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One Bite Rule

Until a few weeks ago, before a dog bite victim could collect compensation from the animal’s owners, he or she needed to establish that the animal had bitten someone on a prior occasion. However, a recently published court decision altered this understanding, which could have a significant impact on how dog bite cases are tried in the future. Dog bite injuries tend to be particularly severe, and in some cases, victims are traumatized for years to come, making it especially important for those who are injured in an animal attack to speak with an experienced Lake City, Atlanta personal injury lawyer who can protect their interests and help them seek the compensation they deserve.

The One Bite Rule

In Georgia, to collect compensation for a dog bite, the victim must demonstrate that:

  • The animal was dangerous or vicious;
  • The owner knew that the animal was dangerous; and
  • The owner managed the animal carelessly.

This rule became known as the one bite rule and was interpreted as meaning that dogs in Georgia were entitled to one free bite before they could be labeled as dangerous and the owner could be held liable for resulting injuries. However, in a recent case, the state Supreme Court reinterpreted the law, holding that victims of an animal attack do not need to provide evidence of a prior bite to establish liability. If you have questions about your dog bit case, reach out to a personal injury attorney serving Atlanta.

The Case

The case of Steagald v. Eason, involved the Eason family, who had recently adopted a pit bull. The family built a dog pen in the back yard for the animal, and when Ms. Eason attempted to feed the dog, it growled and snapped at her. Later, when Mr. Eason attempted to pet the dog, it responded in the same manner. A week later, the couple’s son was playing with the dog, which was on a leash in the back yard when a neighbor stopped by, entered the gate, and attempted to pet the dog. The animal lunged at the neighbor and bit her arm. When she tried to run away, the neighbor slipped and fell down, at which point, the dog bit the woman’s right leg.

Later, the injured neighbor filed a lawsuit against the Eason family for medical bills and pain and suffering. The neighbor argued that because the dog had snapped at Mr. and Mrs. Eason a week prior to the incident, the couple had knowledge that the animal had dangerous propensities. The trial court disagreed, ruling in favor of the Eason family. However, upon review, the Supreme Court stated that although the statute has often been interpreted to require evidence of a previous bite for an animal to be considered dangerous, an actual bite is not necessary. Instead, the Court agreed that other evidence, such as lunging and snapping, is enough to give a dog owner reason to know of an animal’s dangerous tendency. As a result, the Court overturned the lower court’s ruling and stated that whether the dog’s actions in this case satisfied the requirements of the statute was a question for the jury.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in Atlanta Today

According to the opinion recently issued by the state Supreme Court, dog bite victims may no longer be required to provide evidence of a previous attack in order to collect compensation for injuries sustained as a result of a dog bite. To learn more about how the decision affects your case, please schedule a consultation with a dedicated Lake City, Atlanta personal injury lawyer at the Angell Law Firm by calling (770) 217-4954 today.

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