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Who is Liable when Children Suffer a Dog Bite?

With the warmer weather here, people will be out in parks and their neighborhoods, and many will be with their dogs.  And while it is an almost universal truth that children love dogs, not all interactions between children and dogs involve are fun.  Instead, a child may very well suffer a dog bite after innocently trying to show a dog some affection. After suffering a dog bite, many children end up with serious injuries, some of which can be serious enough to require surgery.

Over 4 million people are bitten by dogs each year, but only 17% of those get reported.  According to statistics, children account for more than 50 percent of the dog bites recorded in the United States every year. They are also much more likely to suffer serious injuries. In Georgia, dog bites are considered a public health concern.

There are some things that parents can do to make sure that their child is not injured in dog bite attacks. Don’t leave your child alone with a dog. Pediatricians say that this holds true even for family dogs or dogs that are familiar to you.  Remember, any dog can bite.

If you are a dog owner, make sure that your dog is not involved in an attack by being a responsible dog owner.  Take steps to properly train and socialize your dog.  Stay current on your pet’s vaccinations, and make sure that he is safely restrained on your property, or when out in public. Remember, if the attack occurs on your property, you may be liable under Georgia’s premises liability laws.

Under Georgia law, in order for a dog owner to be held liable, the parents of the injured child must prove that the owner was negligent. To prove this, they must prove that the dog owner knew that the animal was vicious and dangerous, and did nothing to restrain the animal or prevent injuries to the victim. A claim may not be valid if the victim provoked the dog by teasing it.

Georgia’s dog bite laws, however, provide a lot of leeway to owners, and injured victims have to prove negligence in order to successfully file a claim for damages. Merely suffering a bite may not help you hold the dog owner liable, or help you recover compensation.  But, if the dog bite occurred in an area where a “leash law” is in effect, there may be grounds for a claim.  Leash laws require dogs to be restrained or on a leash when in a certain area.  Under this scenario, if an unrestrained dog bit a child, the dog owner could be liable for negligent management of the animal.  Also, if the dog owner was aware of previous attacks involving the same dog, and did not take steps to prevent another attack, you may also be able to hold him liable in a claim. Additionally, if the attack involves a bite on another person’s property, the owner may be liable for damages.

If your child has suffered a dog bite, first make sure that the child gets medical attention. For first aid, you can wash the wound with soap water. Contact your pediatrician immediately, and make sure that you get information about the dog’s vaccine records, including his last rabies shots. Also, get the owner’s name and contact information.

Talk to an Atlanta premises liability lawyer at the Katz Law Firm to determine whether you have grounds for a claim for damages after your child suffers a dog bite attack on another’s property. Do not simply assume that the owner is not liable because he is a neighbor or known to you. Talk to an attorney to discuss your case.