A dog bite attack is a frightening experience; instances of animal aggression can often seem to appear out of nowhere. As a result, you'll likely be unprepared for the medical and financial consequences, should a dog bite injury happen to you. Nonetheless, about 4.7 million dog bites occur in the United States each year. About 800,000 of those bites result in the need for medical care.
If a dog bit you or someone you love, our experienced Tampa dog bite lawyers can speak to you about whether you're eligible to receive compensation for your injuries through a personal injury claim.
An Experienced Dog Bite Lawyer Can Help
As with any injury, dog bite claims often become complicated. When you consult our Tampa dog bite attorneys, you learn about your legal rights and how best to protect them. Attorneys review the evidence and determine who is responsible for their client's dog bite injuries.
At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we have the practice and experience to deal with liability insurance carriers and attempt to resolve claims through negotiation or mediation. If an insurance company negotiates but won't budge on the damages or liability issues, our attorneys can advise you about filing a lawsuit. When you consult our Tampa dog bite lawyers, your initial meeting is free. Ultimately, the decision to file a claim or file a lawsuit is up to you. However, we will ensure that you are empowered to make that decision and provide the guidance you need to do so.
- An Experienced Dog Bite Lawyer Can Help
- Why Do Dogs Bite?
- Who Is a Dog Most Likely to Bite?
- Dog Bites Can Cause Serious Injury
- Schedule A Free Consultation
- Florida Dog Bite Law
- Pursuing Compensation for Dog Bite Injury Claims
- Filing a Dog Bite Lawsuit
- Damages Available in a Dog Bite Injury Case
- Tampa Dog Bite FAQ
- Call Our Tampa Dog Bite Attorneys Today
Why Do Dogs Bite?
As the AVMA Dog Bite Prevention Page explains, dogs bite for many reasons. A dog attack is usually due to an instinctive reaction to something or someone, including:
- A situation makes them feel stressed.
- They feel scared.
- They're defending their territory.
- They feel threatened or excited.
- They are trying to protect their puppies, food, toys, or other objects.
- They sometimes bite while playing roughly with humans.
Dog attacks also occur when owners fail to keep their dogs fenced-in, on a leash, or otherwise under control. The Florida Department of Health lists “inappropriate behavior management” as the cause of 26 percent of dog bites in the state. This often involves interacting with a dog while they're eating, playing, or touching a dog against their will.
Sometimes pet owners encourage human behaviors that intimidate dogs and motivate them to attack. They may even invite young children to touch or play with a dog, even when the dog doesn't want them to.
While dog attacks may happen for many reasons, they usually involve one common element — owner negligence. Dog owners frequently fail to properly train, supervise, exercise, socialize, or restrain their animals. As such, they are liable for the consequences.
Who Is a Dog Most Likely to Bite?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children are more likely to be bitten by a dog than adults, and the bites are often more severe. Among adults, men are more likely to be bitten by a dog than women are, and those who have dogs in the household are more likely to suffer a dog bite than those who do not. More than half of dog bites occur within the home of a person that the dog is familiar with. People who own several dogs are five times more likely to be bitten than those who don't own any dogs.
Dog Bites Can Cause Serious Injury
More than 80 percent of dog bites don't require medical attention. However, those who do can suffer serious injuries, including:
- Severe lacerations and deep puncture wounds
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Broken bones or exposure of bones and muscle
- Loss of eyesight and facial trauma
Additionally, the mouths of dogs contain many bacteria. Up to 18 percent of dog bites become infected due to these bacteria. Dog bites can transmit many illnesses, including:
- Rabies. Although rare in the United States, rabies is still a risk, and a consideration after a dog bite has occurred. Be sure to speak to a healthcare provider if you've been bitten by a dog that has not been vaccinated against rabies or whose vaccination record is unclear.
- Capnocytophaga bacteria. This type of bacteria is present in dogs, cats, and humans. Though it generally doesn't make people sick, those with weakened immune systems are at greater risk from this bacteria as their bodies are unable to fight off infection.
- Pasteurella. Over half of all infected dog bite wounds contain this bacteria, which causes redness and pain at the infection site, and may also result in swollen glands, swelling of the joints, and difficulty moving.
- MRSA. This is a type of antibiotic-resistant staph infection that—while generally not impacting the dog's health—may cause skin, lung, and urinary tract infections in humans.
- Tetanus. This is a toxin that can cause rigid paralysis in people and is of particular concern for those with deep puncture wounds.
When a dog bites, it's an attack on the victim, often in response to a perceived danger. A dog Children and adults with immune system issues are particularly vulnerable to these medical conditions. Dog bites also leave some victims with disfiguring scars. An American Society of Plastic Surgeons report documented 26,906 reconstructive plastic surgeries due to dog bite injuries.
Should you or someone you love be faced with any of the above complications after an animal attack, it's critical that you speak with a Florida dog bite lawyer to learn about your options for recovery.
Florida Dog Bite Law
Florida law includes strict liability when it comes to dog bites; if your dog bites someone who is in a public place or lawfully in a private place—including your home—you can be held liable for the resultant injuries, regardless of whether you knew the dog was potentially vicious or not.
The only time this rule doesn't apply is if your dog bit someone over the age of 6 while enclosed in an area with a sign prominently displaying the words “bad dog” or “beware of dog.” Dogs who have caused a serious injury to a human may be classified by state law as dangerous dogs.
During a dangerous dog investigation, the animal may be confiscated and quarantined until it is determined to either be safe to be released back to the owner or destroyed. The dog owner will pay the expense of boarding the animal during this investigation. Dogs who are deemed dangerous but released to the owner must be registered with local authorities. Proof of rabies vaccination will be kept on file.
The dog must also be contained in an enclosed area that is not accessible to others, and a warning sign must be displayed in a prominent area of the enclosure. If the dog is let out of the enclosure, it must be muzzled, leashed, and under the control of a competent person. The dog must also have permanent identification, such as a tattoo or electronic implantation, to ensure that it is easily identified if there should be problems with it in the future.
If the animal is sold to someone else or given away, local law enforcement must have the name, address, and contact information of the new owner. An animal control officer in the jurisdiction where the dog has moved must be notified of its status as a dangerous dog.
Pursuing Compensation for Dog Bite Injury Claims
If a Florida dog bites you or a family member, you should first contact a dog bite attorney, who can help you ask the owner to turn in a liability claim to their insurance company. They might not turn in a claim unless you insist. Many homeowners purchase package policies that include liability coverage.
The insurance company should investigate to determine the facts of the case. They will ask for your version, talk to witnesses, discuss the incident with their insured, and decide whether to pay or deny your claim. The dog owner's insurer may provide a process for you to recover money for your medical bills and any lost wages. Your attorney can help you negotiate a settlement for pain and suffering, scarring, and other costs.
Unfortunately, it's not always easy for a dog bite victim to recover the compensation they're due. Due to increasing dog bite claim costs, homeowner's insurance companies often refuse to cover homes for families that have pet dogs. Some policies exclude liability coverage for specific dog breeds. Others allow their insureds to purchase dog liability coverage endorsements or separate dog liability policies.
Filing a Dog Bite Lawsuit
Thankfully, the experienced dog bite attorneys at Dolman Law Group are knowledgeable about how Florida law and the limits of your or the dog owner's insurance coverage may affect your claim.
Regardless of the responsible dog owner's insurance coverage, you still have a right to recover damages for your injuries. If you can't accomplish this through informal means, you have the right to file a lawsuit. Our skilled personal injury attorneys can help you accomplish this by:
- Collecting and presenting evidence that proves the other person is legally responsible for your injuries
- Filing a lawsuit and seeking a judgment in court
- Collecting your judgment from the responsible party
Damages Available in a Dog Bite Injury Case
Injuries in a dog bite case can range from relatively mild to those that require extensive medical treatment and reconstructive surgery. Regardless of the extent of your physical injuries, your losses will be calculated to include both economic and non-economic damages, which may include:
- Medical bills, treatment, and other expenses
- Lost wages or lost income
- Loss of earning capacity
- Emotional trauma
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent disability
- Wrongful death
Your experienced lawyer will work to obtain maximum compensation for these losses and more. We understand the catastrophic consequences that animal attacks can have on victims, and aim to ensure that you can focus fully on your physical recovery while we work to make your financial recovery a success.
Tampa Dog Bite FAQ
Even if you consider yourself a dog lover, you realize that a beloved family pet can cause serious harm. Despite an owner's declaration that their dog would never cause an injury, that's rarely true. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) acknowledges this as they describe American dogs: “Nearly 77 million nice dogs… but any dog can bite.”
A dog's teeth are sharp enough to tear through human flesh, but only 1 in 5 bites cause serious injuries. When a dog enters full-on attack mode, they often cause serious and sometimes fatal injuries. It doesn't matter who owns them or if they've never bitten someone before, dogs pose a constant danger. That's why we've created a Tampa Dog Bite FAQ. We believe that it's important for you to know the facts.
How frequently do dog bites occur?
The Florida Health Department documents statewide dog bite cases on its Dog Bite Prevention page. The AVMA tracks the numbers across the country. You'll find these and other statistics on their websites:
- Dog bite incidents in Florida fatally injure two people each year.
- Each year, an average of 600 Florida dog bite victims are hospitalized.
- When an unrestrained dog attacked, 89 percent of the victims did not know the dog.
- In the U.S., dogs bite 4.5 million people each year.
- In just one year, insurers paid $797 million in liability claims for dog attacks.
Is an owner legally responsible for their dog's actions?
Florida Statutes, Title XLV, Torts §767 “Damage by Dogs” explains a dog owner's liability for their dog's actions. An owner is legally responsible when the attack occurs in any public place or when the victim is lawfully on the owner's property. A person is deemed lawfully on the premises while they are performing duties imposed by state or local laws or United States postal regulations. A person is also a lawful visitor if they are on a property by the owner's expressed or implied invitation. An owner is responsible for damages “regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness.” But certain circumstances reduce or diminish the owner's liability when a bite occurs on their property, including:
- The injured person's negligence is the proximate cause of the attack.
- The owner displays a bad dog sign. This doesn't apply if the victim is under age 6 or the owner is liable due to a negligent act or omission.
- When the bitten person contributes to the incident, a settlement or jury award reduces damages by the injured person's percentage of negligence.
The statute's “Damage by Dogs” definitions, §767.11, further define and broaden the meaning of “Owner.” When used in the statute, it refers to: “a person, firm, corporation, or organization possessing, harboring, keeping, or having control or custody of an animal or, if the animal is owned by a person under the age of 18, that person's parent or guardian.”
Who is the most vulnerable to Tampa dog bite attacks and serious injuries?
Children are the most vulnerable dog victims. A child's height and size give dogs easy access to their face, neck, and other critical body parts. Larger dogs outweigh infants and young children. When a dog sees a child as a threat, it can easily attack and subdue them. When attacked, children sustain far more serious injuries. A simple bite easily slashes a child's more delicate skin, muscle, and bone. The Florida Health Department provides these facts about children and dog bites:
- Children ages one to nine are most at risk for dog bites.
- Boys are at higher risk than girls.
- 86 percent of dog bite cases in children under age six involved dogs the victim's family knows.
- Of children 15 and under, 50 percent sustained dog bites injuries while trying to stop a dog fight.
The CDC explains that a young immune system restricts a child's ability to fight dog-bite-transmitted bacterial diseases. Immune system issues are also a problem for people over age 65, people without spleens, and other adults with weakened immune systems.
Are Tampa dog bite injuries still a problem for postal workers?
Dog attacks remain a consistent problem for United States mail carriers. They occur so frequently, the United States Postal Service publishes an annual list of dog attack rankings by city and state. With 211 mail carrier dog attacks across the state, Florida is number nine on the list.
The most recent dog bite rankings list includes mail carrier attacks that occurred during one recent year. The USPS documented 5,714 attacks, 500 fewer than the previous year. Mail carriers now rely on digital technology to help them avoid dog attacks.
What can you do to avoid Tampa dog bite injuries?
Dog owners often understand their pet's temperament and can usually pick up on their body language. With a strange or stray dog, even dog lovers can't always anticipate their actions or reactions. It's even more difficult for a child or a non-owner to understand when a dog is preparing to attack.
Organizations such as the Florida Department of Health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the AVMA provide dog bite prevention tactics. Although these strategies shift the focus and responsibility away from dog owners and onto dog bite victims, they're still important. They help reduce your potential for serious dog bite injuries. They include:
- Never leave an infant alone with a dog.
- Never approach a dog when the owner isn't around.
- Stay away from any strange or stray dogs.
- Never look a dog in the eye. A dog sees that as a challenge.
- Never startle a dog by running or screaming.
- If a dog knocks you down, roll into a ball, tuck in your head, and cover your ears and neck.
- Avoid a dog while it's eating, playing, or with its puppies.
- Avoid barking or growling dogs.
The CDC also provides a link to “Don't Let the Dogs Bite,” a child's safety activity book provided by the California Department of Public Health.
Do Florida statutes include punishment for owners whose dogs cause damage or injury?
Florida Statute §767, “Attack or bite by dangerous dog,” outlines criminal penalties for owners whose dogs were previously declared “dangerous.” These are:
- First-degree misdemeanor: When a previously “declared dangerous” dog commits a second unprovoked attack on another dog, the owner is guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor. Punishment may include fines and dog confiscation.
- Third-degree felony: When a dangerous dog causes severe injury or death to a human, the owner is guilty of a third-degree felony. Punishments may include fines, imprisonment, and probation.
Call Our Tampa Dog Bite Attorneys Today
If you've suffered a dog bite and are interested in learning about your legal options, you can call our Tampa personal injury lawyers at any time. We will be glad to provide a free case evaluation and explore options to help you recover as much compensation as possible.
With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH), or you can write to us using our online contact page.
13513 Prestige Pl. Suite 103
Tampa, FL 33635