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I Was Just Attacked by a Dog, What Should I Do?
A dog attack is something 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 you need to know after a dog attack.
The 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.
You are entitled to compensation if you were injured by a dog in Florida. There’s plenty of nuances in Florida dog bite law. 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. When a dog attacks someone, the owner of the dog is liable. It does not matter if the dog attack occurs on public or private property. This liability covers the injuries incurred by the dog bite including pain and suffering.
Florida is a strict liability state. This means that the owner of the dog is strictly liable for an attack. The owner can be held liable for damages regardless whether a dog acted aggressively in the past. Additionally, the victim does not need to prove the dog owner’s negligence. Since an owner is strictly liable, the owner is accountable for the injuries.
Types of Claims
Claims that are often relevant to dog bite claims include the following:
Negligence: An owner must take precautions or use a level of care that could be reasonably expected from a reasonable person. This means if the dog consistently bites, the owner must take measures to prevent the dog from doing so.
Negligence per se: This is similar to strict liability. If the owner violated a law, the owner may be held accountable. For example, the owner of a dangerous dog who failed to post the relevant signage may be negligent per se.
Scienter: 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, this is an intentional tort. This could also be considered battery or assault.
What About the Dangerous Dog Statute?
Florida’s dog statutes can assign criminal liability to owners who fail to take adequate precautions to prevent their aggressive dogs from attacks. This statute is meant to protect the public from dogs with a history of attacks.
It is important to understand that criminal law is completely different than civil claim. Dunmire Law pursues civil claims against negligent dog owners.
When bringing a civil claim we can certainly point to criminal acts to prove negligence. But the purpose of a civil claim is to receive compensation for your injury. 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 Has 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. Dangerous dog owners should post signs with the words “Bad Dog” on their property. They should also 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.
Can I Sue The Owner Of The Dog That Bit Me?
The short answer – yes, you can. The longer answer is that dog bite claims are complex. To bring a dog bite claim, you much identify the owner of the dog and determine what home or property that person owns or rents. Then, you must figure out if there is any insurance available to cover the dog bite.
One of the issues with bringing a dog bite claim is identifying who owns the property and whether that person maintains homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance. This is why it is important to get an attorney involved in your claim immediately.
Further, some homeowner’s policies and some renter’s policy do not cover dog bites. Also, some homeowner’s policies do not cover certain types of dogs. This means that if you are bit by an excluded breed, there may be not realistic avenue of recovery. However, speaking with an Orlando, Florida dog bite attorney as soon after your bite will greatly help in bringing your claim.
What Type Of Injuries Can Occur From A Dog Bite?
Common dog bite injuries include:
- Severed Tendons
- Infections such as rabies and tetanus
- Loss of range of motion
- Nerve damage
- Broken Bone
- Fractures Bon
- Loss of a limb
Given the severity of the injuries that can occur after a dog attack, it is always in your best interest to consult with an experienced Orlando dog bite lawyer immediately after you experience a dog bite.
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 an Orlando, 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 the Orlando area, 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.
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