Central Florida Dog Bite
I Was Just Attacked by a Dog, What Should I Do?
Being attacked by a dog is one of those things that you would never expect to happen to you or a loved one. The truth is that if it does happen, the results can be devastating. As much as we love our dogs, they are animals and can be triggered. I continually see some breeds come across my desk more than others (such as pit bulls).
This section of my website discusses everything that you need to know if you were involved in a dog attack and were injured..
The Boring Legal Side of Dog Bites in Florida
Dog bites can cause painful and dangerous injuries including permanent scarring. Even though we love our dogs, they are very capable of injuring us when their instincts kick in.
Florida allows for compensation if you were injured by a dog bite. There’s plenty of nuances in Florida dog bite law, but understanding the basics of when you can file a personal injury claim can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Chapter 767 of Florida Statutes outlines a dog owners’ liability for dog bites. The owner is liable for damages caused by a dog bite if the victim is bitten on public property or while the victim is lawfully on private property. This liability covers the injuries incurred by the dog bite including pain and suffering.
Because Florida is a strict liability state, the owner can be held liable for damages regardless of the dog’s lack of previous aggressive behavior or the owner’s ignorance of the dog’s previous aggression. Additionally, the victim does not need to prove the dog owner’s negligence for the owner to be held accountable for damages.
The common-law claims that are often relevant to dog bite claims include the following:
If the owner did not take the precautions or use the level of care that could be reasonably expected from a reasonable person in a similar situation, the dog’s owner may be found negligent.
- Negligence per se
If the owner violated state statutes that resulted in the dog bite injury, the owner may be held accountable. For instance, the owner of a dog found legally dangerous who failed to post the relevant signage may be negligent per se.
If a dog has a history of attacking or biting people, and the owner knows of this past misbehavior, the owner may be responsible for damages the dog causes later in life. This is often called the “one bite rule.”
- Intentional torts
If the owner meant for the dog to bite the victim, the victim can pursue intentional tort claims, including battery and assault.
What About the Dangerous Dog Statute?
Florida’s dangerous dog statutes can assign criminal liability to owners who fail to take adequate precautions to prevent their aggressive dogs from inflicting further harm on others. This statute is meant to protect the public from dogs with a history of attacks.
Although this is something to know and consider, it is important to understand that criminal law is completely different than bringing a civil claim. When bringing a civil claim we can certainly point to criminal acts, however, we will have a different burden of proof and have different things that we need to prove than a criminal case. A civil case is focused on the injuries that you sustained and compensating you for those injuries, not having the at-fault party charged with a crime.
Going back to the dangerous dog statute, dogs are legally considered dangerous if they:
- Previously attacked, bit, or otherwise injured a person
- Attempted to injure a person
- Seriously injured or killed another animal more than once
- Chased or displayed unprovoked, aggressive behavior toward a person
If Someone does have a Dangerous Dog, are they Required to Put up a Sign?
Owners of dogs with histories of aggressive behavior must take additional precautions to protect the public from a potential dog attack. Dangerous dog owners should post signs with the words “Bad Dog” on their property and properly restrain the dogs to protect people invited onto the property.
If the dog bite occurred on the dog owner’s property that was adequately equipped with warning signs, it may be more difficult for an injured party to go after the owner for a dog bit, even if the victim was lawfully on the owner’s property. In this case, the victim would need to prove owner negligence, or that the owner didn’t use reasonable care, to be entitled to compensation.
Negligence may include the owner using a faulty fence or leash to restrain the dog.
If the right signage were posted, but the victim was under the age of six, the owner can still be held liable for damages caused by a dog bite.
When is a Dog Owner not Liable for a Dog Bite?
Even though the law in Florida is very strict regarding dog attacks, there are certain scenarios where a dog owner is not held responsible for a dog bite injury. The dog’s owner may not be accountable for your dog bite injury if:
- You were trespassing on the dog owner’s property
- You provoked the dog
- The owner had posted the appropriate signage and taken other precautions for their dangerous dog
You would be considered lawfully on the dog owners’ property if you were on private property to perform a duty required by state or federal laws or if you were invited expressly or implicitly onto private property by the property owner.
Who Is Going to Pay for My Injuries After I was Attacked by a Dog?
This is always one of the most common questions I get after somebody retains me. Dog bites are extremely complex because we have to identify whether there is a renter's policy or a homeowner's insurance policy that may provide coverage for the attack.
What this means is that it is imperative that you retain an attorney as soon as possible after you are attacked by a dog so that we can work it to identify any and all insurance policies that are available to pay for your injuries. There may be several different types of insurance coverages that can pay for your injuries including liability coverages and medical payments coverage.
One of the common issues that we run into in dog bite cases is there is no insurance coverage. This can be due to the fact that the property is being leased and there is no renter's insurance, or the specific type of dog that attacked you is specifically excluded by the policy language of the homeowner's insurance policy. This is nothing for you to concern yourself with right now, I am simply just informing you that these are the things that we immediately look into when we are retained for a dog bite case.
The good news is that if you have health insurance that may help to pay for some of the medical bills incurred after a dog bite. This would be regardless of whether there is a homeowner's insurance or renter’s insurance that is available.
What if I Provoked the Dog to Bite Me?
Sometimes people may be partially at fault for the dog attack. Even if you were partially at fault for your dog bite injuries, you may still be eligible for some compensation, although the amount of would be reduced by the percent of the incident you are found to be responsible for. This is called comparative negligence and it is something that we see in “premises liability cases.” Essentially the dog owner will argue that you were partially responsible for the dog attacking you.
How Long Do I have to File a Dog Bite Claim in Florida?
Generally speaking, you must file a personal injury claim within four years of the date of the dog bite. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to contact a Central Florida Personal Injury Lawyer as soon as possible after a dog bite case.
To avoid running into problems with the statute of limitations, it’s important that you seek medical attention directly after your injury and then contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Make sure to save all records of your medical treatments that you obtained before retaining your attorney, and also take plenty of photos of your injuries. If you can, safely take photos of the location of the attack. These photos can become very helpful in bringing a claim. Finally, DO NOT PROVIDE A RECORDED STATEMENT BEFORE YOU HAVE SPOKEN TO YOUR ATTORNEY.
Dunmire Law, Fighting for YOU
If you’ve suffered a dog bite injury, it’s important that you seek professional legal advice to assess your case and decide on the next steps. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you maximize the compensation you deserve by helping you avoid the common pitfalls people encounter on personal injury cases.
Brian Dunmire fights for your rights as an injured victim with compassion and a technical understanding of the complexities of dog bite claims. If you’ve sustained a dog bite injury in Orlando, Winter Park or any other Central Florida location, contact Brian today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Call or text (407) 920-3293 for the professional advice you need to get your case started right.