What Is Florida’s Dog Bite Statute?
The dog bite statute in Florida is located in Statute 767.04 and states that a dog owner is liable for injuries if the dog bites another person who is in a public or in a lawfully private place regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. For example, someone has a guest in their home and their dog bites the guest. Because the person was a guest in the home, if the dog bites them, the homeowner is liable for the injuries. If an individual takes their dog to the dog park and their dog bites someone in the dog park, the dog owner is responsible for the injuries.
This is called “strict liability”, because it does not matter if the dog was vicious or owner knew of its viciousness. A bite happens, injuries happen, the dog owner is liable. It does not matter if the dog was a vicious dog, or the victim knew the dog was vicious. According to strict liability, if a dog bites and there are damages, the responsibility is present.
Some defenses can be used in dog bite cases as identified in the statute. It says that any negligence on the part of a person that was bitten that is a proximate cause (the person who was bitten did something to the dog and the dog bit them) that person is assigned some amount of contributory negligence. The percentage of fault on the part of the person who was injured needs to be determined.
If the injured person was trespassing and the property owner says, “I did not invite the person on my property, but the person still came in and my dog bit him,” that person may not be able to collect against the dog owner. If the dog owner puts a readable sign in a place where anybody going in would see it, that says “Bad Dog,” that may also protect that dog owner from liability.
The key issue for potential clients who are looking for representation with dog bite cases to understand is that the burden is on the dog’s owner to prove there was some exculpatory circumstance. If a dog bites a human, the dog’s owner is responsible for those injuries absent a very narrow set of circumstances, i.e. they have a “Bad Dog” sign posted or a person was bitten because they were beating on the dog with a stick or harassing the dog. Even those circumstances may not be an absolute bar to a recovery. With dog bite cases, the injuries can be very significant, horrible, disfiguring injuries. Recoveries in these cases are most often limited by the homeowner’s failure to provide any sort of insurance coverage or, if coverage is present, the homeowner’s insurance carrier may not cover that. From a strict liability standpoint, the dog owner’s responsibility is really key for understanding this area of the law.
What Damages Could I Be Entitled To In A Dog Bite Injury Case In Central Florida?
One common injury in children who are bitten by dogs is facial lacerations that result in prominent scarring. A previous client of mine was a little girl who had been bitten on her face, leaving a tragically disfiguring scar on her face. Although she had several plastic surgeries, the scar still remained. One of the most damaging scars can be in an area of the body when the scars are prominent and are readily visible to other people. In those situations, the dog bite victim is very often able to recover the most from their dog bite case.
There are other serious dog bite cases that involve larger dogs. For example, in one case, a large dog bit my client in the leg. The client had complications to the bite wound in his leg because he was diabetic, and he ultimately lost his leg.
I Was Bitten By A Dog Owned By Someone I Know. Should I Just Work With Them To Recover For The Expenses Incurred As A Result Of My Injuries Instead Of Hiring A Florida Dog Bite Attorney?
If you are bitten by a dog owned by someone you know, you definitely need to hire an attorney. Initially you have to determine who is liable for the dog bite. The owner could be liable or, under certain circumstances, you could be partially responsible for your injury. Liability affects what damages can be awarded to you.
Many dog bite victims who try to resolve things amicably initially say, “All I want is my medical bills paid, just pay me for this doctor’s bill.” But what they do not know is what the future entails. The dog bite victim may settle with the dog owner for that emergency room visit bill of $500 and a month later they discover there are complications and the original $500 bill is now $20,000 because of the complications. When they go back to the dog owner and say they need an additional $19,500 in addition to the original payment of $500, that dog owner is not likely to be easily persuaded to pay the difference.
Having an experienced attorney investigate the incident, the total medical expenses, and available coverage can ensure you get the full amount of damages you are entitled to.