Compassionate Lawyer Helping Injured Atlanta Residents
A dog bite can cause serious harm, including nerve damage or disfigurement, and may require expensive medical treatment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 4.5 million people are bitten by a dog each year, making these events fairly common. Experienced injury attorney Terrence R. Bethune can help you if you were hurt in the Atlanta area. Georgia law regarding dog bites is fairly complex, and Mr. Bethune is equipped to help you understand your position and guide you in deciding how to proceed.
Owners of Vicious Animals Can Be Liable for Dog Bites
Georgia has a special dog bite statute codified at O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7. The law provides two ways in which a person bitten by a dog may hold its owner responsible. The first requires the victim to prove several elements:
- The dog is vicious or dangerous;
- The owner acted carelessly or let the animal roam free off leash;
- The dog injured the victim; and
- The victim did not provoke the animal.
Georgia courts have interpreted the first element to mean that the dog’s owner must have known the pet had vicious or dangerous tendencies, usually proven by evidence showing that it previously attacked another person. This can be a challenge, but an experienced attorney can help search for information necessary to establish this fact.
Proving carelessness might be accomplished by showing that the owner let a dog he or she knew was dangerous interact with children, for example. Even having a potentially dangerous animal off leash may be sufficient to meet this element.
As with other personal injury cases, causation is comprised of cause in fact and legal cause. In most dog bite situations, it can be established by showing that the bite caused the physical and financial harm that the victim has identified.
The final element also sometimes poses a challenge. Allegations that the injured person provoked the dog may be hard to disprove without the necessary evidence. Witness testimony, if it is available, is a good way to overcome this challenge.
Individuals Who Violate Leash Laws May Also Be Accountable
The second way to prove liability under Georgia law is by showing that the owner violated some kind of leash law. This could be a county, city, or other municipal ordinance that requires dogs to be leashed or even a rule that limits the length of dog leashes. The statute allows a violation of a leash law to establish the first and second elements above, thereby negating the need to show the dog’s dangerous propensity. The victim must still establish causation and lack of provocation. If he or she can prove the case by using either method, he or she can collect damages for the physical, emotional, and financial injuries caused by the attack. These can extend to economic losses, like medical bills, and non-economic harm, like pain and suffering.
Enlist a Skilled Atlanta Attorney to Seek Compensation After an Accident
Since Georgia’s dog bite laws generally put a substantial burden on victims, it is in their best interests to hire an experienced attorney. Accident lawyer Terrence R. Bethune can help you assert your rights in Atlanta and throughout the state if you have been hurt by a pet owner’s carelessness. He is able to gather evidence about a vicious dog, deal with insurance companies, and litigate your case, depending on the best course of action for you. To schedule a free consultation, call 404-875-7800 or fill out our contact form.