If your child has been attacked by a dog and bitten, what are your legal options? How do you know if you need an attorney? I have written a series of 4 posts on this topic to help parents understand the law. I will provide an overview of Georgia law on the liability of “owners and keepers” of “vicious” dogs and tips on how to decide if you need to contact an injury attorney for help.
Historically the rule in Georgia for determining whether an owner or keeper of a vicious dog was legally responsible for injuries caused by their animal was the “first bite rule.” Under that rule an owner or keeper of a vicious dog could ONLY BE HELD LIABLE for a dog attack if the animal had exhibited the propensity to bite or attack prior to the incident in question and if the owner/keeper knew of the dog’s vicious propensity. This rule was understood by many as giving dog owners “one free bite” before they were responsible for injuries caused by their animal.
The historic Georgia rule is still on the law books, though as I will discuss shortly, it has been relaxed somewhat in recent decades. If you are interested in seeing where – you can find it in O.C.G.A. Section 51-2-7.
The “first bite rule” made it quite difficult for victims of a dog bite to recover compensation for their injuries. It was often impossible to prove that the owner/keeper had actual knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensity. It also was often difficult to find information about previous bites and attacks. As a result of the strictness of the “first bite rule” many injury victims went without compensation.
The next post in this series will give a bit more information about the “first bite rule” and then discuss recent cases that have begun to relax the traditional rule, with the result of opening the way for more injury victims to be compensated.
A word about teaching children about dog bite prevention –