Bit by a Dog – Can I Sue?

Bit by a Dog – Can I Sue?

Pet owners are responsible for their pets at all times. Among the many responsibilities of pet owners is to keep their pets, including dogs, from hurting other people. In Georgia (GC 51-2-7), there are specific laws that deal with liability of the owner or keeper of animals (which includes dogs). Dogs are a probably the most common perpetrator when it comes to animal attacks, especially bites, on humans.

If you are bit by a dog, you may be able to sue depending on the right circumstances. Leading Dalton personal injury lawyer, Joshua J. Smith, can give us some insight about what you need to know about bringing a lawsuit.

Dog Bites Can Lead to Legal Action

If you are bitten by a dog, there is an opportunity that you can take legal action as the owner (or keeper) of the dog bears responsibility for controlling the dog. According to the Georgia statute, “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.” That injury can be a dog bite. So you can sue the dog’s owner or the keeper of the dog directly. But note the phrase “who does not provoke the injury by his own act.” This is also an important part of this type of action.

Dog Bites Can Lead to Lawsuits

When you have been bit by a dog, like any injury, it may be severe enough to require medical care and depending on the ferocity of the attack, may require major medical care including stitches, reconstructive surgery, and possible ongoing care such as physical therapy of rehabilitation. Additionally a person may suffer after the attack from mental illness such as anxiety. In personal injury law, you are allowed to sue for damages such as medical bills, ongoing medical care, and other costs that stemmed from that injury such as lost wages or pain and suffering. The idea is to quantify the injuries and ask the person responsible to pay for the damages you would not have incurred if not for the negligent action of another.

Let’s look at an example of when someone might have a good case to sue the owner (keeper) of a dog. Imagine a little old lady in her yard watering her flowers. Suddenly a large aggressive dog who escaped from their yard, decides to come into her yard to attack her. The dog did not come to her because she called the dog into her yard or taunted or teased the dog which may have angered the dog. She suffers a dog bite (or two), as well as a broken hip from falling down. She is clearly injured as a result and, we can all see, she should be able sue the owner of the dog for compensation for any damages that she will incur because of the owner’s ‘careless management.’

Cases in which you are bitten by a dog while on your own property or when you are in a public place such as walking down the street/sidewalk are often good cases because you were in a place you were allowed to be. If the dog was roaming freely, off leash, or was on leash but got away from the dogwalker, this is a good case on its face. These are all instances when the owner or dogwalker (the keeper) was unable to control or restrain the dog.

If a dog got loose from the owner’s home or property and proceeded to bite someone, the victim could sue for damages, because the owner/keeper allowed the dog to ‘go at liberty,’ meaning free to go. There could be some debate over if the owner “allowed” it if the dog getting loose was unintentional.

A case where it can be proved that the owner or keeper failed in maintaining control of their dog, then you may have a chance of a successful civil case against them for their negligence.

When a Dog Bite May Not Be a Good Case for a Lawsuit

There are dog bite cases where the “victim” may not prevail. For example, it is less likely to be a successful lawsuit when the victim crossed onto property of the dog and its owner, and then was bitten. The owner still has the responsibility to control their pet, but you being on their property without permission may mean that you assumed the risk of being injured by the dog.

This is especially true when you enter a property without permission that is both fenced in and has signs warning of the dog. In this case, the dog is being controlled in a fenced area, and by ignoring the signs and fencing may indicate that the “victim” may be responsible for their own injuries.

To determine if you have a good case, you would need to discuss all the details with a personal injury lawyer who handles cases involving dog bites or attacks. In some cases, a dog owner’s homeowners insurance company is involved, so be cautious about talking with an insurance representative who is likely looking to have you settle the claim for as little as possible. Talk with a lawyer before talking with the insurance company.

Contact Dalton Personal Injury Lawyer Joshua J. Smith

Once you have sought medical attention and filed a police report, it is time to seek the assistance of a qualified personal injury lawyer. Although the owner may have offered to pay ‘for everything’ in the heat of the moment, sometimes what that means can be different for the dog owner than for the victim. A lawyer can help you determine what you can reasonably ask for, collect medical bills, identify additional costs you may incur and be entitled to recover, and build a successful civil case against the dog’s owner/keeper.

If you, or a loved one such as a child, has been bitten by a dog in Dalton, Georgia, don’t hesitate to contact the law firm of Joshua J. Smith, Attorney at Law by calling us at (706) 217-2095 or filling out our contact form. Let us review the circumstances of your dog bites situation, build a case, and see if we can recover the compensation that you are owed.


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