Our firm handles cases involving dog bites to adults or children. Florida is a strict liability state for persons bitten by a dog. In basic terms, that means that an owner of a dog is strictly liable for all injuries and damages done by their dog.
Once upon a time, the legal rule applying to dog bites was simply this: If a dog bit someone once, the owner was on notice that the dog was vicious, and the owner was then responsible for paying for any damage caused by later attacks by the dog. This has since been changed for the most part by courts and by legislation because of society’s belief that one bite is too many.
The Florida legislature has abolished this “one-bite” rule and created the strict liability rule. There are a few exceptions to this rule where the dog is provoked or the owner has “Bad Dog” signs prominently displayed on their property. If the dog was provoked by kicking or striking, teasing or tormenting, or attacking the owner in the dog’s presence, the dog owner may not be held responsible.
Petting or playing with a dog is not usually considered provocation, unless the victim was warned not to do so. However, a child may not be expected to know not to provoke a dog, depending on his or her age. The “Bad Dog Sign” defense requires the sign to be easily readable and it must be prominently displayed on the property. There are a number of court decision interpreting this requirement and thus the counsel of an experienced lawyer is critical.
If the owner of the dog is not present during an attack, but the dog is being kept by a third person, such as a veterinarian or at a dog kennel, the person watching the dog at the time may also be held liable.
In some cases, if the owner of the dog has no insurance but leases a home or apartment from someone who does have insurance or is subject to the rules of a homeowners association, we may be able to pursue a claim against a landlord or homeowners association, if the landlord or homeowners association was aware of the dangerous nature of the animal.
If you, or someone you know, is bitten or attacked by a dog, you should obtain immediate medical care to rule out the risk of rabies, infection or other complications. After seeking medical care, you should then notify the police department and/or your local Animal Care and Control agency about the incident so that a record is created and the dog can be quarantined by the proper authorities.
Injuries from dog bites can be extremely serious, and cost the victim large sums of money due to medical bills. In addition, dog bites may cause strong emotional trauma to young children and adults. Children and adults who have been bitten by a dog may experience loss of sleep, fear of dogs, and general anxiety. It is important for anyone who has suffered from a serious dog bite injury to seek a personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney is invaluable in sorting through statutes and ordinances regarding dogs, gathering and evaluating medical information, and negotiating with dog owners and/or their insurance companies.
Our firm has significant experience in handling dog bite cases and has been successful in obtaining settlements for both children and adults.
Should you have any questions, please contact Smith & Vanture, LLP at (800) 443-4529 or (561) 684-6330 or contact a Florida dog bite attorney via e-mail.