Ever since the first humans used the wheel or cooked over an open flame, animal companions have been important to our daily lives and culture. With their loyal, loving, and intelligent natures, dogs have often been on the number one preferred pet of choice. According to the ASPCA, approximately 44% of U.S. households own at least one pooch, with total numbers reaching over 78 million dogs living with their humans. That’s a lot of kibble and biscuits!
While dogs can enrich our lives, they also are a source of liability when not properly trained. Dog bites injure family members, friends and passersby, opening up the dog’s owner to claims or lawsuits and creating many health and emotional concerns for the victims. Even the most well-trained of dogs can and will bite under extreme circumstances, so you need to know how to protect your rights. Whether you’re the owner of a dog that bit or the victim in the scenario, here are a few legal points to keep in mind in the event of a bite.
Document the Bite and Injuries
As with any accident or injury, it’s important to document both the damage and circumstances surrounding a dog bite as soon as possible. Injured persons should take pictures of their injuries and should write down their account of events. Seeing a doctor for your injuries, however minor, can help with treatment, prevention of further injury. and also provides an independent record of how severe your injuries are. Memory and physical damage fades with time, making it crucial to record the information quickly.
Insurance Coverage May be Available
Whether the dog owner or injured party, the costs of a dog bite can cause more stress and uncertainty. Missed work, doctor bills, pain, and emotional damage all cause a concrete impact on the lives of those involved. In many cases, however, insurance policies may be available to help cover some of these costs. Many homeowner’s and renters’ policies specifically cover dog bites. Affected individuals need to pay attention, though, to terms in the policy that may limit coverage. The specific dog breed, location of the incident, and individual policy dollar limits may all affect how you’re insured in the event of a dog bite.
Control, Dangerous Breeds and Bite History
Like most states, Georgia has laws about dog bites, liability and how to recover for your loss or damage. Under Georgia law, dogs are presumed to be harmless unless they have a proven record of being dangerous that the owner knew about or should have been aware of. This means that a dog bite on its own isn’t recoverable. Victims of a dog bite must prove that the owner knew the dog was dangerous, typically through a record or history of aggressive behavior.
With certain dog breeds, the State may also make a presumption that the dog has aggressive tendencies, which can alter what it takes to prove the prior bite record. Finally, in some cases of known dangerous dogs, the owner can argue that the injured party assumed the risk by interacting with a known problem animal. This could prevent the victim from recovering any damages if they already know about a dog’s tendency to bite.
As you can see, recovering damages from a dog bite depends heavily on specific facts and the evidence presented. This evidence is presented to either an insurance company or the court if the case gets to that point. If you’ve been involved in a dog bite, it’s vital to remember that you have the right to seek legal counsel. An attorney experienced in dog bite law can help explain and protect your legal rights, reduce liability, and represent your interests. If you need help and representation, contact a lawyer, like a personal injury lawyer Brookhaven GA trusts, for your dog bite case today.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Butler Tobin for their insight into dog bite and personal injury cases.