Friday, April 3, 2015

Liability For Dog Bites In Florida

Dog bites are frightening occurrences that can cause serious injury. However, the ability of a dog bite victim to receive compensation from a dog owner varies widely from state to state due to the difference in state dog bite laws. The following is some information regarding dog bite laws and dog owner liability in Florida. If you or your child has suffered injury from a dog bite, you should never hesitate to contact an experienced attorney who understands dog bite laws and cases in Florida.

Strict liability standard

Some states require that a dog owner know that a dog has a propensity to bite based on previous behavior. This is often referred to as the “one bite rule” since dogs in these states are generally allowed one bite before an owner is held legally liable. Florida law,1 however, sets out a strict liability standard for dogs bites, which means that dog owners may be held responsible in many situations whether or not the dog has ever displayed vicious or dangerous behavior in the past. This may be true if the bite occurred in a public place, on private property, or even on the private property of the dog owner. This strict liability standard gives dog victims are greater opportunity to recover for their injuries and losses even if a dog had never before attacked anyone.

Defenses to strict liability

Liability is not automatic in dog bite cases simply because a victim brings a legal claim, however, as the dog owner does have the opportunity to raise certain legal defenses that may limit or eliminate liability completely. The following are some common and available legal defenses in dog bite cases:

·         The victim of the dog bite was a trespasser on the dog owner's property and did not have either express or implied permission to be present on the premises. Note that mail workers or others who are carrying out duties under state or federal laws are not considered to be trespassers.
·         The victim of the dog bite provoked the dog in some manner to incite the attack.
·         The dog owner had a sign on their property that was easily visible and prominently displayed that included the words “Bad Dog.” This defense only applies if the bite took place on the property and if the victim was over the age of six (since many children under the age of six may not be able to read and/or understand the implication of such a sign).

Legal issues in Florida cases involving small children

There are some particularly legal issues that may arise if a dog bite victim is under the age of six in Florida. First, as part of most dog bite cases, the court must determine whether the bite victim was comparatively negligent in provoking the dog or otherwise negligently ignoring the potential dangers of their actions around the dog. However, Florida law assumes that children under six years old do not have the capacity to understand the danger or to be negligent in this manner. Therefore, provocation is generally not an available defense when the victim is under six.

Additionally, the courts can also look at whether a parent's failure to adequately supervise their child led to the occurrence of the dog bite. If the parent did not properly supervise the child, they may be found to be comparatively negligent2 and the compensation from the dog owner may be reduced accordingly. Since a child generally will not file a claim against their own parent, this often results in a smaller recovery.

Call for a free consultation with an experienced Clearwater dog bite attorney today

As you can see, many different legal issues may arise in dog bite cases, with both parties often arguing back and forth about who should be held responsible or not. For this reason, you should always seek assistance from an experienced attorney who knows how to bring dog bite claims under Florida law. At the Dolman Law Group, we believe dog bite victims should be able to recover for all of their physical and mental injuries, so please call us today at 727-451-6900 for a free consultation.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
(727) 451-6900