An attack by a dog can be an extremely traumatizing event. These incidents are often without warning and can be savage and sudden. Dog bites can result in lacerations, puncture wounds, and broken bones, as well as catastrophic injuries, including facial disfiguration, emotional trauma and even death.
If you have been the victim of a dog bite, it is important to know the proper steps to take to successfully file and win your claim. Florida is a “strict liability” state when it comes to dog bites, which means that the dog owner will be held liable if his or her dog bites another person, regardless of whether the dog owner had prior knowledge or warning that the dog could potentially bite. Unlike other types of personal injury cases, the injured person does not have to prove that the owner demonstrated a lack of reasonable care in preventing the bite that injured him or her.
All states have laws on the books that limit how long a person has to file a legal claim following an injury. Florida has a statute of limitations that governs how long a person has to file a lawsuit after being injured by a dog bite. Florida’s statute of limitations allows four years from the date of the dog bite to file a claim. If you miss this deadline, you will find yourself barred from proceeding with your claim.
Under FLSA 767.04, a dog owner is liable for injuries caused by his or her dog if:
- The dog bites another person; and
- The person is in a public place or is lawfully in a private place.
The first element requires evidence showing that the dog bit you. Eyewitness accounts of the event, as well as your own account of the attack can be helpful in proving this element. Similarly, medical records showing the extent of the damage and medical documentation on the causation of your injuries will prove this element.
The second element is to show that the person bit is in a public place or legally in a private place. This private place can include the home of the dog owner. If the individual who was injured was bitten because he or she was trespassing, a successful defense could potentially be raised. If the injured person was on the private property because he or she was performing any duty imposed by our state’s laws, such as a utility or postal worker, this element will also be proven.
If these two elements are successfully proven, the dog owner will likely be held liable for damages suffered by the individual the dog bit. Under Florida’s strict liability dog bite law, this liability is there even if the owner had no idea the dog would bite another person.
One defense many dog owners will raise is that they warned anyone coming onto their property that the dog could harm them. For example, if a sign saying “Beware of Dog” is posted clearly on the property, the owner is not liable for any injuries caused by the negligent act or omission by the owner if the person coming onto the property not lawfully by trespassing does not heed this warning, unless the injured person is under the age of six years old.
Florida law also operate under the doctrine of comparative negligence, which means the person’s injury award is reduced by the percentage of fault the injured party played in the attack. This comparative negligence extends to dog bite injuries. If you are successful in proving the two elements above, but the defense is successful in showing that your own negligent actions affected your injury, your damages awarded may be reduced by that amount.
Often the pet owner’s homeowners’ insurance policy will pay for medical bills and other damages. In some cases, we can also recover damages above and beyond the limits of the policy.
If you have sustained a dog bite injury, the first thing you should do- after getting the contact information of the owner- is to seek immediate medical attention. Since the owner of a dog that bites you can be held strictly liable for your injuries, you may not have to prove negligence. Contact an experienced Orlando dog bite injury attorney for a free case evaluation.
A civil trial attorney with the firm Wooten, Kimbrough, Damaso & Dennis, P.A., Mr. Damaso concentrates on cases involving personal injury and wrongful deaths and solely represents individual victims and consumers. He takes his clients' cases personally and is committed to their best possible outcome. His strong sense of community has led to his support of numerous charities in the Orlando area.