The Insurance Information Institute (III) reports that nearly 85 million dogs reside in U.S. households. Since about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and most are children, observing National Dog Bite Prevention Week April 9th through 15th is an ideal way to “bone up” on some safety practices.
Dog bites in Georgia are governed by a “strict liability” law applicable to owners. That is why you should know who is liable for a dog bite, and the legal steps for filing a claim.
Georgia’s Dog Bite Rule and Filing a Civil Suit
Georgia civil law places responsibility for a dog’s actions on owners.
This “propensity to be vicious” applies when the owner knew the dog lunged at, nipped, bit, or attacked someone else before the dog attacked you. A prior attack should put the owner on notice that the animal is dangerous.
This is the primary reason the owner of an aggressive dog is liable in a personal injury lawsuit. Whether the bite was caused by negligence, accident or by intention, the owner and possibly their insurance company will be held accountable for the injuries.
You may claim compensatory damages for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, post-traumatic stress disorder, rehabilitation and other claims.
Injuries from dog bites can be catastrophic. People have lost limbs and lives due to dog attacks, and suffer damage to skin, bones and muscle tissue. The III reports that insurers paid out $881 million in liability claims related to dog bites and other dog-related injuries in 2021, and the average cost per claim was $49,025.
Claims involving children are particularly complex and affecting. Pritchard Injury Firm represented a client from North Georgia whose six-year-old daughter was playing by herself in the front yard when the neighbor’s dog viciously attacked her face. The homeowner’s insurance company initially denied liability. During mediation, Pritchard Injury Firm secured a $150,000 settlement – three times the initial offer (and the previously reported national average) – to help the girl recover.
Dog Bite Prevention Best Practices
An injury could occur during any routine activity – from leaving a backyard gate open for just a moment to passing an unfenced area in rural North Georgia. Dog bites should be treated as an emergency; left unchecked you could be at risk for rabies and other deadly infections.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advises avoiding a dog in the following scenarios:
- If the dog is not with its owner
- If the dog is with its owner but the owner does not give permission to pet the dog
- If the dog is on the other side of a fence—don't reach through or over a fence to pet a dog
- If a dog is sleeping or eating
- If a dog is sick or injured
- If a dog is resting with her puppies or seems very protective of her puppies and anxious about your presence
- If a dog is growling or barking
- If a dog appears to be hiding or seeking time alone
While each dog’s individual history can provide insight into its behavior, try to steer clear of statistically dangerous breeds, like pit bulls. According to DogBite.org, between 2005 to 2019, pit bulls caused 346 of 521 deaths in the U.S. – a staggering 66%. More statistics are available on the AVMA infographic.
Keep Children Safe
As previously mentioned, children are the most common victims of dog bites and are at a higher risk of being catastrophically injured. Most dog bites affecting young children occur during routine activities and playing with familiar dogs.
Explain to your children or those nearby that they should never assume it is safe to pet or play with a dog. The AVMA also strongly advises avoiding a dog if it is already playing with a toy. This may seem counterintuitive since socialized dogs like to play with people and their toys. The risk of injury can be reduced if its owner is present and grants permission to engage.
By following the #NationalDogBitePreventionWeek tips above, pet owners, children and bystanders in Cartersville, Canton, Chattanooga and statewide can safely enjoy the comfort of man’s best friend year-round.
How A Dog Bite Injury Lawyer Can Help You
A dog bite victim in Georgia has two years from the date of the dog bite to bring a civil lawsuit against the owner. If you were working while attacked and have private insurance, you may be able to file a separate claim. Before you file an initial or additional personal injury claim, review your policy with a personal injury or dog bite lawyer.
Contact Pritchard Injury Firm Following A Dog Bite
If you have suffered bodily or physical injury due to a dog bite or attack, you should seek medical attention and then contact a dog bite lawyer.
With a lawyer on your side, you level the playing field and have someone fighting solely for what you deserve, which is complete and fair compensation for your injuries.
If you have been injured in an accident due to the negligence of another, don't just settle. At Pritchard Injury Firm, we have the knowledge and experience to fight for the results you deserve. Contact us online or call us today at 470.420.4200.