True to their friendly and hospitable nature, dogs are considered a man’s best friend. While most interactions with these furry creatures are fun-filled and snap-worthy, some turn tragic. Dog bites and attacks can lead to severe body injuries, emotional trauma, and even death. If you or your loved one is bitten or attacked by a dog, you can hold the dog’s owner responsible. At Prosper shaked Accident Injury Attorneys PA, our dog bite lawyers can help you pursue compensation and recover damages from the dog owner and any other responsible parties.
Are Dog Owners Liable When Their Dogs Bite?
In Florida, a dog owner may be criminally and civilly liable for any dog bite injuries that happen in public or private places. Since Florida is a strict liability state, dog owners can be held responsible for dog bite injuries even if they know their dog is dangerous.
A dog owner will be held liable for dog bite injuries if it is proven that their dog bites someone in a public place or lawfully on private premises. If you sustained a dog bite injury in different circumstances, you might still claim damages from the dog’s owner. In that case, you’d need to prove that you were injured because the dog owner failed to use reasonable care or acted negligently.
Strict Liability in Florida Dog Bite Cases
Under Florida Statutes § 767.04, dog owners can be held strictly liable for harm caused by their pets. They’re accountable for any injuries caused by their dogs if the dog bite victim was in a public place or lawfully in a private residence.
Under the strict liability provision, the dog victims don’t have to prove the dog owner was negligent in restraining, training, disciplining, or supervising the dog. There’s no requirement to prove that a dog that bit you had a history of viciousness or that the owner knew that their dog was dangerous
- Under Florida laws, you’re lawfully in a private property if you’re there on official duties or by invitation by the property owner. That means plumbers, cable tv installers, delivery men, mail carriers, etc., have a right to claim damage is bitten by a dog.
- An invitation to visit a property doesn’t need to be official or written – it can be expressed or implied. That means an invite to visit the property can be a simple, swing by anytime, or you’re always welcome.
To recover compensation following a dog bite incident in Florida, you only need to prove three things:
- You sustained a dog bite
- The defendant owned the dog that bit you
- You were in a public place or lawfully on private property at the time of the dog attack.
However, the dog bite laws in Florida also contain a special provision that makes it difficult to prove liability. A dog owner may not be held liable for dog bite injuries if they had a readable warning sign hanging on their property at the time of the incident.
With the help of a dog bite lawyer, you could hold a dog owner with a readable “Bad Dog” warning sign hanging on their property if they acted negligently. Or the dog bite victim is a minor under six years of age.
Limitations to a Successful Dog Bite Lawsuit
At times, your conduct during a dog bite incident may limit or hinder your ability to pursue damages after sustaining a dog bite in Miami.
Florida is a comparative fault state – that means you can be held accountable for your actions during an accident or dog bite incident. If your actions contributed to the dog bite incident, you may share part of the blame.
If your wrongful actions or negligence are a proximate cause of the dog bite incident, you’ll share fault in causing your injuries. If you share responsibility for the dog bite incident in Miami, your ability to recover damage will reduce.
Proximate cause means that your negligent actions set the stage for the dog bite to happen. Proximate causes may include throwing sticks or rocks at a dog in the park. Repeatedly provoking a dog while it’s eating or playing may constitute a proximate cause of a dog attack.
Your shared fault in a dog bite incident determines your ability to recover compensation. Suppose the jury rules that you share 50% of the blame in the dog injury incident, your ability to recover damages drops by half. If the jury finds that you instigated the dog bite incident and are fully responsible for it, you may not recover any compensation.
Young children, especially those below six years, are often exempt from shared responsibility. They may not be held fully responsible even when their actions fuel a dog attack. It’s argued that they’re too young to understand the full consequences of their actions.
You Were Unlawfully on Private Property
In Florida, a dog owner is only liable for injuries if their dog attacks you in public or if you’re lawfully on their private property. Dog bite victims are lawfully on private property if they were there:
- As invited guests
- Performing official duties imposed by postal regulations or state laws
You have no legal right to claim compensation for dog attack injuries if you were trespassing at the time of the accident. Trespassing means you had no legal right to be on private property, and therefore, your claim has no legal merit.
Bad Dog Warnings
Florida dog bite laws have a provision that allows dog owners to protect themselves from liability if they know that their dog is dangerous or likely to attack.
Under Florida law (Florida Statute 767.04), a dog owner may not be liable for your injuries if they had a prominent warning sign on their property at the time of the attack. The warning sign should be readable, displayed in a prominent place, and include the words “Bad Dog.”
However, the dog owner may only escape liability if the dog bite or attack wasn’t a direct result of their negligent actions or omission, such as failing to warn you about a vicious dog.
The exception is lifted if the dog attack victim is under six years old. You may recover damage regardless of the dog owner’s precautions if the dog bite victim in a young child.
Common Causes of Dog Bite Injuries in Miami
While dogs are usually playful and friendly, they’re likely to turn around and attack or bite you if you do something to provoke it. Some of the common actions that lead to dog bite injuries include:
- Force interactions such as trying to touch or move a dog against its will
- Interrupting a dog while it’s feeding, playing, or chewing
- Trying to break up a dog fight
- Trying to protect a loved one during a dog attack
- Mistreating or attempting to abuse a dog
- Leaving children alone with a dog
Florida Dog Bite Statistics
- Over 600 people sustain dog bite injuries yearly.
- About two people succumb to dog bite injuries each year.
- Boys in the 6 to 14 age group and children under six years are the most at risk from dog bites.
- More than 50% of dog bite incidents involving children under six years happened at home.
- 24% of the dog bite injuries occur on and off the dog owner’s property
- Over 50% of dog bites involving people over 15 years result from an attempt to break up a dog fight.
- In Florida, the average cost of a dog bite claim is $43,893
- Florida had the 2nd highest dog bite settlement claims in the country in 2018, amounting to $56 million.
Dog Bite Injuries
Dog have sharp teeth and powerful jaws and can inflict severe injuries in a single bite. Some of the common dog bite injuries in Florida include:
- Broken bones
- Soft tissue injury
- Head and neck injuries
- Maimed limbs
- Nerve damage
- Brain and spinal cord injuries
- Eye injury
While the initial injury may be severe, infection is the most significant risk following a dog bite incident. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that infection sets in one in five dog bites.
Dog bites carry the risk of deadly infections such as rabies and capnocytophaga, both of which can prove fatal if left untreated. You must seek medical attention immediately following a dog bite incident. Prompt medical attention helps to detect the early onset of an infection. Doctors can monitor your condition and provide the necessary medical treatment.
Steps to take Following a Dog Bite
Dog bite injuries have severe medical, financial, and legal ramifications. Hence, you should know what to do following a dog attack. Your actions after a dog bite affect your health and influence your ability to pursue compensation later.
- Remain calm: Don’t make any attempt to catch or restrain the animal, especially if a strange dog bites you.
- Apply first aid: Clean any superficial wounds with mild soap and warm water. If you sustained a puncture, apply direct pressure on the wound to stem the blood flow, and cover it with a clean cloth or sterile bandage. You can use an antibiotic cream on the wound.
- Document your injuries: Ideally, you should document your injuries before they’re treated. Take a video or picture the dog bite injuries as you await treatment.
- Medical care: Seek medical attention immediately if you sustain puncture wounds or severe injuries from a dog bite. Puncture wounds are susceptible to infections, especially if the dog isn’t vaccinated against rabies. A doctor will prescribe antibiotics and suture your wounds if they need stitches.
- Exchange contact information: If the owner is present during the dog attack, be sure to get their contact information. Get their name, address, phone number, and email so you can contact them to verify the animal’s vaccination history. Ask for proof of rabies vaccination and follow up with the vet to ensure the vaccinations are current.
- Call animal control: Call animal control if you’re bitten by a strange dog and the owner isn’t around. They can catch the animal to determine its rabies status and prevent further dog bite incidents. If you can’t ascertain the dog’s rabies status, you may need to start painful rabies vaccinations.
- Get eyewitnesses: Collect the contact information of anyone who witnessed the incident. Eye witness accounts are critical when seeking compensation following a dog attack incident.
- Make detailed documentation: Documentation is essential when recovering from a dog bite incident. Record all the dog bite injuries and their effects, including pain, mobility limitations, and inability to perform specific tasks: photos, medical records, journal entries, and a great way to document such an incident.
Following these steps will help you recover quickly from your dog bite accident. It also bolsters your dog bite lawyer’s ability to claim fair compensation for your pain and suffering.
Contact a Miami Dog Bite Attorney to Schedule a Free Consultation
It is crucial to fight for the compensation you deserve to get back on your feet again after suffering from dog bite. Medical bills lost wages, and pain and suffering are just a few of the damages that victims of dog bites may seek just compensation. If you suffered dog bite injuries, call Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys PA to speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer.