Dogs are a common sight in many US homes, being some of the most beloved and popular pets. However, around 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and over $1 billion of compensation was paid out by pet owners in 2022.
If you have suffered an injury from a dog bite or attack, you have seen firsthand the far-reaching effects these incidents can have on both you and your family. You may be unsure of your legal options, wondering whether legal action is possible or even necessary in your case. The team at Hoffspiegel Law is ready to help.
A free consultation with our firm may be exactly what you need to feel confident in your next steps, despite the uncertainty and stress you may be feeling. Click the Contact Us button on this page to get started with a free case evaluation.
What You Need to Know When a Dog Bites You in Atlanta
Dog bite injury cases fall under the umbrella of “personal injury law,” and each state has its own statutes governing these incidents. However, while personal injury lawsuits and claims are civil matters, there may be criminal charges involved in dog bite cases as well. The ability to pursue compensation for a dog bite injury does not depend on the filing or result of criminal charges.
Each Atlanta dog bite lawyer at Hoffspiegel Law works tirelessly to provide our clients with the support, guidance, and insight they need. We are available to answer your questions and help you understand the legal process that an Atlanta dog bite injury can set in motion.
Time limits for personal injury cases
There are time limits that apply to most personal injury cases, including dog bites. Even if you have the legal right to recover compensation, once the statute of limitations has passed, you will not be able to file a claim or lawsuit.
In Georgia, dog bite victims have 2 years to start legal action after an injury. This 2-year time limit usually begins on the date that the dog bite injury occurred but could also be applied to a later date, according to the discovery rule. For instance, the victim’s conditions could have been less than immediately apparent, or the full extent of the injuries was realized later.
It is important to remember that the statute of limitations applies to the initiation of filing a claim or lawsuit. Therefore, it’s good to start on your case right away, to allow time to see whether or not a lawsuit will become necessary down the line – this must be determined before the statute of limitations runs out.
The “one-bite rule”
Each state handles dog bites differently. Generally speaking, most states either follow what is called the “one-bite rule” or strict liability.
The “one-bite rule” means that the owner of a dog is only held liable if he or she knew – or should have known – that the animal could have been a danger. In most cases, the owner is found to be responsible if the dog had previously bitten or attacked a person. In Georgia, the victim must prove that the pet owner was aware of the danger in order to recover compensation.
In states that follow strict liability, the pet owner is responsible if the victim was legally allowed to be on the property. As such, the owner is liable for the damages regardless of whether he or she should have known what could happen or tried to prevent it.
The Atlanta dog bite lawyers at our firm are well-versed in local dog bite law and stand ready to provide the legal assistance and guidance you need.
Dangerous or Vicious Dogs in Georgia
Dogs determined to be either dangerous or vicious must be legally registered. What’s more, strict security measures must be followed when dealing with such canines.
The State of Georgia determines a dangerous dog as one that does any of the following:
- Punctures a person’s skin with teeth without causing serious injury – The action must be worse than a nip, scratch, or abrasion
- Carries out an aggressive attack that posed an imminent threat of serious injury to another person – The behavior must be worse than barking, growling, or showing of teeth
- Kills a pet animal while off of the owner’s property
In order for a dangerous dog to be legally registered, the dog must be contained in an enclosure that keeps the dog on the property, such as a locked pen, fence, or other structure. There should also be clearly visible warning signs affixed to all entries, stating that there is a dangerous dog on the premises. Otherwise, if the dog bites someone, it can lead to a premises liability suit.
A dog is determined to be vicious if it causes “serious injury,” of which the following count:
- Broken bones
- Dislocated bones
- Admission to a hospital
- Lacerations requiring multiple sutures
- Impairment of the function of a bodily organ
- Transmission of an infection or disease
On top of the requirements to register dangerous dogs, there are additional restrictions for animals in this category. Vicious dogs must also be microchipped, and the dog’s owner is required to carry a minimum of $50,000 liability insurance to cover potential bodily injury the dog may cause.
In Georgia, a person who has been convicted of a serious violent felony, the felony of dogfighting, or the felony of aggravated cruelty to animals cannot register a vicious dog. Likewise, anyone convicted of the felony of trafficking cocaine, illegal drugs, marijuana, methamphetamine, or ecstasy cannot register a vicious dog for 2 years after the completion of his or her sentence.
Potential Injuries Caused by a Dog Bite
A dog bite injury can range from minor to fatal. While the majority of dogs go through their lives without ever attacking or biting a person, an unexpected dog attack can quickly become serious. Many factors may affect the severity of injuries after a dog attack, including the size, breed, and training of the dog.
When you work with an experienced attorney on your Atlanta dog bite claim, he or she will closely examine your situation to understand the impact the incident and injuries have had on your life. You will thereby be enabled to fight for maximum compensation.
Puncture wounds are among the most common injuries seen in dog bite incidents. While they can appear to be minor in the immediate aftermath of the bite, they often pose a high risk.
For example, even if the initial puncture wound was not serious, if the wound becomes infected, it can cause serious and even life-threatening complications. Puncture wounds also pose the risk of disease or bacteria transmission, including rabies, tetanus, and blood poisoning.
Face and neck injuries
When an animal attacks the face and neck area, it can cause serious, even fatal injuries. Depending on the location of the injuries, significant facial trauma and blood loss are common.
A dog bite or a scratch from the animal can damage one or both eyes, causing permanent damage. These eye injuries can include corneal abrasion, orbital fractures, a physical loss of the eye itself, or partial or total loss of sight.
Nerve damage after an injury can cause lasting and debilitating effects. Injury victims who experience nerve damage may notice symptoms such as:
- Numbness or tingling
- TIghtness or compression
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of grip strength
- Sharp pains
- A burning or buzzing sensation
The effects of nerve damage can interfere with the ability to perform daily tasks, causing pain or even paralysis.
Broken bones are another serious injury that often results from dog bites. Dogs’ jaws are exceptionally powerful and generate more than enough force to crush a bone. A simple fracture or break can be relatively minor, requiring only a short time to heal.
However, in many cases, dog bites cause serious damage and complex fractures. Surgical treatment is often required, as well as physical therapy, to regain full use and range of motion.
Types of Compensation Available in an Atlanta Dog Bite Case
No amount of compensation can turn back time and undo the damages caused. However, this money can certainly help ease the financial strain and provide you and your family with the necessary resources to move forward.
Your settlement can include compensation for losses such as:
- Medical bills: Depending on the nature of your dog bite injury, medical bills could put a substantial financial strain on you. Your compensation should include the cost for emergency care and surgical treatments, including plastic and cosmetic surgery if necessary. Medical costs would also cover any medication as well.
- Rehabilitation: Often, rehabilitation can continue for months or years after a run-in with a dog. Compensation may be due for the costs of physical therapy, home care, and perhaps any necessary modifications to your home or vehicle.
- Lost wages: Due to the incident and recovery time, you may need to take time off of work. This can include the time you spend in the hospital or at home recovering, as well as time missed from work for doctor’s appointments and other necessary commitments related to your injuries. If you are unable to return to work entirely, or unable to return to the same job, your compensation should reflect this change as well.
- Emotional damages: When a dog bites or another animal attacks, it causes more than just physical injuries. Victims often suffer from traumatic memories, fears, and anxieties after the attack. In addition, scarring and disfigurement cause mental anguish. These emotional and psychological damages should be included in your compensation.
- Wrongful death lawsuit: If the injuries are serious enough to end in a fatality, your dog bite attorney may inform you that you can file a wrongful death lawsuit. In addition to the medical costs and pain and suffering the victim suffered before death, there may be compensation available for the victim’s potential loss of income and funeral costs.
A consultation with an Atlanta dog bite attorney can help you better understand the options available to you depending on the specific circumstances of your case.
The Role Your Atlanta Dog Bite Lawyer Will Play
As mentioned previously, Georgia law places the responsibility on the victim to prove that the dog owner was negligent and liable for the injuries. When you work with Hoffspiegel Law, you can rest assured that your case is in good hands while you focus on the healing process.
One of your lawyer’s most important tasks is to thoroughly investigate the incident to collect the necessary evidence to strengthen your case. For example, Atlanta and other municipalities have ordinances mandating that dogs remain leashed while in public areas. Your attorney can determine whether these and other laws were followed, which can be especially helpful if the dog owner argues that you were partially at fault for the incident.
In addition, he or she will evaluate your losses and the impact your injuries have had on your life to fight for you to recover the full amount of compensation that you are owed. Of course, he or she will also be there to explain what is going on and answer any questions you might have.
Call the Dog Bite Lawyers at Hoffspiegel Law Today
When a dog attacks or bites, the effects can be serious. At Hoffspiegel Law, we understand the stress, anxiety, and hopelessness experienced by many personal injury victims. We also understand that you deserve compensation and justice for your injuries. That’s why we are here to help.
With an Atlanta dog bite lawyer by your side, you don’t have to face the insurance company alone. You can be confident knowing that your attorney is tirelessly working on your behalf to take the legal steps necessary to secure your compensation.
We are fully invested in our clients, and we want to hear your dog bite story too. Reach out today at (404) 760-8600, or click the Contact Us button below and get help now.
Send a Message
To The Hoffspiegel Law Team