Dog bites affect millions of Americans annually, resulting in hundreds of thousands of emergency room visits, and in some cases serious injury. In most of these cases, the dog owner could have prevented the attack. When dog owners fail to protect people from their pets they ought to be held liable. After suffering an injury from a dog attack you should contact a personal injury lawyer at Calvin Smith Law. Call an Atlanta dog bite lawyer today at (404) 383-7552.
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What Does Georgia Consider a Dangerous Dog?
According to Georgia law, a “dangerous dog” is any dog that:
- Aggressively attacks a person in a manner that causes them to believe that the dog had posed an imminent threat of causing serious injury to the person or other people although no serious injury occurs
- Causes a considerable puncture on the skin of a person by the teeth without causing serious injury
- Kills a pet animal while off the owner’s property – however, this doesn’t apply in cases where the death of the pet animal is caused by a dog that was training or working as a hunting dog, predator control dog, or a herding dog
A “vicious dog” refers to any dog that causes serious injury to a person or inflicts serious injury to a person usually from the person making reasonable attempts to escape the dog
A ‘serious injury” here refers to any physical injury that causes a substantial risk of death to a person; results in dislocated or broken bones, disfiguring avulsions, lacerations that require multiple sutures, or death; requires hospitalization or plastic surgery, or results in a protracted health impairment including the impairments of a bodily organ or transmission of a contagious disease or infection.
Why Do Dogs Attack People?
You could be wondering whether there are ways you can prevent dog attacks. Unfortunately, most of the dog bites that require medical attention involve children. The ideal way to prevent your kid from becoming a dog attack victim is warning them to avoid touching animals they don’t know.
In many cases, when dogs attack people, they bite the face. But why would they choose the face, and why do they attack in the first place? Some of the reasons might surprise you:
To Show Dominance or Power
Biting a person, whether the dog knows them or not, is often a sign from the dog in an attempt to assert their power. The dog is basically trying to show the person that they are the leader of the surrounding territory and no one should enter it but them. Similar signs of aggression could be caused by interrupting their routine behavior, such as cleaning itself, sleeping, or playing. So, don’t irritate a resting dog and avoid approaching a dog that appears territorial. Don’t fear them, instead, stay clear.
When a dog is afraid or anxious and a person approaches it unexpectedly, it can cause the dog to lash out. This is just how we humans tend to react when a stranger or someone we know approaches us out of nowhere. Due to their nature, they can assume that you have bad intentions when you approach them without warning.
When a dog is being punished, they tend to act equally to the person who’s punishing them. Here, it’s not just a matter of treating the dog right, but exerting punishment appropriately. As you probably know already, physically abusing or hitting a dog is animal abuse and could be a key factor to help your case in case you’ve been bitten by an abused dog.
Atlanta Dog Bite Laws
Georgia’s – more specifically, Atlanta’s – Dog Laws stipulate how to go about pursuing compensation for dog bites. In Atlanta, there are some unique regulations when it comes to animal ownership and control. Within the city limits, all dogs always need to be on leashes while in public spaces, unless they’re in designated parks for dogs. Walking your dog off the leash can lead to a citation from the Atlanta City police.
Owners should always also have their pets within sight and under voice control, even when they’re in dog parks off-leash. Whenever a dog shows aggressive behavior, it’s the owner’s duty to control or otherwise remove the dog from the area. Georgia bite laws ideally protect the pet owners significantly more compared to other states. According to Section 51-2-7 of the Georgia Code, the liability for any dog bite lies on the owner or the animal’s keeper, only if the plaintiff can prove that the dog was dangerous or vicious, the plaintiff didn’t provoke the dog, and that the owner was negligent or careless.
There are some states where the owner is strictly liable for any dog bites no matter the circumstances of the situation. In Georgia though, the injured victim bears the burden of proof. Based on the statute, dog bites and other forms of harm like a dog jumping on a person causing them to fall. In case the dog’s owner broke any of Atlanta’s animal control/ownership laws, this can be used as proof of negligence. A lawyer can help you assign fault for any acts of negligence or broken Atlanta laws of pet ownership.
Dog Bite Injury Statistics
All around the U.S., dog bites happen every day. While most of these bites are not serious enough to cause significant injuries and thousands in medical bills, even minor bites can be painful and cause serious financial losses. Sadly, when dogs bite, they tend to hold it and not let go. Some traumatic forms of dog attacks could lead to fatalities or life-threatening injuries, especially to the elderly and children. From the year 2005 to 2016, 392 people lost their lives from canine attacks in the U.S. In 2016, over 42% of the total fatal dog bite victims were children below the age of 9. 31% of the child dog bites were infants ages between 3 and 6 days old.
In a more recent case that happened in Atlanta, a 6-year-old kid by the name Logan Braatz lost their life while another child was injured in the same dog attack. Two loose dogs, which were reported to be a pit bull and pit bull mix attacked the children while they were on their way to the bus stop. According to the neighbors, the two dogs were often let loose in the area. This is one of the many instances of dog bites that have occurred in Atlanta. The negligence of the dog’s owner is obvious in this case, considering that they allowed the two dogs to run loose despite the pet control ordinances of the city.
If you or a loved one was a victim of a dog attack in Atlanta, your best bet is to hire an attorney as soon as possible.
What Should I do After a Dog Bite?
Once you’ve been bitten, the first thing you want to do is record information about the incident. Be sure to get the pet owner’s name, if available, and write down a detailed description of the dog that attacked you. It’s also wise to get the names and details of any eyewitnesses who were present during the attack.
Of course, you also want to seek medical attention immediately. Dog bites generally have a high risk of infection and might require antibiotic treatment. All Atlanta dogs must, however, have up to date vaccinations. In case the dog’s shots are not up to date, then you might need additional treatment to avoid infections or diseases that could results from dog bites, including:
- Pasteurella (bacterial infection)
- Capnocytophaga (bacterial infection)
- MRSA (Staph infection)
While contracting rabies is quite rare, it’s still one of the most serious diseases that could result from a dog bite. Rabies in humans can cause fever and headaches, and if left untreated, it can lead to paralysis, hallucinations, hydrophobia, confusion, and eventually death. Once rabies has developed symptoms, there’s no effective treatment for the disease. Medical treatment done immediately after possible exposure is the only effective way of preventing the virus from becoming deadly. So, be sure to seek medical treatment immediately after the dog bite. Once you’re better, it’s time to explore your legal option against the dog owner with the help of a lawyer.
How Often Do Dogs Bite People?
In the U.S., there are over 327 million residents owning over 90 million dogs. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) estimates there about 4.7 million dog bite cases per year. This means that a dog bite occurs in 1 out of 69 people. Although most incidents don’t result in injuries, over 800,000 people require medical care annually. According to the Insurance Journal, insurance companies paid out almost $700 million in dog-bite related claims in the year 2017 alone.
ALL DOGS CAN BITE, BIG OR SMALL!
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because a dog is small, it has a lesser propensity to bite, or that small dogs usually result in less injury compared to the larger dogs.
Any animal bite has the potential of causing physical damage, including nerve damage, scarring, or causing a dangerous infection. Plus, a dog bite can cause substantial mental and emotional trauma to the victim, for both adults and children.
Most bites that involve small dogs usually occur in homes or places the victim is familiar with. Bites from small dogs involve breeds like:
- Jack Russell Terriers
- Cocker Spaniels
If you or a loved one has been injured by a small dog, you still have the same rights as any victim bitten by a large dog. We can work with you to pursue the compensation you need and deserve, no matter the type of injury or size of the dog.
Workers’ Compensation and Dog Bite Injuries
Deliverymen, mail carriers, and other employees whose job entails walking on private property or entering homes are given an “implied invitation” to the premises. Any worker that is legally on a property within the scope of their job description and is attacked by a dog can submit a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
The Workers Compensation insurance ideally offers employees who’ve been injured on the job with ample medical and wage compensation benefits. If an employee is bitten by a dog while at work, they might also have a claim against the dog’s owner; so long as the dog is not owned by the employer. A third-party claim can provide the injured person the additional compensation for pain and suffering, along with other losses that are not covered by workers’ compensation.
Are Dog Bite Cases Covered by Homeowners Insurance?
In cases where the dog owner doesn’t have the appropriate covered, the victim can still file a legal claim against the owner to pursue compensation for their losses.
Based on the specific circumstances of the case, homeowner’s insurance might also cover damages that result from dog bites that occur on the owner’s property. Some automobile insurance policies also cover dog bites, especially in cases where the injury is sustained in the owner’s motor vehicle or by animal insurance in case the owner opted to buy such coverage.
In cases where the owner doesn’t have insurance, the victim can still pursue compensation for the damages. To learn more about whether the dog owner was insured, our lawyers will request to see the declaration pages of their animal, homeowners, or renter insurance. If the insurance policies are inadequate, we’ll then determine whether the owner had a supplemental policy that could be used to cover the incident.
In case the dog owner denies having insurance or becomes unwilling to share details of their plans, we can still obtain these documents during the discovery phase of the suit, where the lawyers for both parties meet and share information about the injuries and the attack.
Determining Liability for a Dog Attack
Based on Georgia dog bite law, the owner of the dog is the most common defendant. Still, the degree of the owner’s liability will vary between cases. Often, the owner is responsible for the actions of their dog no matter whether they had prior knowledge of the dog’s propensity to bite.
In certain states, there are two limited exceptions to this rule. First, in case the dog was provoked, the victim’s own negligence will be put into consideration when calculating damages. Second, in case the bite occurs on the owner’s property, then they won’t be found liable, unless the victim is under the age of 6, so long as there’s an easily legible warning sign in a prominent location.
What Does the Statute of Limitations Mean for Dog Attack/Bite Claims?
In law, the statute of limitations stipulates the period of time after an accident or incident within which the victim can file a claim. When this period expires, the dog bite victim might no longer be allowed to file their claims. This means that dog bite victims shouldn’t wait too long to consult a lawyer with regard to their claim.
Here are a few reasons why you want to hire an attorney to handle your dog bite claim:
One of the best reasons that than in dog bite cases, less than 1% of the victims get compensated. Keep in mind that dogs bite an estimated 4.7 million Americans annually, but the insurance companies only pay about 15,000 to 16,000 of the cases. Insurance Quotes points out that despite having a home insurance coverage, a lot of dog bite cases go unreported, and therefore uncompensated. Plus, without an attorney, victims have little chance of getting justice.
Insurance adjusters can offer the victims 10% or 20% of what they would have offered in case the victim had an attorney by their side. The insurance company itself will end up keeping 80% or 90% to protect its bottom-line. Since dog bite attorneys work on a contingency fee basis and will only take 33% of the compensation proceeds, a victim who gets a lawyer will receive 66%, which is far more than the 10% or the 20% they would get on their own.
What is a Contingency Fee?
A contingency fee basis refers to the fact that the lawyer won’t ask the victim to pay for anything to file a claim. Receiving payment will be contingent on recovering compensation for the victim. In case nothing is recovered, the victim will owe nothing. They will not have to pay their lawyer or law firm anything.
People who attempt pursuing a dog bite claim are ideally placing themselves in the position of a prosecutor. This arouses resentment unnecessarily, which is exacerbated by the fact that the victim doesn’t know the right things to say to have their claim settled in the most efficient way. In fact, many victims end up making accusations that are unnecessary under the law. However, with a lawyer present, the victim can always comment, “it’s the lawyer who said that, not me.” This makes deflecting criticism easy, and it will generally be less stressful and more efficient to hire a lawyer, not to mention that it poses no financial risks.
Your lawyer also won’t have to confront the dog owners, put them in a bad light, make them feel guilty, harass them, embarrass them, write them threatening letters, drive them into bankruptcy, foreclose on their homes, or have their dogs euthanized. At least, it won’t happen unless one of these things is absolutely necessary for the case, and with the formal consent of the client. In case the client wants their lawyer to behave gently towards the defendant, the case will have to be handled that way.
When the compensation is awarded, the dog owner will be happy to know that it’s their insurance company that will do all the work and pay all the money. As such, it’s highly likely that any of their initial anger will have dissipated. They will agree that the victim had to hire a lawyer to arrive at a fair conclusion – without the intention of hurting anyone.
What are Common Defenses in a Dog Bite Case?
Some of the potential defenses a person might use against you in a dog bite case will largely depend on the laws in your state, though some common arguments that the opposing attorney might present include the following:
One common defense is that the dog owner can’t be deemed liable because the victim actively provoked the dog before the attack, for example by threatening and cornering the dog with an aggressive stance
Although trespassers have a given level of legal protections, the dog bite laws in your state might require the victim to prove that they were bitten in a place that they were legally allowed to be in. In these cases, the victim will be unable to recover compensation for the dog bite if it occurs while trespassing.
Assumption of Risk or Contributory Negligence:
There are certain cases where the dog owner might argue that you were partially responsible for the injuries you suffered. For instance, in case the owner had provided enough warning about their dog and you disregarded them, this might eliminate or reduce your chances of recovering damages.
Experienced dog bite lawyers are well aware of which arguments that the opposing dog bite lawyer might try to use against you, and how to effectively refute them.
How Do The Attorneys At Calvin Smith Law Prove Dog Attack/Bite Cases?
It takes a lot of skill and experience to collect evidence in such cases and use it to prove that the victim’s damages are eligible for compensation. Our lawyers and investigators will help you in every step of your way. Upon accepting your case, we’ll start collecting compelling evidence that you need to make a successful dog bite claim and win the case.
Our team of skilled lawyers, investigators, and support staff will promptly investigate your case to establish whether:
- The dog has shown any aggressive or vicious tendencies
- The owner handled the dog carelessly
- The dog could potentially be shown to have posed an unreasonable risk if there was a previous history of:
Aggressiveness, bites, or threatening behavior, past aggression against you or other people, attacks on other animals, etc.
If the owner was aware of the aggressive nature of the dog or if the dog had been aggressive in the past, the owner can be deemed negligent in failing to take the right measures to prevent the dog from harming other people
The owner of the dog might be negligent by allowing the dog to escape a yard due to a defective or inadequate fence or get off-leash when there’s a local leach or ordinance law.
There are times where the most difficult part of such cases is demonstrating that the dog’s owner was aware of its aggressive tendencies. Proving that the owner knew or should have known the dog was dangerous or vicious can be sometimes proven through public information, e.g. the local animal control records.
Any records that show that neighbors have been harassed or attacked by a dangerous dog will make great evidence to show the owner was aware of the dog’s propensity to be aggressive or vicious.
What can I Receive Compensation for After a Dog Bite or Attack?
When a dog bites you, it’s vital to have a concrete legal case. Injuries resulting from dog bites can include permanent scarring, amputations, disfigurement, head injuries, scrapes and cuts, broken bones, fractures, etc. Similarly, the injuries can be permanent, painful, and expensive to treat. Additionally, for the most serious of cases, dog bites can cause death.
The out-of-pocked economic losses can be substantial since the treatment include plastic surgery and ongoing care and rehabilitation. If you’re are a victim of a dog bite, you shouldn’t have to shoulder all this burden by yourself. The dog owner’s renter’s, homeowner’s, or business owner’s insurance policy can adequately cover the monetary damages, including:
Whether it’s the emergency room, surgery, x-rays, ongoing therapy, or medication, any of the past and future medical costs associated with the injuries you sustained can be recovered. We assess the damages through medical records, medical expert interviews, and hospital bills.
In case you miss work and lose our income in the process while you recover from the injuries, you can seek compensation on the same. Work records such as timesheets can be used to prove lost income. We can also work with economists and vocational professionals to establish the impact of the injuries on your future earning potential.
Pain and Suffering
While it’s certainly difficult to put a price on physical suffering, it’s possible to assess and calculate the suitable amount based on the witness statements, photos, and other evidence.
Mental health professionals can help to establish the kind of emotional harm that you may have experienced from the dog bite experience and determine the suitable course of treatment.
Disfigurement and Scarring
In case you need to get plastic surgery to repair any scars or permanent marks caused by the dog attack, the entirety of this care can be recovered.
If the owner knowingly allowed the attack to happen or was recklessly disregarding the safety of other people, your lawyer can make an argument for additional damages. These are meant to serve as a punishment and deterrent to discourage them from allowing such an attack to happen in the future.
Loss of Consortium
If your partner/spouse was severely injured in a dog attack near Atlanta, you might be deprived of a much-needed companionship, comfort, and support. Georgia law allows you to recover this as damage.
If the dog attack was fatal, the surviving members of the family can pursue compensation for medical expenses, the loss of life, funeral costs, and other tangible or intangible damages.
At Calvin Smith Law, our goal is to ensure that any area of your life that’s been affected by an animal bite or attack recover fully.
Some other recoverable damages following a dog bite may be:
- Pain and Suffering
- All hospital and medical bills
- Emotional distress and counseling
- Any lost wages or income
- The reduced earning potential caused by any permanent injuries
- Punitive damages
- Disfigurement and scarring damages
- Damages for wrongful death for fatal attacks
What is the Average Settlement for Dog Bite Cases in Atlanta?
How much is your case worth? Well, every case is different. The value of a case will depend on the severity of injuries and how permanent the injuries or scars are. Small cases involving minor injuries and scars could have a compensation value of up to $50,000. Based on some insurance studies, the average settlement amounts for dig bite cases range from $25,000 to $40,000.
The more serious injuries tend to have greater settlement averages. For instance, if the injuries were serious and they left permanent disability or disfigurement, we have settlement many cases for policy limits of between $100,000 and $300,000. Some of our verdicts were even higher when the injuries justified the award.
For Georgia, the larger cases usually involve injured children; cases with loss of organs like ears, fingers, noses, etc. or nerve damage; and cases involving facial bites with substantial scars (men’s cases are typically less valuable than women’s). The total compensation award for some cases will be limited by the policy limits of the renter’s, business, or homeowner’s insurance.