liability. Under strict liability, liability exists even if a person did not intend to cause any harm. Additionally, there is no required finding of negligence. Under strict liability an animal owner is responsible without any finding of negligence. Strict liability for animal related injuries still exists today in the U.S., but not in Georgia…

The One Bite Rule

The next relevant legal concept for animal related injuries / dog bites is what is called the one bite rule. Essentially this requirement means that a dog owner (also applies to other domesticated animals) is only responsible for injuries caused by the animal if the owner knew or should have known about the animal’s vicious propensities or dangerous behavior. For example, to be successful under the one bite rule, a plaintiff (injured party) would have to show the owner’s dog had a previous bite.  Hence where the name of this legal concept came from.

Please note that this is not the law in Georgia.  Additionally, in times of animal adoptions (animals with previous owners), a one bite rule may not make sense. Some owners may have dogs with propensities for dangerous behavior that they may not be aware of.  For instance, maybe they adopted a stray dog that has previously bitten someone prior to their owning the dog. Additionally, a dog owner can know their animal is dangerous without having it documented. (Remember this for below.) Would it be equitable or fair to shield a negligent dog owner only because their animal does not have a bite history?  This is where statutory law comes in. Many states no longer follow a one bite rule.  Georgia is one of them.  

Georgia’s Modified One Bite Rule

Georgia law indicates that the owner of a vicious or dangerous animal may be held liable for injuries their animal caused, if the owner demonstrated negligent management. The law further defines a dangerous dog as a dog that has previously caused serious injury to another person or aggressively attacked without injury. While there is no strict liability, there is more flexibility than the rigid requirements of proving a prior bite. Additionally, the law provides protections for people injured in Georgia cities and counties that have leash laws. Injuries caused by a leash law violation have no requirement of showing an owner’s knowledge of the dog’s previous vicious or dangerous behaviors.

Georgia Dog Bite Laws

The summary of Georgia Dog Bite Law is taken from these two sections of the Official Code of Georgia:

O.C.G.A. 4-8-21 (2010) *
4-8-21. Definitions

(a) As used in this article, the term:

(1) “Dangerous dog” means any dog that, according to the records of an appropriate authority:

(A) Inflicts a severe injury on a human being without provocation on public or private property at any time after March 31, 1989; or

(B) Aggressively bites, attacks, or endangers the safety of humans without provocation after the dog has been classified as a potentially dangerous dog and after the owner has been notified of such classification.

*This is not the complete text of the law.  Please follow this link for the complete text.

O.C.G.A. 51-2-7 (2010)
51-2-7. Liability of owner or keeper of vicious or dangerous animal for injuries caused by animal

A person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and who, by careless management or by allowing the animal to go at liberty, causes injury to another person who does not provoke the injury by his own act may be liable in damages to the person so injured. In proving vicious propensity, it shall be sufficient to show that the animal was required to be at heel or on a leash by an ordinance of a city, county, or consolidated government, and the said animal was at the time of the occurrence not at heel or on a leash. The foregoing sentence shall not apply to domesticated fowl including roosters with spurs. The foregoing sentence shall not apply to domesticated livestock.

Georgia Law does not require an injured party to prove that the animal has a bite history.  However, such a showing is probably the best way to show a dog owner’s knowledge of the animal’s vicious propensities. Assuming that someone’s dog bite injury was reported to appropriate authorities, an incident report or “bite report” will be recorded and published. Many such reports indicate a dog’s previous known bites or other dangerous, aggressive behavior. No such information found on the report is not the end of the road. An experienced Georgia dog bite attorney can help you investigate. 

No Previous Known Bite, Now What?

It is a best practice to speak to an injury attorney when a serious dog bite or animal related injury occurs. An attorney can review your bite report for other helpful info you may not be aware of. Sometimes there is information on the report that can substitute for a previous bite. A previous report of aggression includes reports of an animal lunging at other animals or people. Additionally, it includes behavior such as growling, snarling, and harming / killing other pets. Neighbors often report aggressive barking and other information as well. The preceding examples all serve as substitutes for a previous bite.

Remember, the point of this is to prove that the dog owner knows that the animal can be dangerous. For instance, a witness statement obtained by your lawyer or a incident report that shows the animal previously fled from its owner. These can prove your case. Investigations often yield important information. This information may go overlooked by an untrained eye. It is very important to understand that the law on this subject is complex. Additionally, it is a good idea to hire a lawyer to find evidence to substitute for the previous bite.

to attack may be enough to prove a successful dog bite case.

The Dog Did Not Bite, But I am Still Hurt

A second takeaway from this information should be that the law in Georgia does not only provide liability for dog bites.  Dog bite injuries are the most common animal related injury. However, Georgia law protects other injuries as well. An example: the lunging dog. For instance, someone with a severe laceration caused by a jumping or lunging dog.  Or a person knocked to the ground by a lunging or jumping dog. Such injuries can be very serious and can include broken bones or injuries requiring surgery. These injuries fall under the modified one bite rule analysis. This requires proving the owner was negligence. Even if the injury is not a bite, negligence must be proven.

Speak to Georgia Dog Bite Lawyers Before Speaking to the Insurance Co

If Georgia law included strict liability for these types of injury cases navigating them would be a lot easier.  Unfortunately, the law does have requirements that can make it hard to make a successful case for a dog bite or other animal related injury.  These cases can have serious injuries.  Injuries often include puncture wounds, lacerations, infections, scars, broken bones, surgeries, and painful injections. If that is not bad enough, there is still the issue of paying for those medical bills and accompanying lost wages. What about pain and suffering and money for future medical care (if necessary)? Anyone trying to navigate one of these cases should absolutely speak to an attorney and do so before speaking to the insurance company.

Call Scholle Law for a Free Case Evaluation

Scholle Law’s Georgia dog bite lawyers are here to help! The law firm has the experience and resources to investigate dog bite and animal attack injury cases. No two cases are the same and every one is complex. Besides the issues of getting the necessary proof to win one of theses cases, there is still the issue of dealing with the insurance company. Do not expect them to “do the right thing” or look out for your best interests.  That is not their job.  It is our job!

Contact Scholle Law Firm today for a free consultation for your injury case. Our Georgia dog bite lawyers are here to answer your questions and listen to your concerns. Call now to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced Georgia dog bite attorneys. We look forward to hearing from you. 

To set up a meeting, call us today at (678) 921-3320 or contact us online