Dogs bite millions of people every year in the United States, and dog bites account for about 800,000 require emergency room visits every year. If you believe that you have a valid dog bite claim and the attack occurred in Florida, you need to be aware that Florida law offers a way of compensating you for your injuries. In many cases, you will be are entitled to more than simple reimbursement for your medical expenses – in fact, the average insurance claim for a Florida dog bite claim approaches $40,000. Read more about Florida dog bite law below or contact a Florida attorney.
The Florida Dog Bite Statute
Florida’s dog bite statute is based on strict liability — as long as no defense is available (such as trespassing), the dog’s owner is considered financially responsible for your injury, even if he was careful to prevent the dog from biting anyone and even if the dog had shown no aggressive tendencies before. The Florida dog bite statute applies only to dog owners, however – if you need to sue a third party such as a dog handler, you will need to rely on another legal theory to win your case.
You might sue a third party for a dog bite injury if, for example, a dog handler or dog trainer had custody of the dog at the time of the injury. In a third-party case, you might want to try one of the following legal theories:
- Negligence: The defendant breached a duty of care he owed to you with respect to the dog, and this breach caused the attack to occur (in other words, the defendant carelessly caused your injury).
- Negligence per se: The defendant broke the law with respect to the dog (a landlord allowed your neighbor to keep a vicious dog even though the property was not zoned for dogs, for example).
- Scienter: The dog previously acted in a way that would alert a reasonable person that the dog was dangerous, and the defendant had custody of the dog and knew of the dog’s previous behavior.
If You Were Partially at Fault
The general principle under Florida negligence law is that a plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced by the victim’s exact percent of fault – even if you were 25 percent at fault by provoking the dog, for example, you can still recover 75 percent of your damages.
If you are suing the dog owner under Florida’s strict liability dog bite statute, however, it’s all or nothing – it is harder for you to be denied a recovery due to contributory fault, but if your percent of fault is high enough, your recovery will be zero. That is why if you were partially to blame for the attack, under certain circumstances it might make sense to sue an owner under a negligence theory of liability instead of under the Florida dog bite statute.
If an owner or a third party deliberately incites a dog to attack you in the State of Florida, you can sue under an intentional tort theory. In some cases, a court might even award you punitive damages in addition to the usual compensatory damages. A criminal prosecution might also be initiated by the local prosecutor.