Florida has plenty of animals that can attack and hurt people. Alligators, sharks, and jellyfish are just a few of the options that come to mind. Exotic wild animals might not be the most dangerous creatures in Florida, though. That honor may well go to man’s best friend: the dog.
A recent study covering Florida found that dog attack insurance claims are much more likely to occur in Florida than in other states. This study showed that up to six out of every 100,000 Florida residents file dog attack claims every year.
That’s more than California or Texas.
These claims are also higher than the US mean. The average cost for these claims was about $44,000. That’s not pocket change. If you have been or are at risk of being attacked by a dog, you should understand how Florida handles dog bite liability to make sure your claim is airtight.
Florida Bite Laws
In Florida, the dog owner is usually the one liable for any damages caused by their dog. Negligence isn’t taken into account; this is called strict liability.
Here’s how strict liability works:
- Whether an attack occurs on public or private property, a dog is its owner’s property.
- It doesn’t matter whether the dog has ever bitten anyone before.
- Whether the owner knew about the bite or any previous aggressive tendencies? Also irrelevant.
What matters is that the dog caused harm, and in any of these cases, the owner is therefore legally responsible.
The amount for which the owner is liable is a combined total. This total includes medical expenses, lost productivity, and pain and suffering damages. Keeping track of both medical information and the resulting damage of a bite are key to a successful dog bite claim.
Two Exceptions to Strict Liability
There are two major exceptions to dog liability in Florida. If a dog owner has a sign that says “Bad Dog” or “Beware of Dog” clearly posted on the property, then they are not liable for any bites that occur on the dog owner’s premises. This is the case as long as the person bit is older than six years of age.
The second exception covers those trespassing. If someone is on another’s property unlawfully, then the owner is not responsible for damages caused by their dog. This is less easily proven than the “Bad Dog” exception, so many dog owners will post the sign just to be safe.
How Do Florida Dog Bite Liability Claims Work?
The primary method used to deflect liability is comparative negligence. Dog owners will often use comparative negligence to reduce the amount paid for liability damages.
A Victim May Be Deemed Negligent
If the victim is deemed negligent regarding dog safety, then the dog owner would not be responsible for all of the damages. The degree of negligence the victim displayed is converted into a percentage. This percentage dictates the amount of the damages for which the victim is responsible.
Children Under Six Are Incapable of Negligence
Any child under the age of six is considered to be incapable of being “negligent” because of their age. This means that dog owners are almost always liable for any damages their animals inflict on young children.
How to File a Dog Bite Claim in Florida
In order to file a dog bite claim, you need to keep track of your injuries. See a doctor as soon as possible after the bite, so you can receive any necessary medical treatment. This also starts a paper trail for your injury claim.
Because Florida uses strict liability for dog bite case standards, you don’t have to worry about proving the owner’s negligence.
Gather Your Evidence
Take pictures of your injuries, and record how they affect your life. If you have to take time off of work or if the injuries affect your quality of life, record that. A written and dated record will help track how your injury progresses, as well as what losses the injury has caused you.
Write a Demand Letter
Once you have the necessary records, your next step is to write a demand letter. This is the document that outlines your suffering, the compensation you demand, and the time limit the insurance company has in which to respond. Ideally, after a short period of debate, the insurance company will agree with your demands and give you a settlement.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations on Florida dog bite claims is four years. After that period, you are no longer legally allowed to file a claim for a dog bite incident. This gives you some leeway before filing, but not a lot.
It takes a lot of time to gather all the necessary materials to file a successful dog bite claim, so turning to an experienced Florida dog bite claims attorney to help you with your suite will make the process simpler.
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.