Child Attacked by Dog in Georgia? What Are Your Legal Options?

Has your child been attacked and bitten by a vicious dog?

If so, what are your legal options? How can you get compensation for your child’s injury? How do you know if you need to hire an attorney?

In this post, I hope to offer help by providing an overview of Georgia law on the legal accountability (liability) of “owners and keepers” of “vicious” dogs. Throughout this overview, it should become clear what your legal options are and whether or not you need an attorney for your case.

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 be held liable for their dog’s behavior only if the animal had previously exhibited a propensity to bite or attack before the incident in question and 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.

However, in some instances, a dog’s past vicious activity does not count as a “first bite.” If the bite or attack was provoked by teasing or other actions that incited the dog, the owner or keeper cannot be held accountable for their animal’s actions. Young children often do not know how to act around animals and may provoke them, but according to historic Georgia law, dog owners are not responsible for provoked actions of an otherwise friendly animal. It is very important that children be taught about how to avoid stirring up animals. These two videos are very helpful in teaching children about dog bite prevention:

Interestingly, if a dog is part wolf or other wild animal, the “one bite rule” does not apply. The owner or keeper can be kept strictly liable – responsible regardless of the animal’s past history. Another interesting tidbit is that, since a cat is a domestic animal, cat bites or attacks are governed by the same set of rules as a dog.

But back to regular dogs. Georgia’s traditional “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 previous 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.

Happily, Georgia dog bite law has grown more favorable to injury victims over the last few decades.

The traditional “one free bite” Georgia rule is still on the law books (O.C.G.A. Section 51-2-7), but it has been relaxed somewhat. Recent court decisions, while upholding the principles behind the traditional Georgia rule, have moved toward softening the application of it. Duty is now placed on the dog owner/keeper to take “reasonable steps” to protect the public if they are aware of any previous vicious tendency in their dog, even if it has never actually bitten in the past. These recent court decisions have focused less on requiring the injury victim to prove a prior similar incident or attack and more on the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s aggressive temperament.

It became even easier for victims of a dog attack to get compensation in 1985, when the Georgia General Assembly (our state legislature) amended the dog liability statute to include the following provision:

“In proving vicious propensity, it shall be sufficient to show that the animal was required to be at heel or on a leash by an ordinance of a city, county, or consolidated government, and the said animal was at the time of the occurrence not at heel or on a leash.”

This 1985 amendment relaxed the traditional Georgia rule that the owner or keeper of a dog had to have knowledge of the dog’s previous tendency to be vicious. It did not do away with that requirement altogether, but it did carve out an exception to it. Because of this amendment, if a person or their child is injured by a dog and they can prove that the dog’s owner or keeper committed a violation of an applicable “leash law,” then the “one bite rule” does not apply. It is enough to prove that the owner was violating a “leash law” at the time of the bite or attack – no proof of knowledge about the dog’s previous vicious propensity is needed. Subsequent appellate cases have interpreted the 1985 amendment to apply not only to “leash laws” but also restrictive ordinances that require an owner to keep a dog confined to the property.

The bottom line? Because of the 1985 amendment, if your child has been bitten by a dog and you suspect the owner/ keeper of that dog was violating a “leash law” or local restrictive ordinance, you may have a great chance of getting compensation for your child’s injury. An attorney can help you research your local leash laws and/or local restrictive ordinances to see if (a) a “leash law” was in effect and (b) what the law requires owners/keepers of dogs to do.

Keep in mind that some parks have rules that require owners/keepers to keep dogs (and cats!) on a leash. Stone Mountain Park, for instance, requires that all dogs and cats be kept on a leash no shorter than 6 feet. Also, according to the legal theory of “negligent undertaking,” if the dog owner/keeper voluntarily agrees to restrain their dog but then fails to do so properly, resulting in an injury, the owner can be held responsible. So even if the city or county in which your child was injured does not have a leash law, there may be other ways to establish that the owner/keeper had a duty to keep their animal on a leash.


Dog bite cases are very fact-specific – their outcome depends heavily on the specific facts surrounding the injury. Georgia’s dog liability statute and the cases that interpret it can be difficult to apply to a specific case with its unique details, but an attorney can help you navigate these rocky legal waters.

I hope the information in this post has been helpful to you. If you have questions, I would love to talk. You can contact me directly at Six-Seven-Eight 358-2564 or via email at

Attorney Pete Pearson practices personal injury law in Atlanta, Georgia and has a special interest in helping families of injured children. He is a father to nine and lives with his wife and children in Newborn, Georgia. His office is located in Conyers, Georgia.

Daycare Injury? Find Out How to Get Compensation

Daycares can be dangerous. 

Take a recent case of mine for example. I was hired by a young mother whose 2-year-old daughter had suffered a serious injury while in daycare. The little girl was playing on the floor in a class of 23 other children overseen by two teachers. While the teachers were preoccupied with directing the children from breakfast to playtime, a much larger child got too rambunctious and fell on the little girl’s left leg. 

The outcome? My client’s little girl went to the hospital with a fractured tibia. 

Like I said, daycares can be dangerous. 

If your child has been injured while in daycare, you may be wondering: “What legal options do I have? How does someone in my situation seek compensation?”

The answer to this question depends heavily on your particular circumstances. In the situation I described a moment ago, my client had a very strong case. However, this was not due primarily to the seriousness of the injury, but rather to the ability to clearly prove that the injury was a result of negligence on the part of the daycare. If your circumstances are similar, you may have a strong case as well.

Why Did My Client Have a Strong Case?

When my client first called me, I immediately advised her to file a complaint with the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, also known as Bright from the Start. This complaint would spark an investigation of the daycare, the findings of which would be incredibly important to my client’s case. As a daycare licensed by the state of Georgia, the center where my client’s daughter sustained her injury is required to meet state standards. If the daycare was not following state standards in the classroom where my client’s child was, then a clear line could be drawn from their rule-breaking to the child’s injury. The daycare would be clearly at fault for the incident.

As it turns out, this was the case. 

Bright from the Start requires licensed daycares to follow specific teacher:child ratios that vary based on the age of the children, as follows:

Under 1 year or under 18 months if not walking = 1:6

1 year and walking = 1:8

2 years = 1:10

3 years = 1:15

4 years 1:18

5 years = 1:20

6 years and older = 1:25

Bright from the Start’s investigation discovered that, on the day of the injury, the little girl’s classroom had a ratio of two teachers to twenty-four 2-year-old children. According to state regulations, an additional teacher should have been present. However, the daycare neglected to follow this important rule. Because of this, the two teachers that were present had their hands too full to keep close tabs on all the children. And as a result, my client’s daughter ended up with a fractured leg.

A clear line could be drawn from the daycare’s failure to abide by state standards to the injury that occurred. This fact made for a strong case as it clearly showed that the daycare was at fault. But there was an additional layer to the story. 

Bright from the Start records revealed that this same daycare had also been caught violating state standards on numerous past occasionsTheir records showed 11 previous violations of the staff:child ratio standards alone. This was a major boost for my client’s case as it proved a pattern of negligence on the part of the daycare. In court, a jury would likely see this pattern as grounds for punishing the daycare by awarding my client punitive damages on top of the general damages she would have already received. For this reason, the daycare’s insurer made an offer we couldn’t refuse, and my client received considerable compensation.

How does all this relate to YOU?

If your child was injured while in daycare, it is possible that the fault can be traced to the childcare center’s negligence in following state standards. If so, you may have a strong case. However, to prove negligence, the incident must be investigated, which is why it is very important that you file a complaint with Bright from the Start (Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning). You can get more information about how to file a complaint HERE.

After filing a complaint, get in touch with an attorney. An attorney can help you navigate the complexities of your situation. Maybe the daycare is clearly at fault and in violation of state standards (of which there are many, as you can read about HERE). Or maybe your daycare is exempt from licensure and is not required to follow state standards, which you can read about HERE. Whatever the details of your case, an attorney can help you navigate the many aspects of daycare injuries, providing clear expertise on the legal options available to you and your child.

I have been representing children in accident cases for over 24 years. My office is located in Conyers, Georgia and I meet with clients all over metro Atlanta (hospital, home visits, wherever is best for you). The best way to reach me is by text or voice at Six-Seven-Eight 358-2564.

Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney Specializing in Child Injury – Pete Pearson

Over 100,000 Motorists Every Day Pass A Stopped School Bus?

According to this, over 100,000 motorists each day pass a stopped school bus:

Really? Are drivers so frantic to get to work (or wherever) that they don’t think it’s worth it to stop for children? How can it be that so many drivers think they can get away with ignoring basic safety rules? It ought not to be.

Another danger for children is getting run over by their own school bus. When safe crossing practices are not strictly enforced young children get hurt and sometimes killed.

I think the larger issues have to do with a culture in love with it’s own speed. Rush to work. Rush back home. Our little ones are the ones most at risk of injury in a world that rushes them all around.

There is no excuse for passing a stopped school bus. And there is no reason why bus drivers and school districts should be excused for failing to follow safe crossing procedures.

Those who endanger our children need be held accountable. They need serious consequences. And that is where I come in – I create consequences for those who hurt children. That’s why the laws are there and that is why I feel privileged to be an injury attorney.

We need to create a culture of safety for our children. There need to be real consequences for those who break the rules of the road and hurt innocent children. We need to use every tool at our disposal to create a safer environment on our roads for the sake of our children.

I love to work for families of injured children – no doubt about it. But what I really want is for drivers and school districts to slow down. Our kids need a safer world, one that is more focused on doing what is best for the least among us.


Attorney Pete Pearson practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and has a special interest in helping families with injured children. He is a father to seven and lives with his wife and children near Atlanta, Georgia. He can be reached directly at Six-Seven-Eight 358-2564 or through his main site,