Georgia Dog Bite Lawyers
Being bitten or attacked by a dog or other animal is a traumatic experience. It often requires ongoing medical services and physical therapy. It can also sometimes require mental or emotional help such as counseling for PTSD. Our skilled dog bite attorneys can help you determine whether you have a solid case, navigate the legal system, build a solid case that will hold negligent pet owners responsible, and recover full and fair compensation for your medical bills and pain and suffering.
Why Do Dogs Bite?
Dogs may bite because they’re scared, feel threatened, or because they’re trying to protect something or someone who is important to them. No matter the reason, biting is a reaction and typically a reaction to a perceived threat. Some common reasons dogs may bite include:
- Startled or scared
- Not socialized properly
- Defending their owner or home
- Protecting their food or water
- Rough play
- Injured or hurt
- Angry or aggressive
Warning signs that a dog may bite
Dogs sometimes (but not always) give warning signs before they bite. A dog may growl or bark at first to give you a warning, or maybe show its teeth. They may lunge towards you in an attempt to attack or scare you off. Some more subtle warning signs include yawning, avoiding eye contact, licking its lips, ridged body posture, fur standing on end, a high and pointed tail, or if the whites of their eyes are showing, it’s a sign of anxiety.
Knowing the warning signs that a dog is scared, anxious, or angry may help reduce the amount of bites and give someone time to get away or avoid an attack. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not possible to get away in time, or a dog may fail to give you enough of a warning to avoid getting bitten.
If you’ve been attacked by a dog or other animal that isn’t yours, you may need medical treatment that can costs thousands of dollars. You may have to take time off work or even lose your job if your injuries are critical and debilitating. We can help you get the compensation you need to get your life and finances back on track. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Common Types Dog Bite Injuries
Every situation is different, but when a dog attacks or bites you it can make you susceptible to a range of potential infections, diseases, and other harmful trauma. Deep lacerations may harm the skin, nerves, and muscles – or cause extensive blood loss. Large dogs may exert tremendous pressure and break or fracture a bone.
Here’s a look at some of the most common dog attack injuries:
- Broken or fractured bones
- Puncture wounds
- Abrasions or bruising
- Avulsions (dismemberment or when skin or part of the body is torn away)
- Diseases such as rabies
- Muscle damage
- Nerve damage
- Blood loss
Complications from a Dog Bite » What You Should Know
A dog attack may cause severe trauma such as blood loss, disfigurement, nerve damage, muscle damage, bone damage, infections, and scarring. Most dog bite victims require immediate medical attention. Even if there’s not a lot of blood loss, trauma such as scratches or puncture wounds can be deep and more susceptible to infections.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that infections occur in about 10 to 15 percent of dog bites and up to 50 percent of cat bites. Animal bites often lead to infection because of where most bites occur. Finger, hand, and face bites may be more prone to infection because that area of our body has a more difficult time fighting infections. Animals may also have bacteria on their mouth that contaminates the skin and when they bite, that bacteria can be transferred into the wound.
Infections common to dog or animal bites include:
- Rabies: A viral disease that’s typically spread by a rabid animal. This is a very serious condition that attacks the central nervous system, the brain, and if left untreated, leads to death. When a dog is unvaccinated or the dog’s vaccination status is unknow, anti-rabies vaccines can help prevent or treat rabies.
- Tetanus: Tetanus is a serious illness caused by Clostridium bacteria. The infection causes the muscles all over the body to tighten up, which is extremely painful. It can also lead to the jaw muscle locking, which makes it impossible to open your mouth or swallow. Tetanus is a medical emergency and requires proper wound care and a vaccine that can help prevent the symptoms.
- Meningitis: Canimorsus meningitis is a form of meningitis spread through dog bites. The infection causes inflammation of the meninges, which are the membranes covering of the brain and spinal cord, and inflammation of the brain. Infections can also spread to the central nervous system. Meningitis causes neck pain, rigidity, muscle spasms, fever, brain dysfunction, spine dysfunction, agitation, behavioral changes, loss of consciousness, and even death.
- Pasteurella: Pasteurella is a bacterium found in both dogs and cats. The bacteria can enter a human through a bite or wound and cause a serious skin condition known as cellulitis. Symptoms of the infection include redness, swelling, tenderness of the skin, warmth, and discharge. The lymph nodes can also become swollen and chills or a fever may be present. To treat cellulitis, antibiotics must be started immediately and sometimes a tetanus shot is given if necessary.
- Staph: A staph infection caused by a dog is typically a different strain than traditional staph. S. pseudintermedius is found in a dog’s nostrils and saliva and can be transferred to a human through broken skin or an open wound. Symptoms of an infection include fever, vomiting and joint pain. This is a very serious infection that could lead to death and it must be treated by a medical professional.
- MRSA: MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. Basically, MRSA is a strain of staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. Signs of MRSA include a rash that looks like bumps or pimples, but that may quickly turn to fluid-filled abscesses. These abscesses must be surgically drained to keep the infection from spreading to the bloodstream, which can be fatal.
Infections, whether bacterial or viral, can be dangerous if left untreated. Viruses pose a more complicated threat because they hide inside of cells, making it difficult for antibodies to reach them. It is possible to vaccinate against many serious viral infections, but medical intervention is necessary to help get viral infections under control. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year in the U.S. Of these, nearly 885,000 seek medical care; 30,000 have reconstructive procedures; 3 – 18% develop infections, and between 10 and 20 fatalities occur.
Do I have a Case: Georgia Dog Bite Laws
In Georgia, while an owner is responsible for his or her pet, the law requires that a pet be deemed “vicious” or “dangerous” in a dog bite case. Second, the owner must be found negligent or careless with the pet, and third, it must be proven that the person who was attacked or bitten didn’t provoke or attack the animal, causing the dog to defend itself. Georgia’s dog bite statute can be found at O.C.G.A. 51-2-7 .
Governor Deal signed the “Responsible Dog Ownership Law,” OCGA 4-8-1 through 4-8-33, in 2012. The legislation is intended to protect the general public and their pets from injuries and death caused by dog attacks. The law was meant to provide “minimal” standards across the state, but it does not prevent counties or cities from adding more restrictive requirements. In fact, Georgia does not have a statewide leash law. However, most Georgia counties have laws that stipulate how and when a dog must be restrained.
How Can I Prove That I’m a Victim of Negligence?
Georgia is a negligence state when it comes to dog bite/animal-injury cases. Basically, the person who was attacked must prove that the animal’s owner recognized their dog was dangerous and failed to properly manage their pet, which resulted in an attack or bite. The statute does specify that a leash ordinance may be used to prove that a dog had “vicious propensities.” Basically, if an owner is required by county or city law to have their dog on a leash at the place where the victim is attacked, but the owner of the animal failed to properly restrain the dog with a leash, this is enough evidence to prove the dog was “vicious,” even if the owner had no reason to believe their dog would attack or bite someone.
What is the Statute of Limitations on a Dog Bite Case?
In the state of Georgia, a victim of a dog bite has two years from the date of the dog attack to bring the case to court. Any case that’s filed after the two-year statute of limitations will likely be thrown out. It’s crucial these deadlines be met if you’re the victim of a dog attack and an experienced dog bite attorney can help you navigate the court system by determining whether your situation warrants a case, gathering testimony, witness statements, experts and other necessary paperwork to file your case before the two-year-deadline, and either helping to settle your case before it goes to trial, or bringing the case to trial and rendering the best possible verdict to ensure you get the compensation you deserve for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Who Should Be Held Responsible for My Dog Bite?
Determining who should be held responsible for your dog bite may not be as simple as only holding the owner responsible. Sometimes there’s situations where other people or businesses may also be liable. For instance, if someone is dog sitting and brings their friend’s or family member’s dog to a city park that has leash laws, but chooses to let the dog roam free without a leash and the dog attacks you, then the person who was temporarily in charge of the dog holds some blame for the attack. Other situations such as a small business owner allowing a dog or other pet to stay at the business unharnessed despite laws, or a landlord who allows a pet to stay on the premises even though they’re aware the animal is aggressive. Maybe a business owner feeds stray animals on his or her commercial property or doesn’t call animal control despite the potential danger. All these scenarios may lead to an attack and show negligence on the part of the dog sitter, business owner or landlord.
Will I have to Go to Court for My Dog Bite?
Many dog bite cases never get to court because the parties can agree on a fair settlement without the courts becoming involved. Sometimes though, it may be best to forego a settlement if it’s too low to cover your medical expenses, which means filing a suit against the dog’s owner or other responsible party is the best option.
The severity of injuries sustained is also an important factor to consider when determining if the case should go to court. If you received life-threatening injuries or suffered broken bones or ongoing trauma from the attack, then filing a case against the person or people responsible for the attack can help ensure you’re compensated for your medical bills (past and future), lost wages (past and future), and pain and suffering. The same goes for families who may have lost a loved one to a dog attack.
What’s the Average Settlement for Dog Bite Cases in Atlanta?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, homeowners and renters’ insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability legal expenses, up to the liability limits (anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000). If the claim exceeds the limit, the dog owner will be responsible for all damages above that amount. Some insurance companies will not insure homeowners who own certain dog breeds categorized as dangerous. Others decide on a case-by-case basis. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide in 2018 was $39,017.
In Atlanta and across Georgia, insurance standards for a settlement involving a small dog with minor injuries could be anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000, depending on the severity of injuries, limit policies, and other factors. More serious injuries tend to settle anywhere between $100,000 to $300,000, depending on the circumstances – sometimes more if the victim has life-long injuries or was killed as a result of the attack.
Dog Bite Statistics
- According to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 4.7 million dog bites happen each year in the United States, and 800,000 of those bites result in medical care. That means a dog bites approximately one out of every 69 people.
- According to the Canine Journal, $530 million was paid by insurance companies to dog bite-related claims in 2014.
- Each day about 1,000 people in the U.S. require emergency care treatment for serious dog bite injuries.
- Homeowners insurers paid out $675 million in liability claims related to dog bites and other dog-related injuries in 2018. Dog Bite Liability by Insurance Information Institute, 2019
- The average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 103 percent from 2003 to 2018, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs. Dog Bite Liability by Insurance Information Institute, 2019
- From 2005 to 2018, pit bulls killed 311 Americans, about one citizen every 16 days, versus rottweilers, which killed every 109 days. 14-Year U.S. Dog Bite Fatality Chart (2005 to 2018) by DogsBite.org, April 2019
- Newborns, infants and toddlers, ages 0-2 years old, made up 27% of all dog bite fatality victims from 2005 to 2018. The highest age specific fatality rate is infants (< 1-year), accounting for 48% of all 0-2 victims. 14-Year U.S. Dog Bite Fatality Chart (2005 to 2018) by DogsBite.org, April 2019
If you or a loved one has suffered severe injuries from a dog attack, contact us today. Our experienced dog bite attorneys can help you determine whether you have a case and who should be held responsible. We will help you build a case that will ensure you receive compensation for your injuries, lost wages, and pain and suffering. A consultation is free and we will not get paid unless your case is settled or we win in court. Call today at (706) 354-4000 or fill out our free case review form and tell us a little about what happened.