Dangerous dogs on the loose threaten everyone, from young children to adults. Dog bite laws in Florida, however, provide innocent victims with monetary compensation for their injuries. Specifically, under Florida law, a dog bite victim may sue a dog owner based upon statutory strict liability, negligence, negligence per se, or intentional tort. You must file dog bite claims and lawsuits within a certain time frame, so time may be of the essence in your case. Therefore, do not delay in seeking competent, experienced legal representation. If you or someone you love has sustained injuries in Florida because of a vicious dog, the law may entitle you to pursue monetary compensation. The skilled Florida dog bite injury attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, can meet with you to review your case and can formulate the necessary legal arguments that will increase your chances of recovering monetary damages for your injuries.
Dangerous Dog Breeds in Florida
Any dog has the potential to bite someone, even if they never showed aggressive behavior before. That said, certain breeds have a greater risk of engaging in dangerous behaviors. Some examples of breeds in Florida that are riskier than others include:
- Doberman Pinschers
- German Shepherds
- Chow Chows
- Great Danes
- Pitt Bulls
- Wolf hybrids
- Staffordshire terriers
Just because a dog fits into these breeds does not mean they will be dangerous, though home insurers and other professionals might make it more challenging to obtain coverage for specific breeds.
Our Florida Dog Bite Lawyers Can Help
At Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, our Florida dog bite attorneys know the uphill battle injured victims face after a dog bite injury. These injuries can become infected and result in serious disfigurement and long-term suffering. We work quickly and efficiently to help injured dog bite victims obtain the compensation they deserve from the start.
Our personal injury lawyers want to take the burden off of you during this difficult time, so you can focus your energy and effort on your health and your recovery. Let us handle the insurance companies, paperwork, medical bills, and creditors for you. With offices located across the state of Florida, we are there when you need us most.
Call us at (866)790-6557 or fill out our confidential contact form to learn more about your legal options. We offer free initial consultations and reviews so you can get the answers you deserve. Let us show you why so many injured accident victims and their families choose our law firm in their darkest hours.
Florida Dog Bite Laws and Liability
Each state has its own dog bite laws, and these laws can vary widely across the United States. The following are some examples of Florida laws that might apply to your dog bite claim.
Statutory Strict Liability and Florida Dog Bite Injuries
When it comes to Florida dog bites, you may recover monetary compensation without regard to the dog owner’s fault. Section 767.04 of the Florida Dog Bite Statute makes a dog owner strictly liable for all injuries and damages if a dog viciously attacks and bites an innocent victim. This is true even where the dog owner did nothing wrong—and even if the dog never bit anyone in the past or acted aggressively toward strangers before.
If the dog bite victim provoked the dog or acted negligently, then under the law, the dog bite victim could receive reduced monetary compensation. Moreover, if the dog bite victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s land, strict liability may not apply. And generally speaking, Florida’s strict liability laws will not apply to police or military dogs or in cases of property-only damages.
Negligence and Dog Bite Liability
In the alternative—or in addition to—statutory strict liability, a dog owner may also face liability for acting in a careless, negligent, or reckless manner under the circumstances. A dog owner, in other words, may be negligent by doing something that a reasonable dog owner would not have done, or failing to do something that a reasonable dog owner would have done, under the circumstances. Moreover, the dog bite victim must show that the dog owner’s negligence caused the attack as well as the dog bite victim’s injuries and damages.
As with all Florida personal injury cases, the plaintiff dog bite victim has the burden of proof in any cause of action based upon negligence.
Negligence Per Se and Florida Dog Bite Attacks
Florida leash laws are in place to keep members of the general public safe. In Florida, under the doctrine of negligence per se, a dog owner who violates an existing law geared toward protecting against dog bites and attacks may be presumed negligent. For example, if a Florida dog owner allows a dog to roam around a housing development at large or without a leash, a victim could hold the dog owner per se negligent for all of the dog bite victim’s injuries and damages.
Intentional torts require a specific and intentional act by the defendant dog owner. If the dog owner intends for the dog to bite the victim—or provokes the dog to attack or bite the victim—then he may be liable in tort, and the dog bite victim may pursue monetary compensation for injuries and damages.
Time Limits on Filing Florida Dog Bite Lawsuits
Florida victims ordinarily must file dog bite claims and lawsuits within four years of the date on which the dog bite victim sustained the injuries. In most cases, absent some limited exceptions, a dog bite victim who does not make a claim or file suit within that deadline will forever lose the right to file suit—or make a claim for monetary damages because of the injuries sustained in the dog bite incident.
Florida Dog Bite Injuries and Damages
Dog bite injuries can be catastrophic and permanent, and the dog owner may be liable for those injuries and any losses victims experience. Common injuries sustained by Florida dog bite victims include:
Cuts and bruises – Whenever a dog attacks a person—most especially a small child or elderly individual who cannot get away—the dog may leave scratch marks from its claws and/or cuts and bruises on the victim’s body. These cuts and bruises often take several weeks to heal and can also be very painful and unsightly.
If a cut sustained in a dog attack is particularly deep, it might require stitches or even a medical procedure to correct. These types of injuries can also leave unsightly scars that could remain on the victim’s body for many years—and in some instances, permanently.
Abrasions – An abrasion refers to a wearing down of a person’s skin or a rub injury, such as from a brush burn. These types of injuries can happen in dog attacks when a large dog knocks the victim to the ground, and the victim suffers a brush-burn injury. These injuries typically heal within a few weeks, but particularly severe abrasions can leave scars and other unsightly marks on the victim’s body.
Scratch marks – Dog attacks often involve a vicious dog clawing its victim, in turn leaving scratch marks on the victim’s body. Lighter scratch marks typically disappear within a few days to a couple of weeks after the attack. However, deeper scratch wounds can result in a lot of bleeding and sometimes the need for stitches to close up the wound and allow it to heal.
Lacerations – When a dog uses its claws to scratch and attack a person, cuts and lacerations on the victim’s body can result. While a relatively minor laceration may go away in a short time, a deeper laceration might need stitches or expensive medical attention to treat. In addition, if a dangerous dog scratches or bites a person and draws blood, the bite victim might need to be given an antibiotic to protect against any possible diseases the dog may have passed on to the victim in the attack.
Permanent facial scarring – When a dog inflicts a deep wound on a bite victim, a scar can appear once the wound heals. This is especially true if stitches were necessary to close up and treat the wound. Some scars can cause victims pain—especially if it is a raised scar. Also, depending on their exact location on the victim’s face, some scars can cause victims extreme shame or embarrassment.
Bite or teeth marks – When a dog attacks a person, it will often nip or bite the person. Depending upon the extent of the bite, the dog’s teeth can leave marks on the accident victim’s body. If the dog bites the victim deeply, a puncture wound through the skin could even require stitches or other medical treatments.
Soft tissue injuries – A soft tissue injury is an injury that does not result in a broken bone or fracture. However, these injuries can still be extremely serious and can result in a significant amount of pain, discomfort, and inconvenience for the dog attack victim. Soft tissue injuries include muscular sprains, strains, and contusions and often occur when a large dog knocks a person to the ground or causes the accident victim’s body to become contorted during an attack.
Fractures and broken bones – Fractures and broken bones in dog attacks typically happen when a dog runs at a person and knocks the person over, causing the victim to strike the ground directly. The force of the victim’s impact with the ground could fracture bones. Although some fractures heal on their own, such as some rib fractures, others require painful and expensive medical procedures like surgeries to correct.
In addition, it can take many months for a serious fracture to heal, and once it does, the victim will likely have to undergo a significant amount of physical therapy to get the affected body part back to normal. In some instances, fracture injuries can be permanent and may impact the victim’s ability to function for the rest of their life.
TBIs (traumatic brain injuries) – A traumatic brain injury, sometimes referred to as a TBI, occurs when a person suffers damage to the head or brain. Depending on the seriousness of the brain damage, a TBI could have a permanent impact on the person’s ability to function. Even TBIs initially diagnosed as “mild” can have lasting effects that impact a victim’s life and require ongoing treatment.
In dog attacks, TBIs often occur when a large dog knocks the victim to the ground during the attack, and the victim strikes their head directly on the ground. When a person’s head strikes the ground or an object with a significant amount of force, the brain’s neurons and axons (the brain’s ‘internal hardware system’) can sustain damage, disrupting the brain’s ability to function and communicate with the rest of the person’s body.
Permanent damage – Permanent injuries can result from fractures, soft tissue damage, and other injuries that a dog attack victim suffers in the attack. Permanent injuries cause symptoms and effects for the rest of a person’s life. For an injury to be permanent for settlement or litigation purposes, a doctor or another health care provider must usually state—to a reasonable degree of medical certainty—that the dog attack victim has suffered a permanent injury and that the injury resulted from the dog attack.
Injuries to children – Dog bite injuries can hurt children worse than adults. Children are smaller and often cannot stop a dog attack once it begins, and their injuries are more common on the face or head due to their shorter height. Many children suffer permanent impairments or disfigurement from dog bites, and the bite can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a possible life-long phobia of dogs.
In the State of Florida, dog owners are strictly liable for the acts of their dogs. Therefore, if the dog attacks or bites someone—and injures him or her—then the dog owner will be automatically liable for those injuries and damages. This is true even if the dog owner did not have prior knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities, meaning the dog never bit or attacked anyone in the past. Dog owners can also be negligent if they fail to control their dog (such as by keeping it on a leash), and the dog attacks or bites someone.
Victims of dog bites and attacks can suffer extremely serious injuries and damages, many of which require hospitalization, treatment, and a significant amount of recovery time. They might also have to cope with the permanent impacts of a dog attack injury, such as pain and suffering. Depending upon the exact circumstances and extent of the injuries sustained, dog attack victims could be eligible to pursue and recover the following types of damages:
Dog attack victims could pursue monetary compensation and damages for all of the medical treatment they received resulting from injuries they suffered in the attack. These damages often include the cost of hospital stays, follow-up medical treatment, physical therapy, and surgeries. A dog bite victim may recover this compensation even if health insurance paid for some or all of the treatment. However, when a health insurer is involved, the insurance company might assert a lien against a portion of the recovery you receive from your Florida dog bite case.
Many people who suffer injuries in dog attacks have to miss work to treat for and recover from their injuries. Health care providers will often issue “off-work slips,” authorizing the dog attack victim to take time off work. The bite victim may then assert a lost wage claim for any compensation that they missed because of injuries suffered in the incident.
Very often, victims of dog bites and other attacks have to pay certain out-of-pocket costs, including the costs of prescription medication. When that is the case, the dog attack victim could pursue reimbursement for these costs as part of their case.
Lost earning capacity
Some victims of dog bites and attacks suffer such severe injuries that they cannot work the way they previously did. They might even have to switch careers altogether, and in the worst circumstances, might never work again. When that is the case, the dog attack victim could assert a claim for loss of earning capacity.
Pain, suffering, and inconvenience
In addition to the economic damages that a dog attack victim often incurs, the victim may also have to deal with a significant amount of pain, suffering, and inconvenience due to the injuries suffered. All of this is legally compensable as part of a damages claim. The victim might also assert a claim for mental anguish or emotional distress connected to injuries they suffered in the attack.
Loss of use
When dog attack victims suffer serious injuries, such as paralysis or amputations, they cannot use one or more parts of their bodies after the incident. In a full paralysis injury, the dog attack victim might never use a body part for the remainder of their life. When that happens, the dog attack victim could bring a loss of use claim for monetary compensation and damages.
Loss of enjoyment of life
When a dog attack victim suffers a serious injury, such as a fracture, broken bone, or traumatic head injury, they cannot take part in activities they once enjoyed. In that instance, the attack victim could file a claim for loss of enjoyment of life.
If you suffered injuries because of a dog attack, you should seek experienced legal counsel as soon as possible. A knowledgeable Florida dog bite lawyer can evaluate your claim for damages and help you pursue the compensation that you need and deserve for your injuries.
The Dog Bite Injury Claim Process
If you are attacked and injured by a vicious or dangerous dog, you may be in a position to file a claim or lawsuit against the dog’s owner. In most cases, dog bites and injuries fall within the dog owner’s homeowner insurance policy. You, as the victim, could file a claim under that policy.
The first step to filing a claim is to submit a demand letter, accompanied by other pertinent documentation. That documentation typically includes all related medical records, medical bills, incident reports, lost wage documentation, and photographs of injuries.
If the insurance company accepts liability for the incident, it will usually make you an offer to settle the case. However, before you accept just any offer from the insurance company, you want to make sure that the offer fully and fairly compensates you for your injuries. Remember—insurance companies do not have any incentive to offer you money to settle since they are effectively losing money by paying out a large Florida dog bite settlement.
It might take several rounds of negotiating before the insurance company adjuster makes an acceptable offer on your case. If the insurance company refuses to offer you the compensation that you truly deserve for your dog attack injuries, you have the option of filing a lawsuit against the dog owner. This sometimes lights a fire under the insurance company’s feet and convinces them to take your case more seriously. If your case does not reach an out-of-court settlement, you could take it to trial and allow a jury to decide and resolve all disputed issues—including what, if any, damages you deserve to recover.
An experienced Florida dog bite lawyer can help you decide whether you should accept a settlement offer, engage in mediation, or take your case to trial or arbitration.
Fighting Against Defenses in Florida Dog Bite Cases
If a dog bite victim files a claim or lawsuit against the dog owner, the dog owner will almost always assert one or more legal defenses. The most common legal defenses in dog bite cases include:
- Provocation by the dog bite victim
- Assumption of risk by the dog bite victim
- Comparative negligence (that is, the dog bite victim shares partial responsibility for the attack).
In cases where the dog owner successfully proves that the dog bite victim was partially responsible for the attack, it can result in the reduction of the dog bite victim’s damages according to their percentage of fault.
At Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, our Florida dog bite injury attorneys know how to build a case to fight against these common defenses. Dog owners should be liable for the damages their pets cause. When a serious injury occurs, we fight aggressively for our injured clients to help them obtain the money they need—and deserve. We are not afraid to go toe-to-toe with large insurance companies and fight for what’s right. Time is critical, however, so do not delay.
Contact a Florida Dog Bite Attorney Today to Discuss Your Case
Serious dog bite injuries can result in high medical bills and lost wages, as well as the need for corrective surgeries. A dog bite victim may also pursue monetary compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and emotional distress resulting from the dog bite incident and injuries.
If you have sustained injuries in a dog bite attack, the knowledgeable lawyers at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, may pursue monetary compensation on your behalf. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a Florida dog bite injury attorney, please call us today at (866) 790-6557 or contact us online.