Dog Attack in Florida: Who is Liable

Have you been the victim of a dog bite or other animal attack in Florida? Perhaps you walked over to your neighbor’s house to drop off some mail that had accidentally been delivered to your house. Instead of a thank you, the neighbor’s dog rewarded your kindness by rushing the fence, knocking you down and biting you on the hand, requiring stitches and a surgical procedure to fix. This resulted in costly medical bills as well as forcing you to miss time from work because you were unable to use a computer or write as a result of your injuries. Dog bites often can result in serious personal injuries. In many cases, the dog owner may be liable for your injuries suffered as a result of a dog bite or other animal attack in Florida.

Florida Law Regarding Dog Bites

The scenario of a dog biting someone is so common that the Florida Legislature has specifically enacted legislation relating to dog bites. This legislation, which appears in Section 767.04, Florida Statutes, sets forth a dog owner’s liability in the event his or her dog bites someone in Florida. Under that statute, the owner of a dog that bites someone who is in a public place, or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.

A Dog Owner’s Defenses to Claims Relating to Dog Bites

A dog owner is not completely without rights if his or her dog bites someone. Under Florida’s dog bite statute, any negligence on the part of the person bitten reduces the dog owner’s liability for any injuries or damages the dog bite victim suffered. This is a legal principle called comparative negligence that means the injured person cannot recover for any injuries that a jury determines to be that person’s fault. As an example, if the neighbor in the example above sticks her hand through a fence knowing that the dog is a “vicious” breed, and a jury determines that 30% of the injured neighbor’s $10,000 in damages were caused by her own negligence, then the neighbor would only be entitled to recover $7,000 against the dog owner.

In addition, Florida law also provides a defense for a dog owner who displays a sign in a prominent place warning that his or her dog is dangerous. If the dog owner displays such a sign, then he or she is not responsible for any injuries caused by his or her dog unless the injured person was under the age of 6 or was injured by negligence on the part of the dog owner.   To again borrow the example above, if the dog owner had displayed in a prominent place a warning sign indicating the dog was dagerous then the dog owner would not be liable to the injured neighbor for any of the $10,000 in damages and injuries suffered as a result of the dog bite incident. (This assumes the dog owner was not negligent in keeping the dog back from a fence or taking other reasonable measures to protect other persons from his dog.)

Damages Awardable in a Case Relating to a Dog Bite or Other Animal Attack

If you have been injured by a dog bite or other animal attack in Florida, you are entitled to recover damages consistent with any losses and injuries you have suffered. This includes any medical bills, which are related to the dog bite or animal attack, any lost income a victim may have suffered as a result of the dog bite and any other damages the victim may have suffered. This could include damage to any personal property, such as if the animal knocks the neighbor in the example above down and also breaks a diamond ring she was wearing and her cell phone. In that case, the neighbor also would be entitled to recover for the value of the damage to her cell phone as well as her diamond ring.

Contact Our Firm if You Have Been the Victim of a Dog Bite Incident or Other Animal Attack in Florida

If you have suffered injuries from a dog bite or other animal attack in Florida, contact our firm today. We have extensive experience representing the victims of dog bite incidents or other animal attacks.

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