Florida Dog Bite Liability
At least 4.7 million people each year become victims of a dog bite. The number of incidents should come as no surprise considering that approximately 78.2 million dogs are kept as pets in households across the United States. Estimates place the dog population in Florida at more than 11 million.
The large size of the dog population increases the likelihood of dogs and humans coming into contact with each other on an almost daily basis. Unfortunately, frequent contact also means an increased risk of becoming a dog-bite victim. Of those people bitten by a dog, approximately 800,000 of them are injured seriously enough each year to require treatment at a hospital emergency room.
Putting a Dollar Amount on Dog Bite Liability
The serious injuries that a dog can inflict upon someone can cause the victim to incur damages that include:
- Expenses for medical care and rehabilitation
- Lost earnings
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent scarring and disfigurement
Insurance claims nationally totaled $489.7 million in 2012, the last year for which figures are available. The average claim paid to a dog bite victim in Florida is $38,400, and the total amount paid by insurance companies in the state totaled almost $6 million.
Strict Liability for Dog Bites in Florida
Many states protect owners of dogs from being held liable through what has become known as the “one-bite rule.” A dog bite victim has to prove that the owner of the dog either knew or should have known that the dog was likely to bite. The usually way of proving this was with evidence of the dog having previously bitten someone or through proof that the animal growled, lunged at people or showed other signs of being aggressive.
Florida Statutes section 767.04 imposes strict liability on the owner of any dog that bites someone regardless of any past history of aggressiveness or biting. This applies whether the attack takes place in a public area or on private property. It even allows for a claim by a dog bite victim who is lawfully on property where the dog is kept.
Trespassers who ignore warning signs posted by the owner of a dog are prohibited from recovering damages if they are bitten. Owners of dogs that are provoked into attacking by the victim are also protected from being held liable under the state’s strict liability law.
Liability of People Other Than a Dog’s Owner
A property owner, such as a landlord who rents a home or apartment to a tenant, might be held liable to pay compensation to the victim of a dog bite. If a property owner knows, or has reason to believe, that a dog is being kept on his or her property, the property owner may be responsible if the dog attacks someone.
Some landlords attempt to avoid liability by inserting clauses into a lease shifting responsibility for bites inflicted by a tenant’s dog to the tenant. Such a clause may or may not avoid a lawsuit against both the owner of the dog and the property owner, so property owners should protect themselves with a liability insurance policy that will help pay the costs of defending a lawsuit and paying any claims that might arise from a dog bite injury.
The Importance of Getting Legal Advice About Liability Issues
and Dog Bites
There are many complex legal issues pertaining to liability in cases in which the victim of a dog bite sues of damages. The knowledgeable attorneys at The Felicetti Law Firm P.C. are ready to help you with legal advice and guidance if you suffer an injury related to a dog bite.
Call us today at (800) 707-1954 to schedule an appointment. You can also contact us through our website.