If a dog injured you or your loved one, contact our North Miami Beach Dog Bite Attorneys at Sibley Dolman to get the personal attention that you deserve.
When a dog bites you or your child, it challenges your idea of dogs as man’s best friend. Make no mistake, a dog bite is an aggressive attack. It’s in stark contrast to the general vision of dogs playing on the beach or faithfully guarding their masters’ homes. Regardless of whether you and/or the dog owner believe you provoked a bite incident, you still suffered a serious injury. Dogs’ teeth can tear through your skin. Dog bites often injure your flesh and muscles and can cause severe pain and nerve damage. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dogs can also transfer rabies and other infectious diseases, such as MRSA and tetanus.
The Florida Department of Health provides the general public with tips for preventing dog bites and also calculated the following statistics:
- Children ages one to nine are most at risk.
- Dog bite injuries kill two Florida residents each year.
- Annually, 600 Florida residents undergo hospitalization and in-patient care due to dog bites.
- 86 percent of dog bite cases in children under six involve dogs that the victim knows.
Dog Bites and Children
North Miami Beach’s youngest citizens are most vulnerable to dog attacks. Simple puncture wounds can easily penetrate children’s skin and harm their delicate bones and muscles. Furthermore, a child’s immature immune system may struggle to fight off dog bite-related infections. When a child’s injuries do heal, they can leave disfiguring scars.
Children’s short stature puts them on a dog’s level. Unfortunately, this makes them a prime target for facial and neck injuries. Young children usually see dogs as pets and playmates and may not fully understand their inherent animal nature. Children often sustain injuries when they touch a dog while the dog is eating or playing, and 50 percent of dog bite victims age 15 or older sustain injuries while attempting to break up dog fights.
Dog Owners Should Pay for the Injuries Caused by Their Pets
At Sibley Dolman, our experienced legal team provides dog bite victims with the personal attention that they deserve. Our North Miami Beach attorneys have represented many injured clients in past cases. We understand complex dog bite liability, criminal, and injury issues. We dedicate our efforts toward gathering and presenting evidence that overcomes legal defenses and proves our clients’ cases. When our personal injury lawyers represent dog bite victims, we work hard to ensure that they secure compensation for the full cost of their injuries.
Our Personal Injury Practice Results
In resolving our clients’ cases, we’ve gained significant experience negotiating with dog owners and their insurance companies. In the past, when all of the involved parties have cooperated, we’ve settled claims through informal negotiation and mediation. However, when necessary we’ve also pursued our clients’ cases in the courtroom. As each case has unique circumstances and injuries, we cannot guarantee a specific outcome; however, we are proud to share our personal injury case results as evidence of our success. Below we discuss some of our recent results.
- Rideshare Wrongful Death, $1 Million Settlement. In this complex Georgia rideshare case, a passenger sustained fatal injuries when the driver crashed while racing another vehicle to an intersection. The decedent’s wife contacted our law firm, and we worked with a Georgia attorney to file a lawsuit. We settled with one defendant, but the lawsuit remains pending while we explore settlement options with other responsible parties.
- Semi-Truck Brain Injury Accident, $3.2 Million Settlement. Our client sustained brain injuries when a semi-truck struck his vehicle. Our legal team executed a confidential settlement during a pre-trial mediation.
- Premises Liability Slip-and-Fall, $300,000 Settlement. The defendant denied liability after our client fell in their restaurant parking lot. Our legal team eventually negotiated a settlement with the responsible parties.
- Motorcycle Accident, $750,000 Settlement. Our client sustained serious brain trauma and a shoulder injury when a driver struck his motorcycle. The defendants’ insurance companies paid their $250,000 policy limits, and our client’s insurance carrier paid $500,000, his maximum underinsured motorist benefit.
What Injuries Do Dog Bites Cause?
According to the CDC, only one out of every five dog bites requires medical treatment. Unfortunately, the most severely injured victims face a more difficult recovery process. Their path to healing often includes costly emergency and follow-up treatment, surgical repairs, antibiotic regimens, and scar revisions. Adult dog-bite victims may endure lost wages from ongoing disabilities and long-term medical complications. In rare circumstances, dog attacks inflict fatal injuries.
As children are smaller and frailer than adults, dog bites generally cause children more damage. Elderly individuals can also sustain serious injuries, as they may suffer from frailty issues similar to young children. Both children and elderly individuals suffer from weak immature immune systems, which puts them at risk for serious dog bite-related infections. Adults with immune system issues have infection concerns as well. Scars pose a major problem for both old and young dog bite victims. The most recent American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ statistics documented 28,991 dog-bite related procedures nationally during a single year.
Dog bites injuries vary from minor to severe, including:
Severe Lacerations: Dog bites can cause deep and long cuts or lacerations at the site of the bite injury. When a dog tears into a person’s flesh they not only puncture but tear and lacerate to cause damage that is spread out. Lacerations run a risk of causing blood vessels to be opened and severe bleeding to occur. Lacerations also cause immense damage to muscle, skin, and tissue in general.
Puncture Wounds: A dog’s teeth are adapted to sink deep into prey to prevent them from fleeing and to inflict damage deep into the tissue. Dog bite injuries can puncture the skin and tissue to the point that organs are put in danger of also being damaged. Deep puncture wounds can go so far as to cause internal bleeding when they rupture certain organs or blood vessels. This is typically only possible among the larger dog breeds that have significantly stronger bites and longer teeth.
Dog Bite Infections: One of the biggest risks that come with dog bite injuries is the chance that the wound may become infected. Dogs are not exactly known for maintaining stellar oral hygiene and we have all seen them eat or lick things that would hardly help this. As a result, a dog’s mouth is typically filled with all kinds of bacteria that can cause a wound to become infected rapidly if not seen by a physician as soon as possible. Infections can interfere with the healing of a wound, destroy tissue, and if severe enough can lead to the need to amputate. Common dangerous bacteria that cause dog bite infections include Pasteurella, MRSA, and Capnocytophaga bacteria.
Bite Transferred Diseases: There are a number of diseases that can be transferred via a dog bite. The most infamous of these dog bite transferred diseases is rabies which afflicts many animals that can potentially bite people. Rabies is a virus that can occur in unvaccinated dogs and attacks the brain. Rabies is often fatal as soon as symptoms begin to appear. Dog bites can also cause tetanus which is a toxin produced by a type of bacteria called Clostridium tetani. This toxin causes paralysis in those affected.
What Damages Can I Recover?
When our attorneys settle our clients’ dog bite claims, we generally seek two different types of damages: economic and general damages. Florida law allows plaintiffs to seek punitive damages as well, but they must show clear and convincing evidence that a dog owner acted with gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
We calculate our clients’ economic damage claims based on incurred and estimated future out of pocket expenses. Economic damages include these and other expenses:
- Emergency room treatment and hospitalization
- Surgical costs
- Scar revision and other plastic surgery expenses
- Current and future income losses
- Estimated future medical expenses
- Mobility devices and prosthesis
- Therapy costs
- Transportation expenses
- Replacement services
- Funeral expenses
When we negotiate our clients’ dog bite claims, we also seek general damages. These losses include emotional issues, physical complications, lifestyle changes, and other considerations, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Anxiety and distress
- Spousal and family relationship losses
- Loss of bodily functions
- Scars and disfigurement
- Permanent limitations and disabilities
- Loss of bodily functions
Who Pays for My Dog Bite Injuries?
The same dog that bites you or your loved one is usually someone else’s beloved family pet. As with most animals, dogs act on instinct. Dogs obviously don’t understand the concepts of reasonable behavior and legal responsibility, so the blame shifts to their owners and/or caretakers. That’s often where a responsibility breakdown occurs; dog owners don’t want to think of their dogs as vicious animals and thus may refuse to accept responsibility for a bite. Fortunately, Florida statutes make it difficult for a dog owner to ignore or deflect liability.
Florida statutes recognize dogs as potentially harmful animals. In North Miami Beach and throughout Florida, owners are legally responsible for their dog’s actions. Florida law carefully details dog owners’ civil and criminal liabilities in the event that their dog bites someone.
Florida law also lays out the level of owners’ responsibility for their dogs’ actions in the absence of a prior bite history. Owners are responsible for injuries that their dog causes in a public place or to a person on private property with permission. Postal service workers and people that a property owner invites onto his or her land are deemed to be on the property with permission. Permission issues don’t apply to children under the age of six. Otherwise, several factors modify owners’ duties for dog bites involving people on their property,
- The bitten person was aware of the dog’s viciousness
- The owner posted a “bad dog” or other similar sign
- The bitten person acted negligently or contributed to the incident in some way
Florida law also discusses legal penalties for owners when a dog that has previously been declared dangerous commits a second unprovoked attack. Under such circumstances, the second act warrants a misdemeanor criminal charge against the owner, and authorities often confiscate the dog. Dog owners can be charged with a third-degree felony if their dangerous dog causes serious injury or death.
Florida law defines a dog owner to include a person, firm, or corporation that possesses, harbors, keeps, or has control or custody of an animal. This broad definition provides non-owners legal responsibility for dog bites in certain situations.
Dog Bites and Insurance Coverage
In the past, liability insurance companies investigated dog bite claims, paid the damages, and defended any lawsuits against their policyholders. However, that standard has recently begun to shift. Dog bite claims cost homeowners insurance companies millions of dollars and the payout rates continue to increase each year. A study published by the Insurance Information Institute (III) estimated that in 2017, insurance companies handled 18,522 dog bite claims nationally and paid out 686.3 million dollars in damages, averaging 37,051 per claim. Florida’s average paid dog bite claim is higher than the national average. With an average payment of $44,700, Florida has the second highest average paid dog bite claim rate in the country.
Homeowners insurance companies fight dog bite claims with an arsenal of underwriting weapons. They often issue policies with low dog bite liability limits and add exclusionary policy language and endorsements. Some policies include dog bite exclusion endorsements, which eliminate liability coverage for any dog-related liability event. Other homeowners policies incorporate vicious dogs and dogs with prior bite history liability exclusions, which eliminate liability coverage for a specific list of dogs that are generally considered to be dangerous and dogs with a bite history. Some insurance companies refuse to write policies on any home with a canine pet.
These exclusionary endorsements have not reduced dog bite claims. In fact, III’s study shows that dog bite claim payments nearly doubled over the past ten years. Despite dangerous dog coverage exclusions, insurance companies are often cautious when enforcing new and restrictive policy language. Some companies accept dog bite claims, considering their duty to defend as a separate obligation from their duty to indemnify their insured or pay damages to an injured person.
When an insurance policy excludes dog bite incidents, dog liability policies fill the void. Owners can pay a separate premium and purchase a policy that covers their dog’s bad acts.
You Have a Right to Recover Damages When the Dog Owner Doesn’t Have Liability Insurance
When a dog owner’s policy excludes dog liability events, you still have the right to compensation. You can pursue your claim either informally or through the courts. When you obtain a judgment, the dog owner must pay or risk a judgment enforcement action against him or her. As with any unpaid or unsatisfied judgment, you have several collection payment options, including:
- The dog owner may pay you using private funds.
- With a successful judgment, you may place a lien on the dog owner’s home.
- If the dog owner is a tenant, you may file a lawsuit against the property owner.
- You can establish a payment agreement.
Does a Dog Owner Have Valid Defenses Against a Dog Bite Claim?
When a dog attacks, the owner has few viable defenses, but that doesn’t prevent liability many owners from attempting to avoid liability. Even if settlement is the right solution, some dog owners and their insurance companies prefer defending their cases in court. They often employ strategies that work to diminish liability, reduce the damages, or avoid responsibility altogether. Below we discuss some of the most common strategies:
- Provocation. This defense involves blaming the bite victim for provoking a dog. While provocation is no longer a sound defense, it’s often incorporated into a comparative negligence defense.
- Comparative negligence. Florida law incorporates the legal idea of comparative fault, which takes into account an injured party’s level of negligence. If a dog owner proves that the injured victim contributed to his or her own injuries by provocation or other means, the court will reduce the damages award according to the victim’s level of negligence. For example, if the court finds the injured person 25 percent negligent, the victim will only be able to recover 75 percent of the original damages amount.
- No negligence. If the dog owner proves that the injured person is 100 percent responsible for the attack, then the injured person cannot recover any damages.
- Trespasser. If the dog owner proves that an injured person had no right to enter the owner’s private property, the victim’s status as a trespasser diminishes his or her ability to recover damages. This defense does not include postal employees who have a legal right to enter a property, nor does it include children under the age of six.
- Warning sign. The injured victim ignored a Bad Dog warning, or other similar sign.
North Miami Beach Dog Bite FAQs
Dogs come with many advantages, and they can help people stay safe during emergencies. You may have one or two of them yourself.
Not every dog behaves well all the time. Even a well-mannered canine can hurt someone without warning.
A frequent injury is a bite, and the wound could mean a trip to the clinic. If you experienced a dog bite accident, you are not alone. Even if the injury appears insignificant, you could have the potential to recover damages.
You should consult a lawyer if you have any questions about dog bites.
What Causes a Dog to Bite a Person?
The most common reason why a dog bites a person is fear. The animal could feel threatened for various reasons. It feels like a person might harm them or a member of its pack. People might have encroached on the canine’s territory. A mother might perceive someone as a threat to her young.
If a dog is a victim of abuse, it could bite someone who gets too close out of defense. On occasion, someone approaching from behind or a loud sound may startle the animal. Not all cases of dog bites happen on purpose.
During playtime, dogs tend to nip at each other. They might not know the strength of their jaws and accidentally harm a human. If an owner wrestles with their pet for fun, the situation could take an aggressive turn. Younger dogs might be more likely to become overly excited.
Dogs might bite you if you start to run. The act of running away tends to provoke multiple species of animals. With dogs, a fast-moving object could initiate a desire to chase down prey. They also might not be familiar with joggers and become fearful of them.
If the canine is sick, its behavior could be on the aggressive side. Physical pain could make it more likely to bite if the dog wants to be alone.
What Are the Warning Signs of a Dog Who Might Bite?
Even though dogs do not communicate with human language, you can still pick up clues of their mood. For the most part, you can notice some warning signs of a dog ready to bite. Canines tend to growl or snap at people or other animals before they attack.
Usually, the visibility of teeth means to back away slowly. The growls could indicate a sense of discomfort. The discomfort could be due to physical pain or anxieties. Pets need some space and time to calm down. With stray dogs, people might need to avoid their territory if possible.
If a dog licks their lips despite the lack of food, it could be a warning sign. Some of them will yawn if they are prepared to bite. Others may avoid your gaze to indicate they do not feel comfortable.
While some canines will avoid eye contact, others will keep eye contact but turn their head away. As a result, the sclera, or the white part of the eye, becomes visible. The tail may move in a quick, rigid motion or remain tucked between the legs as well.
How Strong Are a Dog’s Jaws?
Overall, the bite force of a dog is greater than that of a human. Nevertheless, the strength can depend on the animal’s mood and breed. Some breeds have stronger jaws compared to others. One of the most powerful dog bites belongs to Kangals, which exhibit a force of 743 pounds per square inch.
People use Cane Corsos as guard dogs since they are tough. The bite force of a Cane Corso is roughly 700 pounds per square inch. Other powerful breeds include the English Mastiff and Dogue de Bordeaux, and they can deliver over 550 psi per square inch
Even though many breeds can do significant damage when they bite, they are still friendly. Some of them make great additions to families.
What Are the Complications of a Dog Bite?
You could experience some bruising if the dog’s teeth did not break skin by chance. If a bite does penetrate the skin, bleeding can occur. Other complications can develop, and the wound can require medical treatment.
Sometimes, a bite could lead to an infection like tetanus. You can spot the beginning of one by observing the appearance of the bite injury. Generally, the immediate area experiences redness and swelling. The wound may look worse as the infection spreads.
The hands and feet are vulnerable to the risk of infection. People with a dog bite can feel the physical effects as well. For example, the pain does not subside after a day has passed. The skin around the injury site feels warm, and a person most likely will notice some drainage come out of the bite.
Additionally, the victim cannot move the affected area of the body easily. Other effects of a dog bite infection include fever, shaking, and sweating. In some cases, you might see blisters and feel nauseous. If someone develops sepsis due to a dog bite, they could experience confusion. Extreme pain and sleepiness are warning signs as well.
You should keep note of the symptoms you experience. Your healthcare professional will have a better idea of how they should treat you.
How Can You Treat a Dog Bite?
For the most part, people treat their dog bites at home. They wash the area with soap and water to get rid of harmful bacteria. A person might apply an antiseptic to reduce the chances of an infection.
The water needs to be warm, and a clean bandage should cover the bite to prevent germs from getting inside the body. A person may have an easier time cleaning a minor wound.
However, serious dog bites usually require further medical treatment. Many people have to see a doctor, especially if they suspect they have an infection. Antibiotics and other medications help treat many types of contagions. In the event you develop tetanus, a vaccine helps combat the disease.
Stitches help close large bite marks to encourage proper healing. To stop any bleeding, use a clean towel and apply pressure on the injury.
When Should You Go See a Doctor?
If the bite does not penetrate the skin or is minor, you might be able to take care of it yourself. Regardless of the severity, you should still check on the injury periodically. You need to see a doctor if you detect any signs of infection.
Some people have a weakened immune system, so they need to visit a clinic right away. The healthcare professional will prescribe a treatment to combat the spread of bacteria.
Severe bites can result in some bleeding, and you normally can get it to slow down and stop. A doctor is necessary if the bleeding persists after about 15 minutes. They can provide stitches and any preventive measures against infections.
However, you should quickly seek a healthcare provider if a stray dog bit you. Medical care is necessary if you do not know a pet’s immunization history. People should immediately get a post-exposure shot for rabies before symptoms appear.
What Are the Statistics for Dog Bites?
While dog bites can lead to serious infections, most of them do not require medical attention. Around 81 percent of cases lead to minor injuries or none at all.
Many people may believe stray dogs are the primary offenders. Research has shown, however, that pets are more likely to bite you than unowned dogs.
Most aggressive dogs had an owner and were males. Men under the age of 20 made up most of the bite victims, and they did not live with the offending canine. Even though the dog lived around people, it may have seen the victims as threats to the household. The animals may not have gotten used to strangers as well.
Movies and shows may seem like pets chasing the postman is a typical gag. However, the situation happens more frequently than one would believe: Around 5,714 postal workers suffer from an attack every year.
North Miami Beach residents have a higher chance compared to people in other states. The Insurance Information Institute reports how Florida sees around 1,235 dog bite claims every year.
Most incidents involved dogs whose owners did not neuter them. The ones who have undergone surgery, however, tend to show less destructive behaviors.
Several breeds have a higher chance of biting someone than others. German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, and Bulldogs make up many of the incidents. Even though they are small, Chihuahuas are highly likely to bite people as well.
Who Is Liable in a Dog Bite Accident?
In many places like Florida, the owner of the dog is responsible for any dog-related injuries. The state has strict liability laws, and victims do not have to prove negligence for bites. You may have to prove liability if a canine injures you in any other way besides a bite.
Dog owners are responsible for bites on public and private property. If you visit a neighbor’s house and receive an injury, you can file a dog bite claim. Naturally, the failure to mention the canine’s hostile behavior can put a person at fault for the accident.
However, some pets have appeared friendly for a while. The owner is still responsible if their dog suddenly lashes out at someone. People have to keep their pets behind the fence to protect others who pass by the property. The animals need to be on a leash when out in public. The law holds owners accountable for bites from unleashed dogs.
Dog owners could avoid negligence if they argue the victim trespassed on their property. They are not responsible for dog bites if they placed proper warning signs of the animal’s behavior. However, a defendant’s arguments do not matter if the victim is under the age of 6.
Occasionally, a stray dog bites a person. The lack of an owner can make a dog bite claim complex. Not many people can collect compensation for unowned canines. If a government service, like animal control, loses control over the stray, you could have a valid claim on your hands.
How Much Is a Dog Bite Claim Worth?
When it comes to dog bite compensation, the settlement does not have an average payout. The number of damages you receive influences how much the other party owes you. Other factors include how severe the injuries are.
Significant wounds can mean higher medical costs to treat them. A person may have to take some time off from work to recover. They could fall behind bills and medical payments due to the lack of income. The lost wages influence how much the settlement is worth, and a victim can struggle less financially.
In multiple cases, victims developed psychological trauma from dog bites. The judge calculates non-economic damages like pain and suffering as accurately as possible.
Each case is different, and your lawsuit can reflect how much money you deserve for your injury.
What Is the Statute of Limitations?
Victims in North Miami Beach should file a dog bite claim within four years from the date of the injury. You would start by filing a personal injury complaint in court. The complaint includes the specifics of the injury itself, the facts surrounding the incident, and the defendant.
You would identify the amount of reimbursement you intend to request as well. If you are unsure how to formulate a complaint, a dog bite attorney can help you get started.
The court dismisses claims if the deadline has passed. The judge rarely allows extensions. Talk to your lawyer to see how the statute of limitations applies to your case.
Can You Make a Claim Without an Attorney?
Some people choose to pursue a lawsuit by themselves. If the bite was not too severe, a person might not think an attorney is necessary. However, you would still need to follow all the processes properly. You could risk losing your case if you file a document incorrectly.
Additionally, a person might not know the right statements to make when they represent themselves. With an attorney, the process becomes less stressful and more efficient. Lawyers know how to evaluate a claim on your behalf. They know what it takes to present your case to the insurance company effectively.
Contact Our North Miami Beach Dog Bite Attorneys
If a dog injured you or your loved one, we want to hear your story. At Sibley Dolman, our attorneys give our clients the personal attention that they deserve. We stand up to dog owners who are responsible for their dog’s bad actions, and we make them pay. Dog bites are painful, the medical care is costly, and when you sustain disabling injuries, a single attack can completely alter your life. We understand that a financial settlement won’t fix everything in your life, but it can help reduce your financial stress in the future.
Our attorneys have recovered millions of dollars for our injured clients in the past. Let us determine if we can do the same for you. Call Sibley Dolman’s North Miami Beach office at (305) 676-8154, or contact us online, to schedule your free consultation today.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
1820 NE 163rd St #306,
North Miami Beach, FL 33162