Dogs are supposed to be man’s best friend, but even best friends sometimes have disagreements that end in disaster. A 7-year-old Florida boy found this out in July of 2020 when he put himself between an attacking dog and his little sister.
The body survived but ended up with over 90 stitches to close his wounds. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare come to life.
Thankfully, the boy is recovering, but the scars from this dog attack are likely to follow him around, emotionally and physically, forever.
That’s why the state of Florida has liability and injury laws surrounding dog bites. Here’s what you need to know.
Dog Bites in Florida
In Florida, dog bite laws contain vital components that address the issues surrounding the liability of a dog owner to anyone that the dog bites or attacks as well as the compensation that victims can pursue.
In other states, the owner of a dog or other animal that bites or attacks another person may not be at fault for injuries sustained by the victim unless a dog has previously attacked or bitten someone else.
In Florida, however, dog bite laws are governed under something called strict liability. Strict liability allows the owner of a dog to be held liable for injuries their pet may cause to someone in a public space or when someone is lawfully on private property.
The liability exists no matter the dog’s previous history — or lack thereof. There are some exceptions, however, such as someone who is bitten because they were trespassing on private property or someone that provoked the dog into biting them.
A victim of a dog bite can also sue a dog owner for negligence related to the dog bite. However, they must be able to prove negligence in court.
That is done by establishing that the owner of the dog had a duty of care owed to the victim and the breach of that duty resulted in the injury.
Pursuing a lawsuit based on negligence may be a way for someone who was injured to seek relief if they don’t qualify under strict liability laws.
If you have questions about how your dog bite case should be pursued, then contact an attorney.
Reduced Liability in Dog Bite Cases
Dog attacks and dog bites often allow a victim to hold the owner of the dog liable for injuries sustained, but the dog bite law in Florida outlines situations where the liability of the owner may be reduced or even eliminated.
This involves attacks that were the result of:
- Unlawfully trespassing on private property
- Provoking the dog into the attack
- A dog that was protecting a person from harm in a situation where they perceived there to be a threat or threat of an attack
Of course, every case is unique, but if the victim is found in court to somehow have contributed to the cause of the attack or bite that resulted in their injuries, then it can reduce the liability of the dog owner.
In Florida, whatever amount of calculated fault or negligence of the victim will reduce the fault or negligence of the owner.
So, if the victim is found to be 30 percent at fault, then the dog owner would only be 70 percent at fault and any damages would be adjusted to reflect that.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and named one of America’s Top 100 High-Stakes Litigators. Mr. Winston is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2020 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite,” recognized by Expertise as one of the 20 Best Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys, named one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015-2017, and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida for 2015-2017 and 2019.