Florida law allows you to take legal action against a dog owner when their dog attacks you or your child. Dog owners have a legal responsibility to ensure their pets do not harm others. When they fail to uphold that responsibility, they open themselves up to liability for damages that dog bite victims suffer. If you suffered a dog bite injury in St. Petersburg, contact the experienced dog bite attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman online or at 833-552-7274 for a free consultation to discuss the details of your dog bite injuries. We serve clients in and around St. Petersburg and across Florida from our offices in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Sarasota, and New Port Richey.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman’s Results
The skilled team of personal injury lawyers at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman have extensive experience representing clients who have suffered injuries because of another person’s careless and negligent behavior, including clients who have suffered dog bite injuries. The firm’s commitment to client advocacy and case preparation has led to the recovery of tens of millions in damages through settlements and jury awards. We cannot guarantee a specific outcome for your dog bite injury claim because each case involves specific factors that might increase or decrease its value. We do, however, have the knowledge and resources to build a strong case against the dog owner and will fight to get you the maximum amount of compensation commensurate with your or your child’s injuries.
St. Petersburg Dog Bite Injuries That Require Legal Representation
Only California and Texas have more fatal dog attacks than Florida, according to DogsBite.org, a nonprofit organization that researches severe and fatal dog attacks. State Farm Insurance reports that Florida had the second most dog bite claims in one recent year. This does not include claims that other insurance companies paid out. If you or your child suffered a dog bite injury in St. Petersburg, these alarming statistics may not surprise you. If you or your child is the victim of one of these dog attacks, several types of injuries might occur. Not all dog bites require immediate medical attention or legal representation. Scenarios in which you should immediately go to the doctor and call our St. Petersburg dog bite attorneys include:
- Deep cuts and wounds that can leave scars, or lead to infections or diseases such as rabies, tetanus, and MRSA.
- Multiple fractured or crushed bones, which a child might suffer because of their small frame.
- Torn muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other soft-tissue injuries.
- Scarring and disfigurement that requires cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.
- Psychological trauma from a dog attack, especially in young children.
- Severe attacks can lead to the death of a loved one. If you have experienced this tragedy, contact an attorney to discuss the possibility of filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the dog owner.
Dangerous Dogs in the St. Petersburg Area
Pinellas County has specific laws that apply to dog owners who keep dangerous pets. Even dogs that are friendly and well-behaved in their homes can pose a danger to the community. If a dog attacks a person, the county might record it as a dangerous animal and take the dog away from the owner for observation. Pinellas County defines a dangerous dog as any dog that:
- Has attacked, bitten, or endangered a person on public or private property without provocation.
- Has severely injured or killed another pet while off the owner’s property without provocation.
- Has aggressively chased a person on the street, sidewalk, or public area with the intent to attack.
The county will not declare a dog to be dangerous if a person was trespassing when they were attacked. They also do not declare dogs to be dangerous when someone teases, torments, abuses, or provokes the dog, its owner, or a family member. The law also protects dogs who defend a person from attack or assault. After a dog bite or attack occurs, Animal Services investigates the incident. If they find a dog to be dangerous, they notify the owner in writing. The owner can appeal the decision, sign the dog over to Animal Services to be euthanized, or comply with the following restrictions for dangerous dogs:
- Obtain a current rabies vaccination and animal license;
- Keep the dog caged in a secure enclosure;
- Post clearly visible warning signs that a dangerous dog lives on the property;
- Implant an electronic chip or tattoo the dog within 24 hours of release to permanently identify it as dangerous;
- Pay an annual fee for required registration of the dog; and
- Ensure the dog wears a dangerous dog tag at all times to provide immediate information and identification to Animal Services and the public that the dog is dangerous.
The actions that Pinellas County Animal Services takes after a dog bite protects others from suffering a dog bite injury in the future, but it does nothing to compensate you for any of the losses you have incurred as a result of your or your child’s dog bite injury. To receive compensation, you must file a claim against the dog owner, which is best done with the help of an experienced attorney.
Steps to Take After a St. Petersburg Dog Attack
If you suffer dog bite injuries, your health and safety should be your top priority. Additionally, the steps you take immediately after a dog attack can help preserve the value of your claim and give you the best chances of successfully recovering compensation.
Go to the Doctor
Severe dog bites rip through the skin exposing an open wound to all types of bacteria. No matter how severe the dog attack, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible if a dog breaks your skin. This will greatly reduce the chance of infection. Additionally, it provides medical documentation of the dog attack, which will support your case against the negligent dog owner.
Immediately after a dog attack, get yourself or your child away from the situation to prevent a second attack. If you can get pictures of the dog with your cell phone, they could be helpful. But this is not always possible. At the very least, take the time to snap some photos of the area where the dog attack happened and take pictures of all visible injuries. These photos will help support your claim and provide proof of the attack.
Gather Contact Information
If you can physically gather information after suffering a dog bite injury, take the time to record the dog owner’s name, address, email, and phone number. You should also get contact information for any eyewitnesses who saw the incident take place. When the police investigate the incident, they will likely talk to the dog owner and whomever they can, but sometimes witnesses cannot wait for the police to arrive. Additionally, the police report is one officer’s account of what happened according to those with whom they speak. Having additional witnesses who will testify for you sometimes provide a different narrative or information the police officer might have missed.
Contact the St. Petersburg Police or Animal Services to Report the Attack
Make sure you have an official record of the dog bite incident or you will have a difficult time filing a compensation claim. You must call the police as soon as possible to have them file an official report. Typically, the police contact Animal Services who will perform an investigation of the dog. They will look for answers to questions about whether the dog was listed as dangerous and how many times the dog owner has had complaints about their pet.
Contact Our Reputable St. Petersburg Dog Bite Attorneys
Let our experienced lawyers handle the details of your dog bite claim while you focus on healing. Dog bites are no fun for anyone, but if you or your child suffered dog bite injuries, you likely have a long road ahead of you. Many young ones are face to face with dogs, putting them at great risk for severe dog bite injuries to the face if a dog attacks. The medical treatment alone can be scary for kids, but once they get through the worst of it, you will be left to deal with the emotional aftermath. It’s likely your child will need to see a therapist or psychologist to help them cope with the severe trauma of a cute, fluffy puppy biting them. An attorney can investigate the details of the dog attack, gather relevant documents, talk to eyewitnesses, and guide you through the claims process. Additionally, lawyers know how to communicate and negotiate with insurance companies, so they take your dog bite claim seriously. Don’t stress yourself out with the minutia when you can hire a lawyer who will fight for you and help you seek justice after a dog bite.
Seeking Compensation After a Dog Bite in St. Petersburg
Under Florida law, when a dog bites a person, the owner is liable for damages regardless of the dog’s history of aggression. This includes people who are lawfully on the dog owner’s property, such as postal workers, guests, and others with an express or implied invitation. If you bring a claim against a dog owner after a dog bite, it most often falls under a homeowner’s insurance policy, regardless of where the bite occurred. If the bite occurred at the owner’s business, the claim might fall under a commercial insurance policy. If the dog owner does not own a home or business, you likely have to sue them directly. Your attorney will evaluate your case and advise you of the right course of action for your individual circumstances. If you reach a settlement agreement with the insurance company or the dog owner or a court rules in your favor, you could recover some or all of the following damages related to your dog bite injury:
- Medical treatment costs, including ambulance service, an emergency room visit, hospitalization in severe cases, radiology, prescription antibiotics and pain medication, and all the expenses that come with reconstructive surgery.
- Future medical expenses, especially if a victim requires multiple cosmetic or reconstructive surgeries for scarring and disfigurement.
- Lost wages for time away from work as a result of the dog bite injury, treatment, and recovery.
- Lost future wages if a dog attack causes permanent disability that prevents a victim from returning to work.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional pain and suffering, especially for children who must cope with the highly traumatic event.
If a dog bite led to the death of a child or other loved one, you might be eligible for compensation if you bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent dog owner. If you prevail in your wrongful death lawsuit, you can potentially recover some of the above damages as well as funeral costs and burial expenses. The law also allows eligible family members to receive compensation for damage to relationships caused by the loss. For example, parents who lose a child or partners who lose a spouse might receive compensation for loss of companionship. Similarly, dependent children who lose a parent sometimes receive compensation for loss of parental guidance and support. Your St. Petersburg dog bite lawyer can advise you about the damages you might receive in a wrongful death lawsuit based on your individual circumstances.
St. Petersburg Dog Bite FAQ
If you or your child has suffered injuries in a dog attack accident, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed, angry, and uncertain about which steps to take next. The fact that dog bite injuries are entirely preventable makes them even more difficult to cope with in the aftermath of a traumatic accident. Our team of skilled St. Petersburg dog bite attorneys is here to provide answers to frequently asked questions about dog bite injuries that may assist you in taking action to hold the dog’s owner accountable. Before you consult our experienced St. Petersburg dog bite lawyers, you can read on for more information about dog bite injury claims.
How long do I have to take legal action after a St. Petersburg dog bite?
Injured victims should file a claim with the dog owner’s homeowners’ insurance or commercial property insurance provider as soon as possible after you or your child suffers a dog bite. Florida’s statute of limitations provides that injured parties may file a St. Petersburg dog bite claim within four years of the date of the dog attack. Although four years may seem like plenty of time, the processes and procedures involved with insurance claims and lawsuits can be extensive and time-consuming. If you wait too long to initiate a claim, you may risk losing your ability to contact witnesses and gather accurate statements. Other helpful evidence may also be harder to obtain with time, which can prevent you from demonstrating the true value of your claim. Under rare, extenuating circumstances, the court may extend the deadline for filing a claim. For example, if the dog owner moves out of state, preventing you from completing the timely service of the claim, an attorney may request an extension on your behalf. An experienced St. Petersburg dog bite attorney can advise you whether your specific circumstances may allow for an extension.
Do I have to report a St. Petersburg dog bite to the police?
Although injured parties are not required to report a dog bite incident to police or Animal Services before initiating the St. Petersburg dog bite claims process, a report can help support your claim. After alerting Animal Services, the agency may investigate to determine whether the dog is dangerous. Depending on the determination, they will inform the owner of their options for moving forward. If you or your child suffered a dog attack that caused severe injuries, requiring emergency medical transport, law enforcement may come to the scene to compile a police report. In situations where you head to the emergency room on your own or with a friend or family member, you should call the police and report the incident as soon as you are able. Filing a police report will initiate an investigation by animal services, and will provide documentation of the incident that may serve as valuable evidence.
Will the court force the owner to euthanize their dog?
After a dog attacks and causes severe injury to another person, Pinellas County Animal Services will investigate the incident to determine if the dog poses a danger to people. Animal Services has the authority to confiscate the dog, place it in quarantine, if necessary, or simply hold the dog for observation until the investigation concludes. However, a dog’s designation as dangerous does not necessarily require its euthanization. Considering all the circumstances leading to the dog’s attack, as well as the severity of the resulting injury, Animal Services may determine that euthanization is the only option to ensure community safety. If injuries from a dog bite incident ultimately result in death, the law requires the expeditious and humane euthanization of the dog.
What is Florida’s dangerous dog law?
Although courts have the discretion to determine whether an owner is legally required to euthanize a dangerous dog, the law clearly defines what constitutes a dangerous dog. According to Florida’s Dangerous Dog Statute, a dangerous dog is any dog that has:
- Bitten, attacked, or caused severe injury to someone on private or public property;
- Severely injured or killed another pet away from the owner’s property more than one time; or
- Chased a person on a sidewalk, street, or any public area with the intent to attack without being provoked.
The law also outlines situations in which it is inappropriate for Animal Services to designate a dog as dangerous, including when:
- A person was trespassing on the dog owner’s property when they suffered injuries from a dog attack;
- A person tormented or abused the dog, provoking an attack;
- A person tormented, abused, or assaulted the dog owner or another family member, provoking the attack; and
- The dog was protecting or defending a person from an attack or assault.
When Pinellas County Animal Services finds evidence to conclude a dog is dangerous, they provide an opportunity for the dog owner to request a court hearing for a final determination. The court will determine whether the dog’s classification as dangerous is proper and whether it is appropriate to impose penalties against the dog’s owner. If Animal Services requests a hearing on the dog’s designation as dangerous, it must provide written notice to a dog’s owner, and allow them seven days within which to file a response. A court hearing may conclude that the dog’s dangerous classification is unjustifiable.
The owner says I provoked the dog, and it bit me. Am I still eligible for compensation?
Whether an individual can seek compensation for a dog bite injury after allegedly provoking the dog depends on the circumstances. The specific circumstances leading to the attack will determine whether the injured party intentionally or unintentionally provoked the dog. Under these circumstances, injured parties should consult an experienced dog bite attorney who will evaluate their case. After evaluating the specific circumstances, an attorney can help injured parties understand the best course of action.
Can I sue if my child suffered a dog bite injury in St. Petersburg?
When a child suffers injury from a dog attack, a parent or guardian may be entitled to file a St. Petersburg dog bite lawsuit. Unfortunately, young children are the most vulnerable to severe dog bite injuries because their faces and bodies are at the same level as a dog’s mouth. However, different laws apply when a child, as opposed to an adult, suffers injury from a dog bite. The law maintains that children under age six cannot intentionally provoke a dog nor can they knowingly trespass on a dog owner’s property. In situations where a court might place some blame on an injured adult, it will find an owner fully liable for injuries if the victim is under six years of age.
The dog owner had a “beware of dog” sign on the property. Can I still file a St. Petersburg dog bite claim?
Under Florida law, owners who have dangerous dogs must adequately warn the community of the danger by displaying signage on their property. Property owners must post signs in prominent places where visitors can easily read them, such as at each point of entry onto the property. Consult an experienced dog bite attorney after suffering an injury in an attack where an owner posted a warning about a dog.
How much is my St. Petersburg dog bite claim worth?
Unsurprisingly, the amount of compensation one is entitled to seek for injuries resulting from a dog bite depends on the unique circumstances of the attack. In each case, the underlying facts may increase or decrease the amount of compensation an injured victim may receive. Generally, attacks causing severe injuries warrant greater compensation than those involving only minor injuries. Under Florida law, severe dog bite injuries may lead to broken bones, multiple bites, or lacerations, requiring stitches or reconstructive surgeries. Some factors that may influence the value of a dog bite claim include:
- The severity of the dog bite injuries;
- The nature of the injuries, especially when a dog bite victim suffers injuries that leave permanent scarring or cause disfigurement;
- The amount of time a dog bite victim or parent of a victim had to spend away from work while recovering;
- The extent of medical expenses, including ambulance and emergency room services, hospitalizations, reconstructive surgeries, prescription medications, and follow-up doctor’s appointments;
- The costs of mental health services, when necessary for injured parties to learn to cope with the trauma of the attack; and
- The amount of physical and emotional pain and suffering caused by the dog bite injuries.
How long will it take to resolve my St. Petersburg dog bite claim?
The time required for parties to reach a settlement agreement may vary. In cases where the dog owner is clearly liable for damages, the parties may settle before the case ever proceeds to court. In other situations, the dog owner might try to deny liability by suggesting that a victim provoked the dog leading to the attack. Additionally, insurance companies are businesses aimed at maximizing profits by reducing costs and payouts. You can expect the dog owner’s insurance carrier to make every effort to devalue your claim, if you are clearly entitled to compensation. For example, insurance companies might attempt to discredit a claim by arguing a child’s injuries are less severe than you claim. Obtaining legal representation to evaluate your claim can help you accurately estimate the true value of your claim.
How can I get more money for my St. Petersburg dog bite claim?
Receiving compensation for injuries related to a dog attack is not always as simple as reporting the attack to the police and contacting a lawyer. Injured parties may need to take additional steps to protect their legal rights and increase their chances of maximizing compensation. To preserve the value of a dog bite injury claim injured victims should:
- Seek immediate medical treatment. Dog bites can result in serious, sometimes life-threatening infections. After sustaining an injury from a dog attack, victims should seek a medical evaluation as soon as possible. A medical evaluation is not only important for your health and safety, but also can provide valuable evidence of the causes and extent of your injuries. Make sure to attend all follow-up doctor appointments and follow your prescribed treatment so that insurance companies cannot discredit the true value of your claim.
- Gather witness information. If you are able, speak with anyone who witnessed the dog attack before they leave the scene of the accident. Collect witnesses’ contact information and inquire whether they may be willing to provide a statement. Witness statements can help determine liability after a dog attack.
- Keep meticulous records. Should you retain an attorney, they will need documentation of the costs of your injury to estimate the amount of compensation you may be entitled to seek. Any damages you suffered as a result of your dog bite injuries, including economic and non-economic losses, may be included in your claim. Keep track of receipts, medical bills, and payroll information to demonstrate your economic losses. Use a journal to note the extent of your injuries and their impact on your life, as well as any complications or indications of progress throughout recovery. A daily journal is a valuable tool for an attorney to use when calculating non-economic losses.
Should I accept a settlement offer from an insurance company after a St. Petersburg dog bite?
Never verbally accept a settlement or sign a settlement agreement offered by an insurance company without first consulting an experienced attorney. Insurance providers commonly offer injured victims a settlement soon after a dog bite accident, hoping to avoid a larger settlement or jury award later. The offers are typically designed to entice dog bite victims by attracting them with quick cash, however, initial settlements are almost always insufficient to fully cover victims’ losses. In addition, when you formally accept a settlement offer, you will often be required to give up your right to seek any additional compensation for your injuries. To ensure you receive fair and adequate compensation, consider the first offer as a jumping-off point for negotiations, and allow an experienced dog bite attorney to negotiate with insurance representatives on your behalf.
Do I have to testify in court in my St. Petersburg dog bite case?
The law incentivizes both sides in St. Petersburg dog bite cases to settle to avoid additional expenses associated with litigation, but sometimes a settlement is simply not an option. Whether or not your case proceeds to trial, you may need to provide a statement under oath during a deposition. You do not need to testify in open court unless your case goes to trial. In any case, an attorney can prepare you for what comes next.
Did a Dog Bite You? Contact a St. Petersburg Dog Bite Lawyer Today
At Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman, we understand the challenges you face in the aftermath of a severe dog bite injury, especially if your child suffered the injury. Our skilled legal team is here to help you seek damages for the losses you’ve incurred as a result of your injuries. Contact us today online or at 833-552-7274 for a free consultation to discuss the details of the dog attack, how it affected your life, and to learn more about how we can assist you. We take cases on a contingency fee basis, so you do not have to pay an upfront fee. Instead, we deduct our fees from any compensation we secure for you. And with offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach us, including here in St. Petersburg.
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