Florida law holds dog owners strictly liable for any injuries caused by their dogs. It does not matter if the bite or attack happened in a private or public space; they are still liable.
If you or a loved one was injured by a dog, you need an attorney with detailed knowledge of Florida dog bite laws. They can help you pursue a fair compensation amount for your injuries and suffering. Dog bite and attack victims should also know that they have a limited amount of time to file a claim so they shouldn’t wait too long to take action.
Read on to learn about your rights after getting bit by a dog in Florida.
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Dogs Can Attack Anyone
It seems like a nightmare but it can happen unexpectedly in the blink of an eye. And virtually anyone is vulnerable to be a victim of a dog bite. A seven-year-old girl was recently bit by a dog in Miami Gardens. The girl’s injuries were so severe she needed to get airlifted to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. The owner has since surrendered the dog to humane euthanasia and Animal Control Services has an ongoing dangerous dog investigation underway. The investigation could result in fines for the dog owner.
What Does Florida Law Say About Dog Bites?
By law, a Florida dog owner is liable for any and all injuries their dog causes. This holds true whether the attack happens on public or private property. If a victim is lawfully on the owner’s property when the attack happens, they are liable for the victim’s damages.
Therefore, after a dog bite in Florida, the owner is legally responsible for covering the victim’s medical costs and other damages from the attack. Florida law only covers dog bites, not other types of attacks. Additionally, if a dog bites another dog, the owner is also liable for the animal victim’s injuries.
Strict Liability Laws for Dog Bites in Florida
Florida holds dog owners strictly liable. So, even if the dog has no past history of attacks or has never shown signs of aggression before this one, the owner is still liable. Regardless of whether the owner knew or should have known about their dog’s propensity for violence, they are responsible for their dog’s actions.
Are There Any Exceptions to Florida’s Strict Liability Law for Dog Bites?
The exception to this rule is if an owner posted clear and visible signage warning of a dangerous dog. For example, if they had a “Beware of Dog ” sign on their fence warning potential visitors, they are not liable for the dog bite. The sign should have informed the visitor that there is an aggressive animal on site and to beware. If a person voluntarily and knowingly enters an area despite a warning sign and then gets bit by a dog, they won’t be able to file a dog bite claim to collect damages from the owner.
Furthermore, If the victim is under the age of six, the owner is liable no matter what, even if they posted a sign. Finally, this rule only applies if the dog bite occurred on the owner’s property where the sign was clearly and conspicuously posted.
Determining Liability in a Florida a Dog Bite Claim
The only two things you need to prove to establish liability in a Florida dog bite claim are that the liable party owns the dog and their dog bit you. Hence the term “strict liability” – there’s no burden of proof on the victim to show the dog owner was negligent or had any knowledge of the dog’s dangerous potential.
Under Florida law, it does not matter what type of breed the dog is or if it has ever attacked anyone in the past. The law does, however, differentiate a dog and recognize it as a “dangerous dog” if it previously bit, attacked, or injured someone or another animal. Chasing an unprovoked person in a public space can also warrant a dog to be considered a “dangerous dog”.
Dangerous dog owners are required to take extra steps to protect the safety and wellbeing of others. For example, they must post a “bad dog” or “dangerous dog” sign on their property, have a fence around their yard, and always keep the dog on a leash in public places. A dog owner who fails to take these steps can be found negligent and may face consequences in addition to financial retribution they owe to the injury victim.
Criminal Liability for Dog Bites in Florida
Florida dog owners can face criminal liability under specific circumstances. Let’s say a dog was previously deemed a dangerous dog and then bites and kills an innocent victim. In that case, the owner could potentially face criminal charges such as manslaughter and face penalties like jail time.
If a known dangerous dog bites someone and causes severe injuries, the owner could face aggravated assault charges, fines, and jail time. The repercussions for the owner will vary depending on the circumstances of the attack.
Even if a dog has no history of aggression and was never deemed a dangerous dog, the owner could still face criminal liability. However, their charges would be reduced and they might face consequences like fines and surrendering their dog.
Are There Exceptions to Florida’s Strict Liability Law for Dog Bites?
Under the following circumstances, dog bite owners may have a valid defense against a dog bite claim.
If the Dog Bite Victim Was Trespassing
If the injured victim was trespassing on the owner’s property when they got attacked, the victim might be found negligent for entering a prohibited area. By entering an area where they were not allowed or invited, they’ve released the owner of dog bite liability. A dog bite victim in Florida can only file a claim if they were legally on their property where they were attacked.
If the Dog Was Provoked
If the injury victim was found to have provoked the dog, the owner might be absolved of liability. For example, if the bite victim pulled the animal’s tail, that is considered provocation. This type of provocation is commonly seen with young children who don’t understand the dangerous consequences of tantalizing a dog. In such a case, the burden of proof lies with the owner – to prove the victim actually did something to provoke the dog and cause the attack.
The Dog Bit out of Defense
If the dog bit someone to defend their owner or another person, the owner could use that as a defense against liability.
How Soon After a Dog Bite Do I Need to File a Claim in Florida?
If you were bit by a dog in Florida, you have four years after the date of the attack to file a personal injury claim. While it seems like a long time, it can go by fast when you’re injured and trying to navigate the claims process. That’s why it’s best to take action as soon as possible.
Evidence also deteriorates quickly. If you wait too long to file a dog bite claim, you might have difficulty gathering evidence and proving fault. The sooner you contact a Florida dog bite lawyer, the better chance you will have at recovering compensation for your injury.
Signs That a Dog Is About to Attack You
Here are some signs to watch out for that can signal a dog might be ready to attack:
1. Snarling/ growling – dogs show their teeth to warn that they are not in a good mood and there’s a good chance they might bite you. While rare, sometimes showing teeth is due to a dog smiling, but in most cases it’s a warning.
2. The dog avoids eye contact – a dog who avoids eye contact means it’s anxious. Be sure to give it space and keep a safe distance in case it tries to bite you.
3. Clearly visible sclera – if you can see the white part, or sclera, of the dog’s eye, that means they are nervous and might attack you.
4. Raised hair on the dog’s back signals fear or excitement.
Even with these subtle warning signs, sometimes a dog bite is completely unprovoked and unpredictable. You do not have to suffer alone after unfairly getting attacked and injured by a dog.
Contact a Florida Dog Bite Attorney Today
If you or your loved one was bit by a dog in Florida, we want to help you get the compensation you deserve. Call us today for a free case review.