Pit bull attacks continue to dominate the number of dog attack cases in Georgia, especially when it comes to fatal attacks on young children. Two pit bulls killed a 20-month-old boy at his grandmother’s house in Hart County, Georgia, and she is now faces criminal charges related to the attack, according to recent reports.
While it is rare that dog bite cases result in criminal charges beyond citations from animal control for failing to properly maintain control of the dog and allowing it to attack someone, civil actions are much more common, as this is the usual course of action to hold the dog owner liable for the damages inflicted by the dogs after an attack.
In addition to the leash laws related to the proper control of dogs that a Georgia homeowner owns or has in its custody of control, the Georgia Code of civil procedure provides as follows:
§ 4-8-4. Liability for damage done by dogs
(a) The owner or, if no owner can be found, the custodian exercising care and control over any dog which while off the owner’s or custodian’s property causes injury, death, or damage directly or indirectly to any livestock, poultry, or pet animal shall be civilly liable to the owner of the livestock, poultry, or pet animal for injury, death, or damage caused by the dog. The owner or, if no owner can be found, the custodian exercising care and control over any dog shall be liable for any damage caused by such dog to public or private property. The liability of the owner or custodian of the dog shall include consequential damages.
(b) This Code section is to be considered cumulative of other remedies provided by law. There is no intent to eliminate or limit other causes of action which might inure to the owner of any livestock, poultry, or pet animal.
The civil code of Georgia further addresses the liability stemming from dog attacks by first classifying what a dog is and then defining what constitutes a dangerous dog, what a serious injury is, what constitutes a vicious dog as follows:
§ 4-8-21. Definitions
(a) As used in this article, the term:
(1) “Classified dog” means any dog that has been classified as either a dangerous dog or vicious dog pursuant to this article.
(A) Causes a substantial puncture of a person’s skin by teeth without causing serious injury; provided, however, that a nip, scratch, or abrasion shall not be sufficient to classify a dog as dangerous under this subparagraph;
(B) Aggressively attacks in a manner that causes a person to reasonably believe that the dog posed an imminent threat of serious injury to such person or another person although no such injury occurs; provided, however, that the acts of barking, growling, or showing of teeth by a dog shall not be sufficient to classify a dog as dangerous under this subparagraph; or
(C) While off the owner’s property, kills a pet animal; provided, however, that this subparagraph shall not apply where the death of such pet animal is caused by a dog that is working or training as a hunting dog, herding dog, or predator control dog.
(3) “Local government” means any county or municipality of this state.
(4) “Owner” means any natural person or any legal entity, including, but not limited to, a corporation, partnership, firm, or trust owning, possessing, harboring, keeping, or having custody or control of a dog. In the case of a dog owned by a minor, the term “owner” includes the parents or person in loco parentis with custody of the minor.
(5) “Serious injury” means any physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death; results in death, broken or dislocated bones, lacerations requiring multiple sutures, or disfiguring avulsions; requires plastic surgery or admission to a hospital; or results in protracted impairment of health, including transmission of an infection or contagious disease, or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.
(b) No dog shall be classified as a dangerous dog or vicious dog for actions that occur while the dog is being used by a law enforcement or military officer to carry out the law enforcement or military officer’s official duties. No dog shall be classified as a dangerous dog or a vicious dog if the person injured by such dog was a person who, at the time, was committing a trespass, was abusing the dog, or was committing or attempting to commit an offense under Chapter 5 of Title 16.
Dog bite cases are serious and, in many cases, need to be handled quickly and efficiently in order to (1) identify the owner of the dog or otherwise liable party; (2) uncover all available insurance; and (3) properly notify all necessary parties and initiate the claim.
Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling dog attacks, automobile accident cases, personal injury cases, dental malpractice and medical malpractice lawsuits for individuals and families who have been or died as a result of the negligence of others for more than 20 years in and around Atlanta, Georgia and its surrounding areas, including Alpharetta, Austell, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously injured and would like quality legal representation, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.