With more than 89 million dogs in the United States, approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 800,000 of those bites require medical care, and children between the ages of five and nine are at greater risk of sustaining these injuries. Unfortunately, because of their height and because children put their faces close to the dog’s face, children are bitten in the face seventy-seven percent of the time.
How do Florida laws protect victims of dog bites?
Even the sweetest dogs can bite and cause injury. They can bite when reacting to a stressful situation, feeling scared or threatened, are protecting their puppies, feeling sick, or playing too rambunctiously. Whatever the reason, Florida Law almost always holds the dog’s owner liable for any injury their dogs cause, meaning that the bite victim is entitled to receive compensation. Depending on the circumstances, the owner can have a civil or criminal charge lodged against him or her.
- If the dog bite victim is lawfully on the property of the dog’s owner, or in a public place, the owners (or the guardians of the owner if they are under age) are held responsible.
- If the dog was previously deemed “dangerous,” the owner is liable. This means that in the past, the dog has aggressively bitten, attacked, endangered, or inflicted severed injury, or has, when unprovoked, chased or menaced a person in a public place.
What are the exceptions to owner-liability?
There are instances when the owner is not liable for any injuries caused when their dog bites someone.
- The dog is in the service of a law enforcement agency.
- The dog is a service dog for a disabled person.
- The person who was bitten was trespassing on the owner’s property.
- The person who was bitten was provoking or taunting the dog.
If you are the victim of a dog bite, you should find an attorney with experience in such cases. Several factors come into play when determining whether to file a personal injury claim against the dog’s owner. An experienced dog-bite attorney will be able to advise you whether you have a viable claim.
How to determine if a dog bite case is viable
Some of the most important criteria an experienced personal injury attorney will examine to determine whether a dog bite case is viable include the following.
- How serious was the injury?
- Was the victim a child or an adult?
- What area of the body was bitten?
- Do doctors believe there will be permanent scarring or disfigurement?
- How much were the medical bills and will there more bills in the future?
- Did the victim miss work and therefore, lose income because of the bite?
- Was there emotional trauma experienced because of the bite?
- Does the responsible party have insurance to pay for a claim?
If evidence of responsibility is clear, and there is proper insurance coverage, or enough resources to compensate the victim, going to court may be unnecessary. A personal injury attorney should be able to settle out of court. If there isn’t any insurance, the lawyer may conduct an assets check to see if the dog’s owner(s) has the resources to pay for the injury.
If you or a loved have been injured because of a dog bite, or have any other questions related to personal injury law, please call Julian Rudolph Law, an experienced dog-bite lawyer, at (305) 300-2702, or send us an email. Our personal injury consultations are always free.