Animal attack cases are not uncommon in Georgia. These cases can be tricky for an inexperienced attorney because:
- unlike many other areas, the laws are not in one central location so finding the applicable law takes some research, and;
- determining who is responsible and whether there is any insurance coverage can be extremely difficult.
While most pets behave appropriately and normally do not pose a threat to us, there are instances when through the negligence of a pet owner (or through their failure to follow the law) people end up injured as the result of animal attacks.
Finding the Law
Dog and pet owner liability law has been a constantly evolving and changing area. The traditional rule of the Common Law, was based in premises liability. It still applies in some places, particularly in rural areas. Most major cities and many smaller ones, however, have enacted more strict ordinances such as “dangerous dog” codes or “leash laws” that place a higher burden of care on the dog owner.
If you have been injured due to an unprovoked attack by someone else’s animal, you need a dog bite lawyer who knows how to research the correct laws for your area and apply them to your advantage. At Prieto, Marigliano, Holbert & Prieto, LLC., we have handled numerous dog bite and animal attack cases and we have the skills to find the laws that may assist your specific case.
Common Law – the One Free Bite Rule
Under traditional Common Law, the liability of a landowner for an animal attack arose out of premises liability. If a landowner was aware of a dangerous condition on his property-including an animal-he had a duty to protect and/or warn certain persons of the danger. Out of this arose what became known in many states as the “One Free Bite Rule.” Until a dog displays hostile behavior toward a person, the owner was basically relieved of responsibility if he attacked someone unprovoked. Once the dog had attacked someone, the owner became charged with the knowledge and a duty to protect or warn.
Because the burden of proving knowledge can be very difficult, this is the hardest way to make a case against an irresponsible pet owner. In order to prove a case, you must generally find evidence of prior attacks or aggressive behavior. Contacting the local animal control department is one resource we use to research prior attacks and bites by a pet. Often people who live in the neighborhood will have knowledge of other times the dog has escaped and attacked people or displayed aggression. Witness interviews can be critical early on before the events fade or persons with knowledge move away. It is important that you have an animal attack attorney with the resources and knowledge to conduct a proper investigation.
Dangerous Dog and Leash Laws
Several municipalities and counties have adopted more stringent requirements for pet owners to prevent animals running at large or being left unattended. Dangerous dog laws are ordinances and codes that give the municipality more power to deal with potentially dangerous animals. They typically give animal control departments the power to register, remove and put down dogs that have shown aggression or are known dangerous breeds. Determining the breed of the dog that attacked you can be very important because it may play a role in what specific requirements the municipality places on the owner in question. Some of these laws place higher duties of care on the owners, including strict liability for damage done by a known dangerous dog or breed.
Leash laws are similar to dangerous dog laws. They are laws created by municipalities to prevent dogs from running at large. Depending on the city, the leash law may be as strict as to impose absolute responsibility on the dog owner if the animal is off a leash anywhere except an enclosed space or as flexible as to only recognize a violation where the owner knowingly allows the dog to run at large. These laws may, in some cases, give an injured person another way to hold an irresponsible pet owner responsible.
Having a skilled dog bite/animal attack attorney who knows how to find and apply these municipal codes and ordinances that apply to your case can make the difference between winning and losing your case. At Prieto, Marigliano, Holbert & Prieto, LLC., our attorneys will research the laws applicable to your case fight for your rights to the fullest extent under the law.