Dog attacks can literally come out of nowhere, and one Florida resident recently found out the hard way! A woman was walking her terrier when a dog in the neighborhood escaped its fenced yard and went after her smaller dog.
The woman sustained injuries to her hand while her pup was left with injuries to his neck. The apparent owner of the attack dog tried to rush in to help but was unable to control it.
It’s frightening for dog attacks and bites to happen for everyone involved, especially when unprovoked. This is exactly why Florida has robust laws when it comes to dog bites. Here’s what you need to know if you’re bitten by a dog.
Liability for a Florida Dog Owner
In Florida, the owner of a dog that attacks a person or even another pet can be held accountable both civilly and criminally.
That’s because Florida is a state that operates by strict liability, meaning that the owner is liable for a dog bite even if there were no indications previously that the animal could be aggressive.
The dog bite laws in Florida don’t require a victim to prove that their injuries were the result of the negligence of the owner.
In fact, Florida dog owners can be held liable for any injuries sustained as a result of their dog biting if it can be proven that the victim was bit by the dog in a public space (such as the street) or if the victim was lawfully on the dog owner’s property.
When a dog injures a victim in any way that hasn’t been discussed thus far, a personal injury claim may still be filed against the owner of the dog. However, the victim will still need to prove that the owner acted negligently or failed to use reasonable care.
Dog Bite Claims for Recovering Compensation
There are four basic claims that victims can file in order to recover due compensation for their injuries under the law. These include:
- Negligence: A dog owner can be found negligent if they failed to act or provide the level of care in the situation that any reasonable person would under similar circumstances.
- Negligence per se: Dog owners can also be held liable if state regulations or statutes that are meant to ensure the safety of the public have been violated.
- Scienter: This provision is known as the one-bite rule. Essentially, if an owner knows the dog has a history of attack, they can be held liable for any damage it causes.
- Intentional Tort: Some claims, such as a battery claim, can be pursued when the injured party believes the dog’s owner intended for the attack to occur.
Limitations of Responsibility
Under most circumstances in the state of Florida, dog bite laws allow owners to be held liable for injuries that may be caused by their dog. However, there are some circumstances in which the liability of the owner can be reduced or eliminated such as:
- If the victim was provoking the animal intentionally
- The victim of the dog bite wasn’t on the property lawfully
- The dog was in a position to defend its owner or someone else who was in the immediate vicinity of the perceived attack or threat
Also, if there were proper warning signs on the property and precautions have been put into place to protect others from the dog, then it becomes less likely that the owner will be held liable for damages.
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.