Recently, the two animal shelters in the area—the Jacksonville Humane Society and Animal Care and Protective Services—announced that they had reached capacity, as pet owners in the area find themselves amid financial and even geographical challenges that render owners unable to care for their pets. The two shelters offered free adoptions for large dogs, senior dogs, as well as some cats to alleviate some of the overcrowding to make room for strays and provide immediate assistance for emergencies.
While the shelters hope that free adoptions will sweeten the deal enough to find homes for the city’s adoptable pets, new owners must take certain precautions to prevent their new family members from biting and causing injury to others. Dog bites can result in serious injuries or even death. If you have suffered a dog bite in Jacksonville, read on for more information about why dogs bite, the types of injuries sustained in dog attacks, and how to obtain compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury.
About Jacksonville Dog Bites
A 6-year-old child in Jacksonville died recently as a result of injuries sustained when a dog that her parents were dog sitting bit her. The bite occurred on her neck and resulted in an inability of the child to take in an adequate amount of oxygen, which resulted in irreversible brain damage. According to reports, multiple dogs were in the household at the time, and it was the second time in a matter of months that a child in Florida died as a result of a dog attack.
While dog attacks rarely result in death, this tragic Jacksonville case highlights several common features in dog attacks, including the age of the victim and the presence of other dogs at the time the attack occurred. Approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year, and around 800,000 of those bites will require medical attention due to their severity. More than 50 percent of dog bite victims are children, and more than a quarter of the children who experience dog bites will require medical treatment.
The Reason Dogs Bite
While significant content exists ranking the dog breeds that bite most often, in truth: all dogs will bite if put in a situation that warrants it.
Many situations can cause dogs to bite, including:
- They feel tired, stressed, or surrounded by unfamiliar people.
- They feel the need to protect themselves, their puppies, or their owner from a perceived danger.
- They feel startled, sick, or hurt.
- They view someone as a threat to an item that dogs value highly, such as food or a favorite toy.
- They haven’t received training on how to properly interact with humans and may nip or bite during play.
Dogs who are not spayed or neutered are more likely to bite. Spaying or neutering reduces the levels of hormones that can make a dog more likely to act aggressively. A quarter of all dogs that bite do so while chained, and more than 30 different breeds of dogs have caused dog-bite fatalities in the U.S.
Children: The Most Likely Victims of Biting Dogs
Boys between the ages of five and nine years old constitute the most likely victim of a dog bite. Children, in general, face a higher risk of dog bites. Children also tend to suffer more severe injuries in the face and neck due to the size of a child, and the tendency of children to crawl and play lower to the floor and closer to the dog’s eye level.
Steps You Can Take To Avoid a Dog Bite Injury
Can you prevent dog bites? Not always. However, you can take certain steps to reduce your risk of sustaining a dog bite injury, such as:
- Do not approach an animal that you do not know. If you must walk by an unfamiliar dog, try to put as much space between yourself and the dog as possible and avoid eye contact, as dogs may view eye contact as a challenge or threat.
- If a dog chases you, do not run from it, as this will trigger the dog’s hunting instincts.
- If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, stay silent and remain motionless. Do not run or scream, as these actions could cause an already untrusting dog to become startled or afraid.
- Allow a dog to sniff your non-dominant hand before you pet it. If the dog appears friendly, pet it with your non-dominant hand and make sure to pet the animal under the chin, where it can see your movements, rather than on the top of the head.
- Always supervise your children around dogs, even your own dogs and those belonging to close family and friends. Do not ever encourage an animal to play aggressively by roughhousing with it.
The Types of Injuries Resulting from Dog Bites
The injuries most commonly sustained from dog bites include both physical and psychological consequences. Medically, the primary concerns when treating a dog bite injury include repairing the wound in a way that reduces the potential for scarring, while also preventing the infection from becoming infected. Dog bites frequently result in infections, as bacteria transfer from the dog’s mouth into the open wound. Some of the main infections that health care providers watch for include rabies and tetanus.
When you report your dog bite to the appropriate authorities, they will make an effort to locate the dog responsible for the attack and determine whether it has received a rabies vaccination. If not, or if they cannot locate the dog, animal control will hold the dog to observe it for any signs of the disease. If the dog exhibits signs of rabies, or if animal control cannot locate the dog, you will likely receive prophylactic rabies treatment.
In addition to lacerations, dog bites can result in:
- Broken bones
- Damage to the eyes or teeth
- Soft tissue injuries
- Brain injuries
- Severe blood loss
Immediately following a dog bite, victims may feel shocked.
However, after the pain of the physical injuries has subsided, many Jacksonville dog bite victims find themselves still dealing with psychological injuries from the attack, including:
- A fear of dogs
- Recurring nightmares about being helpless or attacked
- Changes in appetite and difficulty sleeping
- The development of new fears and phobias, such as being outside or meeting people
- Personality or emotional changes, including unexpected outbursts of anger or uncontrollable crying
Florida’s personal injury claims process allows you to recover compensation for both the financial and psychological impacts of your injury.
Strict Liability and How It Affects Dog Bite Claims
In terms of dog bites, Florida follows the legal doctrine of strict liability. Strict liability holds that a dog owner bears responsibility for any harm to others even if the owner had no reason to know that the dog was capable of being aggressive. To seek compensation for your injury, you do not have to show that the owner behaved negligently; rather, you must simply establish that the defendant owns the dog that caused you harm. Keep in mind that owners of dogs who have exhibited past aggressive behavior and have failed to take preventative measures can face criminal consequences in addition to civil liability.
Many states have a “one-bite rule” that holds dog owners liable for injuries caused to others if the owners had reason to know that their dogs may act aggressively and failed to take precautions to protect society from harm. The doctrine gets its name from the fact that essentially, dogs in one-bite states get one free bite before the owner bears liability for the expenses and impacts of dog bite injuries.
Exceptions to Strict Liability
While dog owners generally bear liability for any injuries their animal causes to other people, certain exceptions exist, including:
- Scenarios in which the victim of the bite trespassed on the dog owner’s property or was in the process of committing a crime, such as assault.
- Scenarios in which the dog worked as a police dog, and the bite occurred during the dog’s job duty of apprehending criminals.
- The owner took the precaution of placing a “Beware of the Dog” sign in the animal’s enclosure, and someone over the age of 6 entered that area.
- The dog owner can prove that the dog bite victim deliberately teased or provoked the dog before the attack.
Special Duty of Care Owed to Children
In the legal arena, the term “duty of care” often refers to the actions that a reasonable person would take in a given set of circumstances to protect the safety of others. While dog owners generally owe the public a duty of care to protect individuals from suffering harm due to an animal with a history of aggression by keeping the animal in an enclosed area with a prominently placed warning sign, dog owners owe children a special duty of care who may feel tempted to enter the enclosed area and cannot read or understand the sign. This special duty could include a locked enclosure or one where the lever to open it extends out of reach of small children.
Bitten by a Dog in Jacksonville? Now What?
If you’ve suffered a dog bite in Jacksonville, taking these steps will protect your safety and your ability to seek compensation for your injuries:
- Obtain the name and address of the dog owner, as well as any witnesses to the attack.
- Take photographs of your wounds, as well as any notable features of the scene where the bite occurred.
- Seek a medical evaluation of your injuries and obtain the necessary treatment for them.
- Make a report. To report animal bites in Jacksonville, contact the Florida Department of Health-Duval at 904-253-1280, or contact the City of Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services at 904-630-2489.
- Speak with an experienced Jacksonville dog bite lawyer at Sibley Dolman Gipe who can explain the process of obtaining compensation for your injuries.
Obtaining Compensation for Your Injuries
An experienced dog bite attorney can help you seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury, including medical expenses, lost time from work, loss of future earning capacity, and physical and emotional pain and suffering. To obtain compensation, you will file a personal injury claim with the dog owner’s associated insurance policy.
Most dog owners’ homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies will cover a dog bite. If the insurance company fails to pay the claim or to offer a fair settlement, you can file your claim as a personal injury lawsuit in civil court within four years from the date of the attack.
To prove a dog bite claim in Florida, you must show:
- The at-fault party’s dog bit you. You can prove this through eyewitness accounts, photographs, a report made with the animal control department, and medical documentation.
- You suffered the bite while in a public place or legally in a private place. Trespassers generally cannot recover damages related to a dog bite injury because they entered a property illegally.
We Can Help You
Did you sustain severe injuries as a result of a dog attack? Let an experienced Jacksonville dog bite lawyer from Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, provide answers to your legal questions and tell you more about the process of seeking compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury.
We offer potential clients free case evaluations, during which you can discuss the details of your dog bite accident and injuries, ask questions about your legal options, and determine your eligibility to pursue compensation to cover the full cost of your injuries. Don’t wait to contact an attorney and initiate your dog bite claim; delays will only jeopardize your claim’s success.
With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, at (904) 441-6903, or you can write to us using our online contact page.
12574 Flagler Center Blvd.;
Jacksonville, FL 32258
Phone: (904) 441-6903
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