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Attorney Jordan Van Matre

When a child gets bitten by a dog, who is liable?

On Behalf of | Apr 9, 2024 | Criminal Defense

In Georgia, the issue of liability when a child is bitten by a dog is governed by a combination of statutes and case law, making the state’s approach somewhat nuanced. Georgia employs a “modified” one-bite rule, coupled with elements of negligence law, which makes the state’s approach far more complicated than the approaches embraced by many other states. 

Under Georgia’s dog bite statute, a dog owner can be held liable for a bite if the victim can prove that the dog was dangerous or vicious, the owner was aware (or should have been aware) of the dog’s tendencies and the owner carelessly managed the dog or allowed it to roam free in violation of local leash laws. 

The basics

Unlike the traditional “one-bite” rule that provides a liability shield for owners until their dog’s first act of aggression, Georgia’s law allows for liability if the owner knew or should have known of any dangerous propensities in the dog.

For a child bitten by a dog, several factors may come into play:

  • Knowledge of the dog’s behavior: If the dog had previously shown signs of aggression or had bitten someone before, the owner could be held liable for the injuries. The key element here is whether the owner knew of the dog’s aggressive tendencies.
  • Leash and restraint laws: Georgia law also considers whether the dog was at large, in violation of local leash or restraint laws, at the time of the attack. 
  • Provocation: It’s also important to consider whether the child provoked the dog. If it can be shown that the child’s actions led to the bite, this may affect the liability of the dog owner.
  • Trespassing: The location of the child at the time of the bite is also significant. If the child was trespassing on the dog owner’s property, it is possible that an owner’s liability might be reduced.

In cases involving children, courts often examine the situation with particular attention to the child’s ability to understand and avoid the risk of dog bites. Children are generally given more leeway in terms of their actions leading up to a dog bite, given their limited capacity to recognize danger.

Given the complexities surrounding dog bite cases in Georgia, it’s generally wise for the parents of child bite victims to seek personalized guidance in order to learn more about their rights and options under the law.