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Florida’s Dog Bite Laws: Liability and Compensation for Victims

Personal Injury

Dog bites can lead to serious injuries on the part of the victim. Such injuries can include scarring, nerve damage, the loss of limbs, and even wrongful death in some cases. Florida cases involving dog bites differ from other areas of personal injury law in regard to the determination of liability. It is important to understand how liability is determined in such matters and how damages are calculated.

Florida Law Regarding Dog Bite Liability

Florida Imposes Strict Liability On Dog Owners

Under Florida Statute 767.04, a dog owner is liable any time their pet bites a person in a public place or in a private place in which the victim has the right to be. Liability will be imposed regardless of whether the dog’s owner had reason to believe the animal was dangerous or whether there was a history of other bites. This is known as “strict liability,” which is applied when an act occurs regardless of whether or not a defendant was negligent. In other words, the owner of a dog will be liable for a bite even if they were taking reasonable precautions to keep the animal from harming others. This is different from other areas of personal injury law, where liability is only imposed on a defendant who acts in a negligent manner.

Florida’s Comparative Fault Laws Will Apply to a Dog Bite Case

Florida has adopted the concept of modified comparative fault and this doctrine applies to dog bite cases. Under this concept, a victim’s compensation will be reduced by their share of blame for an accident. So, for example, if the jury finds that a victim is forty percent to blame for the accident, then they will only receive sixty percent of their total damages. If the jury finds that a defendant is at least fifty-one percent to blame for an accident then they will be prohibited from recovering any compensation.

Consider the following example. An individual is walking his or her dog on the sidewalk. A twenty year old woman is approaching and states that she likes the dog. The owner warns the woman that the dog is not friendly and asks that she stay away. The woman ignores this warning and quickly approaches the dog to pet it. The dog bites the woman and she suffers serious scarring on her hand. Given that the woman was warned of the danger, and was explicitly asked to stay away and approached the dog anyway, there is a chance the jury would say that the woman is more than fifty percent responsible for the accident. If the jury reached such a finding then the woman would receive no compensation.

Now suppose, continuing with the example from above, that the jury found the victim to be forty percent responsible for the accident. Also, suppose the jury determined that the victim suffered $100,000 in damages. The victim would receive $60,000 under these findings ($100k – 40%). It must be remembered that this example is only for illustrative purposes and how the jury will rule in any given situation will always depend on the specifics of the case.

Dog Owners May Not Be Liable For a Bite

There are two situations in which a dog bite victim may not be able to recover damages. The first involves situations in which the person is not lawfully on the property upon which they were bitten. If, for example, a victim was walking across private property, in violation of a clearly displayed “no trespassing” sign, then the owner may not be liable for any bite that occurs. The second situation in which an owner would not be liable involves instances where a “Bad Dog” sign has been displayed on the property in a way that is clearly visible. It should be noted that the placement of such a sign will not necessarily shield the owner from liability if the victim is under six years old.

Calculating Damages After a Dog Bite

If you have been bitten by a dog then you may be entitled to compensation. There are multiple factors which are considered when calculating your damages. These factors include the following:

  • Past and future economic losses – This includes wages you have lost to date due to missed work as well as wages you can be expected to lose in the future. If the injury has created a situation in which you cannot be expected to return to your former profession, then you will be entitled to the difference between what you could have potentially earned and what you are now expected to earn.
  • Past and future medical expenses – You will be entitled to medical expenses incurred to date as well as the future costs of care, medication, additional surgeries, cosmetic surgery to repair disfigurement, etc. Medical costs can quickly become extreme in dog bite cases. This is due to the fact that such injuries may involve extreme scarring which requires cosmetic surgery. The injuries may also involve nerve damage, disfigurement, and other issues which have lasting repercussions. 
  • Pain and suffering – As in any other personal injury case, you will be entitled to pain and suffering. This includes pain you suffered at the time of the attack, pain incurred during treatment, and discomfort you feel at any other time as a result of the injuries. It also includes compensation for aggravation, distress, and inconvenience associated with the attack, your treatment, and the incident’s overall impact on your life.

The determination of damages is typically a hotly contested issue in dog bite cases as the insurance carriers will often make claims of comparative fault.

Contact A Florida Dog Bite Attorney

If you have been attacked by a dog then it is important that you seek immediate medical care. The next step in protecting your rights is to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Our firm strives to provide the highest level of representation and we understand that this is a serious time in your life. Contact us online or by telephone at 800-780-8607 to speak with a Florida dog bite attorney.

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