When is a Dog Owner Liable for a Dog Bite?

Last updated Friday, December 2nd, 2022

Dogs as a rule have many positive qualities that make them excellent companions to humans, and people have many reasons for wanting to have a dog. For true dog lovers, they are happy to take on the responsibility of caring for them, training them, and keeping them healthy.

There are many people that couldn’t imagine a life without the love of a dog. Dogs tend to be affectionate, loyal, loving, fun, protective, and have many other wonderful qualities that we as humans love to have in our lives. For many, a dog is a true family member and they are cherished and loved as such.

But the truth of the matter is that even if your domestic dog is an angelic, loving creature that has never given anything but joy, dogs are still animals. They are not humans. And as animals, they sometimes behave as animals do.

As an owner of an animal, the owner gets to not only enjoy the love and companionship a dog gives, they must also carry the responsibility of the actions of the animal if something goes wrong.


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So what happens if a dog bites? What if the dog bite caused serious injuries to someone? Who is responsible for paying for the medical bills?

Although not all states have specific laws in place that dictate how to handle liability when it comes to dog bite incidents, there are still many individual states have come up with their own laws on how to handle the situation when a dog bites a human.

Most fall under one of two standards: “Strict Liability” and “One-Bite.” So what is the difference between the two?

For starters, each standard addresses the amount of liability a dog owner carries for the actions of his or her dog. If a dog bites and causes harm or injury, should the owner be held responsible and liable if they had no reason to believe their dog would bite?

What if the owner knew that the dog acts more aggressively, or even was trained to be vicious in certain situations? If they chose to bring the dog into circumstances that could be dangerous for other people, are they held responsible if the dog does in fact bite? Should the owner be lawfully obligated to pay for damages if they knew that the dog could possibly bite someone?

In strict liability states, it doesn’t matter if the owner had any idea that the dog could be aggressive or not. All owners of dogs that have bitten are held responsible for the actions of their dog if it caused harm.

In one-bite states, if the owner truly believes that their dog will not bite anyone and the dog does, in fact, bite, they are essentially given one chance. If the dog ever bites again, all liability and responsibility will belong to the owner.

Does Georgia Have a One Bite Rule for Dogs?

The State of Georgia has some of the more complex laws to follow in the US when it comes to dog bites. It’s not technically a one-bite rule state, but uses a modified version of the typical one-bite law.

What are the Dog Bite Laws in Georgia?

In Georgia, a dog owner is considered liable in certain situations, such as:

  • They knew that the dog posed a threat and could possibly attack someone
  • The dog was off the owner’s property but not on a leash or otherwise kept under control
  • The dog was not provoked by the victim

In a situation where the dog had never shown any tendency to bite or injure and was controlled responsibly by the owner, what happens if the dog bites someone?

In certain cases, if the owner felt comfortable bringing the dog out with them, yet they found themselves in a situation that it wasn’t comfortable for the dog and it bit, it’s possible that the owner would not be liable for damages.

What are the Penalties for a Dog Bite Owner?

The penalties to a dog owner with a dog that has bitten are different depending upon the state they live in. There is also a difference between criminal penalties and civil suits.

Criminal charges could be brought against the owner by the state, where they could be subject to fines or even jail time.

Civil suits are usually brought against a dog owner for monetary compensation to pay for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.

If a person violates restrictions on keeping a dangerous dog, either criminal or civil cases could be brought against them.

Am I Liable if My Dog Bites a Trespasser?

Most of the time, dog owners must be proven to be negligent if their dog bites a trespasser on their own property. This depends, of course, on the state that the owner lives in.

How Much Time do I Have to File a Dog Bite Claim?

This also depends strongly on the state that the owner lives in, but most deadlines range from one to six years from the date of the bite. In situations where there are severe injuries, the time is needed to establish the extent of injuries to the victim. Most civil cases are settled out of court, however, within a year or two.

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