Florida has the second highest number of dog bite claims in the US, following only California. Although most dogs are not a danger, some breeds can be very unpredictable. Sadly, children are often the most vulnerable to a dog bite attack.
In this article, we will discuss what to do if you are bitten by a dog in Florida.
Florida’s Dog Bite Law
Florida’s dog bite laws are outlined in Florida Statute 767.04. The owner is “strictly liable” for a victim’s damages if their dog bites a person or another animal. This holds true whether the attack happened in public or a victim who was lawfully on private property.
It does not matter if the owner had prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressiveness or not, since Florida upholds strict liability. This means owners are strictly and completely responsible for their dog’s actions.
A dog bite injury victim does not need to prove liability to be able to file a dog bite claim and pursue the owner for damage compensation. The liability is inherent as long as the dog belongs to the owner and the dog bit someone. However, if the victim was injured by a dog any other way (besides a bite), they need to prove the owner’s negligence caused their injuries.
Exceptions to Florida’s Dog Bite Statute
While Florida law does uphold strict liability on dog downers, there are a few exceptions to the rule. Here are some scenarios when a dog owner might not be held liable for their dog biting another person or animal:
- If the injured victim was trespassing or otherwise on the dog owner’s property unlawfully, the owner is not liable.
- If the owner posted a “Beware of Dog” sign warning of a potentially dangerous dog and the bite victim still willingly entered the property.
- The Beware of Dog sign does not apply if the dog bite victim is under six years old. In this situation, the owner is liable no matter what the circumstances.
Comparative Negligence For Florida Dog Bites
Florida also follows comparative negligence laws when it comes to dog bites. Meaning the dog owner can dispute liability and claim the injury victim is partly liable for their injuries.
If the victim was negligent or is found to be partially responsible for the incident, they might not be able to recover full compensation. Rather, they would get a reduced compensation. Dog owners in Florida commonly use the comparative negligence defense.
What Legal Damages Can A Dog Bite Injury Victim Claim?
Getting bitten by a dog bite is a traumatic event. There may be costs like an ambulance, hospital expenses, surgeries, medications, therapy, and other medical bills after a dog bite. Injury victims can quickly become overwhelmed with the medical costs but should know they have a right to recover financial compensation.
If a dog bite injury victim ends up with a permanent disability or disfigurement, they can seek damages.
The effects of a dog bite are not just physical. They also leave victims with psychological trauma and/or scarring that can affect their self-esteem and self-image. With the help of a Florida dog bite attorney they can recover the financial damages they deserve for their pain and suffering.
Some damages a lawyer will help you recover include:
- Medical expenses (past and future)
- Missed work and lost income
- Reduced earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
Steps to Take After a Florida Dog Bite
Report the Incident to Law Enforcement and/or Animal Control
It is critical that you report the incident and get a report. Dog bites are always investigated, so make sure that you make the phone call. The investigation will help you with your civil claim.
Take as many photos as you can. Take pictures of your injuries and how they heal over time, the scene of the incident, the dog if it’s still there and the owner.
Try to Get Contact Information from the Dog’s Owner and Witnesses
If you can, get the contact information of the dog owner. Get the same information you would after a car accident: name, address, phone number, insurance details, and other relevant information. If there are any nearby witnesses try to get their contact information as well. They might be able to corroborate your story and give witness testimony later if needed.
Get Prompt Medical Care
Get medical attention as soon as possible. If your injuries are severe enough you might need to call an ambulance. You’ll want to have a medical assessment and diagnosis on record very soon after the attack. Do not wait for a few days to go and get medical treatment after a dog bite.
Dog bite wounds are prone to infection so they need to be treated right away.
Call an Experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney
Dog bite injury victims should not have to pay for the consequences of an attack. Your attorney will be able to advise you on the best course of action to get a favorable outcome.
Dog bite claims usually involve making a claim through the dog owner’s homeowners insurance. However, they often do everything they can to deny or undervalue dog bite claims. If you get bit by a dog whose owner does not have homeowners insurance, the process can be complicated.
For these reasons, it’s advisable to work with a knowledgeable attorney who can better your odds of getting a fair compensation.
Call us today for a free initial case review.