In Florida, if an aggressive dog attacks you, seek medical treatment at once, and then arrange to discuss your legal recourse with an Orlando dog bite attorney.
If another person’s dog attacks you, what are your rights? Can you file an injury claim against the owner and seek damages? What does Florida law say? Keep reading – you’ll learn the answers to these questions, more about dog bites in Florida, and more about your rights.
Dog bites are serious business. Many bite patients are treated for open wounds and gashes on the skin, but some bites also lead to serious staph and strep infections. Every year in the U.S., about 4.7 million dog bites are reported. In 2018, biting dogs were the cause of 36 deaths in the U.S.
WHAT INJURIES DO DOG BITES CAUSE?
Dogs use their surprisingly strong jaws and teeth to rip into food and flesh. When these animals target human beings, their bites often cause severe injuries, significant blood loss, and serious nerve damage.
Sadly, small children are the most frequent victims of biting dogs. The elderly are also dog bite victims in disproportionate numbers. For many victims, recovery from a dog bite can take months and may require long-term therapy and multiple surgeries.
When a dog that bites someone shows symptoms of rabies, or if that dog can’t be located, a rabies vaccination may be required. Dog bites also cause disfigurement, muscle and tissue injuries, and for some victims, lasting psychological scars as well.
WHAT IS STRICT LIABILITY?
Florida is a “strict liability” state for dog bite injuries. What does that mean? Under Florida law, if a dog bites someone, and if that person is in a public location or lawfully in a private location, the dog’s owner is held liable for any injuries.
Strict liability means that the dog’s owner is liable for dog bite injuries even if he or she had no previous knowledge or warning that the dog might bite someone.
In practical terms, strict liability means that a dog bite victim does not have to prove that the dog’s owner was negligent, but only needs to prove that he or she had a legal right to be at the location (that is, the victim was not trespassing) and that the animal was not provoked.
HOW ARE DOG BITE INJURY CLAIMS RESOLVED?
If you and your attorney can prove that, the dog’s owner may agree – or may be ordered by the court – to compensate you for your medical expenses, lost wages, and your other dog bite-related losses and damages.
If you become a dog bite victim in Florida, after you’ve been examined by a medical professional and after you have obtained medical treatment, the right personal injury lawyer can determine if you have an injury claim and who may be held liable.
If you are injured by a biting dog and you file an injury claim against the owner, your claim will probably be resolved out-of-court when the attorneys for both sides meet privately to hammer out a settlement agreement. Dog bite cases rarely go to trial.
WHAT IF YOUR BITE INJURY CLAIM IS CHALLENGED?
However, if the dog’s owner disputes an injury claim, the owner may offer one or more of the defenses listed here. If no reasonable settlement offer is made in the private negotiations, and if a dog bite injury case goes to trial, a dog owner and his or her attorney may argue that:
- The dog bite victim was trespassing and on the property unlawfully.
- The dog bite victim provoked the dog.
- The dog was defending its owner or someone else from a perceived threat or attack.
If a dog bites you while you are provoking the animal, trespassing on another person’s private property, or committing a crime, you will probably be prevented from taking legal action and from obtaining any damages from the dog’s owner.
PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY
You can usually – but not always – tell when a dog is about to bite. Knowing a dog’s signals can keep you from serious injury. Before biting, dogs may growl menacingly, bare their teeth, or bark angrily. The dog’s body can become rigid, with hackles standing on its back and neck.
But not every dog will exhibit these signals before biting. Teach your children these rules for encountering strange dogs, and remember them yourself if you encounter a dog that you do not know:
- Do not try to touch or pet the animal.
- Do not make eye contact or approach the dog.
- Don’t scream or run. Remain still and quiet.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER ANIMAL ATTACKS?
Florida’s strict liability dog bite law covers only the injuries caused by dog bites. However, if a dog or any other pet injures you without biting – by knocking you over and injuring you, for example – you can still take legal action with an injury claim based on negligence.
In such cases, you and your attorney will have to prove that the pet’s owner was negligent – for example, by failing to leash the dog – and that the owner’s negligence was a direct cause of your personal injury or injuries.
The statute of limitations in Florida gives an injured victim of negligence four years to file a personal injury claim, but if you are a dog bite victim, there is no reason to wait. In fact, the sooner you put an attorney on the case, the more likely it is that your injury claim will prevail.
YOU PAY NO ATTORNEY’S FEES UNTIL YOU ARE COMPENSATED
At a first legal consultation, a Florida personal injury attorney will review the details of your dog bite case and provide sound, personalized legal advice regarding the best way to proceed. For the injured victims of negligence, there is no charge or obligation for that first meeting.
If you think that you can’t afford an Orlando personal injury lawyer to help you with a dog bite claim, consider this. Personal injury lawyers in Florida represent their clients on a contingent fee basis, which means that you pay no attorney’s fee unless you win and until you are compensated.
Dog bite victims – and the other injured victims of negligence in Florida – are entitled by law to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and all other injury-related losses and damages. If you are the victim of a dog bite or another animal attack in Florida, the law is on your side.