Girl’s family awarded $36.6 million in Georgia dog mauling case
The family of a young girl who lost her arm in a Georgia dog attack has been awarded nearly $37 million in a civil lawsuit against the owner of the dogs. The girl was eight years old when she was attacked by a neighbor’s two pit bulls while playing in the front yard of her family’s home in 2010.
The dogs knocked the child to the ground and bit her repeatedly, according to news reports. As a result of the dog attack, one of the girl’s arms had to be amputated and she has limited use of her remaining arm, which is disfigured. She also has permanent scars from dog bites on her ankles.
Ever since the attack, the girl has suffered from nightmares and sleeplessness, and has struggled with being teased and stared at because of her injuries, according to an impact letter that she wrote to the judge. She wears a prosthetic device and has required physical therapy and several surgeries, with more expected in the future.
Calculating damages in personal injury cases
In a civil dog bite lawsuit like this one, the owner of a dog (or the owner’s insurance company) can be ordered to pay a sum of money to the injured victim or his or her family. That money is referred to as “damages.”
There are two types of damages: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are meant to offset the victim’s actual losses, such as hospitalization and rehabilitative costs, follow-up medical care, lost income and pain and suffering. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are awarded only in certain cases where the defendant (in the case, the dog owner) has acted extremely recklessly or maliciously. Damages of this type go above and beyond the victim’s actual losses in order to punish the wrongdoer and send a message to deter similar misconduct.
In the dog mauling case described here, a jury previously awarded $72 million to the girl’s family, about half of which was in the form of punitive damages. However, because of a state law that puts limits on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in a case like this, the judge had to reduce that portion of the award to $250,000.
Dog bite liability in Georgia
According to Georgia law, the owner of a dangerous or vicious dog can be held liable to anyone who is bitten or otherwise injured by the dog if it is allowed off leash or otherwise not kept under control. If you or a family member has been injured in a dog attack, be sure to get help from a personal injury lawyer to learn whether you may be able to pursue compensation for your injuries and related losses.