Dog bites can cause very serious injuries, which is why the dog bite laws in Florida tend to be focused on the victim.
Still, dog bite damages aren’t as cut and dry as many people think and there are several reasons that damages awarded due to a dog bite claim can be reduced.
Here’s what you need to know.
Dog Owner Liability Under Florida Law
In Florida, the owner of a dog who bites another person can be held responsible both civilly and criminally. That’s because this state is considered a “strict liability” state, where an owner may be held accountable even if unaware that the animal could be aggressive.
The dog bite laws in Florida don’t expect the sufferer to demonstrate that the owner was negligent and that contributed to the dog bite. The owner of the dog can be held responsible if the victim can prove that they were bitten by the dog and that it was in a public area or the dog was on private property.
If, however, the circumstances surrounding the dog bite weren’t in the scope of those listed above, the victim must prove that the owner was negligent or neglected to use reasonable care, leading to the injury in order to pursue a personal injury claim.
There are four common dog bite claims that provide victims the ability to receive compensation for the injuries sustained.
A dog owner can be found to be negligent in cases where they did not act the same as a reasonable person under similar circumstances. This is referred to as a level of care.
Negligence Per Se
If the dog owner violated regulations or statutes required to ensure public safety, then they can be held legally responsible.
This is often referred to as the “one bite rule” under Florida law. When a dog has a history of attack or previous attempts to bite, its owner may be found responsible for injuries or losses.
In those cases where it is proven a dog owner meant for the animal to bite or attack the victim, battery charges may follow.
The Dangerous Dog Statute
Within Florida’s dog bite law exists what’s known as the dangerous dog statute. Its purpose is to safeguard the public from unsafe dogs.
In some of the most serious cases, aggressive dogs are declared dangerous under the law. If that occurs, then the owner is obligated to follow stringent rules and take precautions with the animal or be held criminally accountable if the dog cause injuries.
Dangerous dogs are defined under the law as:
- Dogs that have aggressively bitten, caused serious injury to or attacked a person
- Dogs that have killed or seriously injured another animal on more than one occasion
- A dog that has aggressively approached or chased a person in an instance unprovoked
Dangerous dogs must be registered with local authorities and must also be kept in a secure place on the owner’s property that is clearly marked with warning signs. Dangerous dogs taken off the premises must be restrained with a muzzle as well as a harness or leash.
Limitations on Dog Bite Claim Damages
Dog bite laws in Florida permit an owner to be held accountable for damages caused by their animal, but there are some specific instances that can eliminate or reduce the owner’s liability. They are:
- If the victim of the attack was provoking the dog
- If the target was on the dog owner’s property unlawfully
- The dog was protecting its owner from an apparent attack or threat
These, along with other circumstances where the victim may have some responsibility in the attack, can reduce the measurement of fault assigned to the victim and reduce damages right along with it.
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, 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 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.