Florida Personal Injury Law: When You or Your Child has been bitten by a Dog
Injuries from dog bites can be extremely serious, and cost the victim large sums of money due to medical bills. In addition, dog bites may cause strong emotional trauma to young children and adults. Children and adults who have been bitten by a dog may experience loss of sleep, fear of dogs, and general trepidation. It is important for anyone who has suffered from a serious dog bite injury to seek an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney is invaluable in sorting through state laws regarding dogs, gathering and evaluating medical information, and negotiating with dog owners or insurance companies. In addition, an experienced trial lawyer may be able to obtain a higher money judgment at trial by bringing attention to such issues as emotional distress, scaring, disfigurement, loss of income, and overall economic damages.
Holding Careless Dog Owners Responsible
In earlier times, the legal rule applying to dog bites was simply this: If a dog bit someone once, the owner was on notice that the dog was vicious, and the owner was then responsible for paying for any damage caused by later attacks by the dog. This “one-bite” rule has since been abolished for the most part by courts and by legislation because of society’s belief that one bite is too many.
Pursuant to Florida Statutes §767.04 the owner of any dog that bites any person is liable for damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. An owner may avoid liability in Florida by displaying in a prominent place on his premises a sign easily readable, including the words “Bad Dog.”
Most dogs are presumed to be harmless unless they show a dangerous propensity. However, dog owners are expected to have knowledge of dangerous or vicious dispositions in their dogs. Dog owners are given the freedom to possess even dangerous dogs, but precautions must be taken. If a dog is vicious by nature, and a dog owner allows others to come near it without warning of the dog’s temperament, the owner will be held liable. An owner of a dangerous dog is also liable if he lets the dog loose in public, in the State of Florida.
Prior bites or attempted bites, even in play, are evidence that the dog is dangerous by nature. Some state laws impose liability on a dog owner even if he had no knowledge of the animal’s dangerous disposition.
If the owner of the dog is not present during an attack, but the dog is being kept by a third person, such as a veterinarian or at a dog kennel, the person watching the dog at the time may be held liable instead.
For example, if the dog was provoked by kicking or striking, teasing or tormenting, or attacking the owner in the dog’s presence, the dog owner may not be held responsible. Petting or playing with a dog is not usually considered provocation, unless the victim was warned not to do so. However, a child may not be expected to know not to provoke a dog, depending on his or her age.
If a dog owner is held responsible for an injury from a dog bite, the owner will be required to pay for treatment of all of the injuries caused by the animal, plus compensatory damages for pain and suffering, scaring and disfigurement and loss of income. In addition, the owner may have to pay punitive damages, which is money required to punish the owner, if he knew about the vicious nature of the dog. If a dog is found to be extremely vicious, a court may require that the dog be put to death.
Dog attacks can be extremely stressful for both children and adults. It is important to have a skilled attorney to insure that your family is fully compensated for all consequences of the attack. It is also important to keep good medical records, take pictures immediately of the injury and if you can obtain them of the dog and the area where the attack took place. Your should also immediately contact the health department and animal control and advise them of the incident so the dog is quarantined and checked for rabies.
Our Law Firm’s Experience with Dog Bites
My firm has significant experience in handling dog bite cases, and has obtained some of the largest recoveries in the State of Florida.
Should you have any questions, please contact us at (305) 373-7789 or e-mail your questions to us.