Dog bites are a major cause of nonfatal injuries in Florida. Though non-life-threatening, dog bite injuries are particularly distressing because more often than not, a child will be the victim of the mauling.
Sadly, even though the dog bite problem has been around for as long as humans have been living with dogs, there hasn’t been a lasting solution to protect our children and loved ones from dog attacks. Sure, the issue is often politicized, with community leaders calling for bans and stricter controls of so-called dangerous breeds. However, such laws are non-existent in most counties in Florida.
Moreover, banning certain dog breeds is a relatively weak strategy. Even in places like Miami-Dade County, where breed-specific legislation is in effect, dog-bites still occur. A more useful deterrent for dog bites is to hold dog owners responsible for their dog’s actions.
If a Dog Bites You in Florida, Who’s Responsible?
Pursuant to Florida’s Dog Bite Statute section 767.04, dog owners are strictly liable when their dogs bite people. This strict liability policy dictates that a Florida dog owner may be held accountable if a dog he or she owns bites someone, regardless of whether or not the dog owner had any prior warning or knowledge that his or her dog might bite.
Dogs can bite anyone, and the injured person doesn’t have to prove that the dog bite was caused by lack of reasonable care. The dog owner will additionally be liable even if the dog doesn’t have a history of biting people in past or a history of aggressiveness or vicious propensities, such as growling at passersby.
The strict liability rule of Florida’s dog bite law, however, doesn’t apply to all dog bite contexts. Florida’s strict liability, for instance, won’t be considered if:
- A dog attacks a trespasser
- A military or police dog attacks someone while performing its duties
- A vicious dog causes damage to property
If the bite victim is found to have been acting negligently, the dog owner’s liability might also be reduced based on the victim’s percentage of fault.
Florida Dog Owners’ Negligence
The dog owner may be found negligent if his or her actions violated any of the dog-related statues that are already laid down by Florida law. As such, the dog owner might be presumed to have been negligent if:
- They let their dog roam freely and unsupervised in the neighborhood
- They walk their dog without a leash.
Generally, the owner of the biting dog will be considered negligent if they act in a manner that’s contrary to what any reasonable dog owner would do.
Most times, a dog bites a person out of its own accord. However, there are instances when the dog owner intends for their dog to bite someone. This may happen when the dog owner incites, orders, provokes, or encourages their dog to bite.
Such situations constitute intentional torts, for which the victim may be entitled to compensation for any injury or damage they sustain from the incident.
Dog Bite Statute of Limitations
If you are bitten by a dog, and you wish to file a lawsuit in Florida’s court system, you have a four-year period window from the date of the bite to file your case. This is a hard-and-fast deadline, and if your case isn’t filed by then, you are forever barred from seeking any legal restitution.
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.