Dog bites and animal attacks happen more often than people like to admit. When a dog bite occurs, the pet owner is usually liable. However, several parties may be held accountable for an animal attack.
A dog bite attorney can help you seek justice and obtain compensation by identifying the responsible party and holding them accountable under Georgia’s strict liability laws.
If you or someone you know sustained severe injuries from an animal bite, learn here how to hold the owner accountable. Call us for legal advice on collecting a fair settlement and protecting your rights.
Who Is Responsible When an Animal Attacks?
The Wilderness and Environmental Medicine Journal reports that one to two million animal bites are estimated to occur annually within the U.S. alone. These bites are often severe, resulting in millions of dollars spent on treating animal attack injuries.
When an animal attacks someone, the following parties could be responsible:
- The animal’s owners
- Owners of the property where the attack occurred
- Animal keepers at places like zoos or shelters
- Landlords of a property
- Parents, if the attack victim was a minor
Animal attacks are more than just dog bites. Many wild animals can attack if they feel threatened. An innocent victim could walk by a dangerous animal and not know until it’s too late.
After an animal attack, it’s crucial to identify the responsible party. It all comes down to negligence. Negligence is a legal term for carelessness. If someone’s negligence led to the attack, they could be responsible.
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How Does Negligence Lead to an Animal Attack?
It depends on the details of the attack. Here are some common examples.
Georgia’s Dog Bite Laws and Owner Accountability
When a dog bite happens, it’s usually because the owner was careless. Dog owners must keep control of their dogs at all times (Georgia Code §51-2-7). If a dog bites someone after roaming free, Georgia’s bite laws state that the owner is accountable.
The owner might not be liable if a bite victim provoked the dog into attacking. However, this is rare. Much of the time, the owner was not paying close enough attention to their dog. Or, the owner might have known the dog was aggressive and still let the dog around people.
Wild Animal Attacks on Private Property
Legal action can be taken against a property owner after an animal attack on their property. Property owners have a legal duty to keep visitors safe. If the owner knew (or should have known) about the wild animal, they can be held responsible.
Property owners are held under strict liability to prevent animal attacks. If the property is unsafe for visitors, the owner should not allow people onto the property. If an injury or death happens, the property owner might be liable.
Sometimes, a property owner is not responsible if the animal was on their property when the attack occurred. If the owner tries to deny liability, talk to a lawyer. Your bite attorney will let you know your options.
Wild Animal Attacks on Public Property
Sometimes, a local or state government can be held accountable for an animal attack. The law often excludes government entities from liability. However, the injured party might have a case if they can show that:
- The government should have been able to prevent the animal attack.
- They did a poor job of warning visitors about wild animals.
Talk to a dog bite lawyer if an animal attacks you on public property. A personal injury lawyer will examine your situation and determine your options. They can also look into the laws for your area to see if you have a case.
How Can I Show That Someone Caused My Animal Attack?
You should not have to pay for the costs of bite injuries that weren’t your fault. You might be entitled to compensation for the following:
- Past and future medical bills
- Hospital costs
- Prescription medications
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Mental trauma
You will need to know the full value of your damages. If possible, wait until you’ve completed all medical treatment. Your lawyer can help determine your total costs.
You will need to file a claim against the at-fault party. Before doing that, here are some steps to take.
Get Medical Attention Immediately
Animal attack injuries can be very severe. If not treated immediately, they can lead to infections and other issues. Wild animal bites can also possibly expose you to rabies, according to the Georgia Department of Health (DPH).
Regardless of whether it is a domesticated or exotic animal, get any emergency medical attention you need immediately. Have someone take you to the emergency room. If your injuries are not life-threatening, see your doctor immediately.
Identify the Animal
Try to identify the animal that bit or attacks you. If it was a dog, see if you can find the owner. If the owner is present, ask for the dog’s vet and vaccination records. You might also ask if the dog has attacked anyone before.
If a wild animal attacks you, see if the property owner is nearby. Ask any witnesses if they know who owns the property.
If possible, take a picture of the animal. However, only do this if it’s safe.
Use your phone or another camera to take photos of:
- Your bite or attack injuries.
- The animal that hurt you.
- The property where the attack happened.
- Anything else that helps show the scene.
Picture evidence helps preserve the scene, which is beneficial for your case.
Report the Animal Attack
Don’t leave the scene without reporting the attack. Depending on where you live, you might need to call one or both of the following:
- The local police department
- Animal Control
Authorities might be able to help you find or identify the animal. Animal Control could have records that show the dog’s past or owner.
Talk to Witnesses
Did other people see your attack happen? Talk to them. Ask what they saw, and ask for their contact information.
Eyewitness testimony will support your claim. Your lawyer can reach out to witnesses later for statements.
Get Legal Help
Contact a dog bite and animal attack lawyer. Make sure your lawyer has experience with these types of cases. They can help you gather information and build a strong case to hold the responsible party accountable.
Your lawyer will also help protect your legal rights. They can communicate with the at-fault party on your behalf. You can focus on healing while your lawyer handles the legal details.
Challenges and Defenses in Animal Bite Claims
To prepare for the potential challenges you may face as an injured person, a personal injury attorney will discuss legal strategy, including the defenses the animal owner may present. The following arguments may make it difficult to obtain fair compensation:
According to O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33, Georgia law implements comparative negligence to assess each party’s level of responsibility in a personal injury claim. A plaintiff may receive compensation under the legal theory of comparative negligence, even though they contributed partly to their own harm.
Georgia’s modified comparative negligence rule ensures that a plaintiff can seek compensation from a defendant if their personal responsibility does not exceed 50% of the total. A plaintiff may not be allowed to receive any damages if they are determined to be at least 50% at fault; otherwise, their damages shall be proportionately reduced.
Assumption of Risk
The at-fault party or their lawyer may argue that you assumed the risk of being bitten by the animal. This claim is often used with dogs whose owners know they have a history of aggression. Your lawyer will need to prove that you were unaware of the danger and that there was no way to prevent it.
Statutes of Limitations
Victims of animal attacks must file their claims within a certain amount of time, known as the statute of limitations. If the victim fails to file their claim within this time period, they may lose their right to hold the responsible party accountable for the animal attack.
Insurance Company Tactics
Insurance companies may use a variety of tactics to avoid paying out compensation to injury victims. For example, they may try to contact you and offer a low settlement before you have had a chance to speak with an attorney.
Talk to a Dog Bite Lawyer for Free Today
John Foy & Associates has been helping animal attack victims for over 20 years. We know what it takes to win cases. We’re also not afraid to hold the at-fault party accountable.
Contact us today for a FREE, no-risk consultation. There is no charge to you unless we win your case.