A dog bite can be an emotionally and physically scarring experience. The vast majority of victims of dog bites are children. While often the resulting injuries are relatively minor, dog bites can cause permanent injuries.
A dog owner in Florida is strictly liable for the actions of his or her dog. Under Florida law,1 dog owner is civilly liable for injuries to another person if the owner’s dog bites another person and the victim is in a public place or lawfully in a private place. This means that even if the victim is on the dog owner’s property when the bite occurs, the owner will still be liable for the injuries if the victim was there lawfully and was not trespassing.
In some circumstances, the owner may be able to escape liability. For example, if the victim did something to cause or contribute to the dog’s actions, then the owner may be able to escape or mitigate his or her liability for the injuries.
What To Do If You Are Bitten by a Dog
Treat: If bitten, seek medical treatment right away. Dog bites can lead to infection, scarring, disfigurement and in some instances, death. Getting prompt, proper treatment will not only help in a potential claim against the dog’s owner, but it will also ensure that you are more likely to be healthy following the bite.
Note Witnesses: Be sure to note any witnesses to the bite, as you may need to later establish that you were not doing anything to provoke the dog.
Negotiate: If your injuries are relatively minor or if you are on good terms with the dog owner, you might be able to deal with the owner directly to receive compensation. For example, say that the dog owner is your friendly next door neighbor. Odds are that your neighbor will feel terrible about what happened and will want to make things right to avoid any lingering awkwardness about what happened. In this situation, it may make the most sense to just talk to your neighbor and have them pay your bills directly or submit a claim to their home insurance coverage.
Call an Attorney: If your injuries are more severe or if the dog’s owner is attempting to avoid responsibility for the bite, speak with an experienced dog bite personal injury attorney. This may be the best scenario even if the dog owner is your friendly next door neighbor. An attorney can help you recover not only your medical costs, but you may also have “pain and suffering” damages available due to a more serious nature of your injuries. An attorney will be more successful in dealing with the insurance company to get you the full compensation you deserve. In addition, they may uncover prior instances of bad behavior on the part of the dog or the owner that can lead to greater compensation.
What Happens to the Dog?
The dog’s prior behavior is relevant in determining what will happen to it. If it is a dog that was well behaved in the past, it may receive a designation as a “Vicious Dog.” Once a dog is labeled as such, any future incidents can result in the dog being confined to home or being put down. A dog that has had several violent incidents is likely to be put down.
Most homeowner insurance policies have coverage for dog bites if the owner has a dog. The same is also often true for renter insurance policies. This means that a lawyer can often handle a claim through the owner’s insurance policy without necessarily having to sue the owner. In situations where a lawsuit must be filed, the insurance policy will pay for injuries up to any applicable policy limits.
Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyer Today for a Free Consultation!
If you have been bitten by a dog, contact a Clearwater personal injury attorney right away. Victims of dog bites often experience substantial physical and emotional pain and suffering. Fortunately, Florida tort law allows victims to recover compensation for these and other losses that they may experience as a result of a preventable accident. A lawyer familiar with litigating Florida personal injury cases can often help victims recover substantially more compensation than they would be able to retain on their own, so it is highly advisable for anyone injured in an accident to discuss their options with an experienced lawyer.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765