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    Florida’s Dog Bite Laws: What Victims Need to Know

    Florida’s dog bite laws are designed to protect victims by holding dog owners strictly liable for injuries caused by their dogs. This means that if a dog bites someone, the owner is generally liable for the victim’s injuries without the victim needing to prove the owner was negligent.

    Read on for an overview of what victims need to know about Florida’s dog bite laws.

    1. Strict Liability

    Under Florida Statute 767.04, dog owners are strictly liable for any damage their dogs cause to a person or to another domestic animal. This applies whether the bite occurs in a public place or while the person is lawfully in a private place, including the property of the dog owner. This law simplifies the process for victims to claim compensation because they do not need to prove that the dog owner knew the dog was dangerous or that the owner was negligent. This also applies to harm cause by the dog even if not bitten.  This would include being chased by a dog that might bite the victim.

    2. Exceptions to Strict Liability

    There are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, if the victim had provoked the dog, the amount of damages the victim can recover may be reduced. Florida uses a comparative negligence system, which means that if a victim is found partly responsible for their own injuries, their compensation may be reduced by their percentage of fault.

    Additionally, if the dog bite occurs on the dog owner’s property and the property is clearly marked with a sign that includes the words “Bad Dog” or “Beware of Dog,” the owner may not be held liable if the victim is 6 years of age or older and the injury was not caused by a negligent act of the owner or by a violation of a local leash law.

    3. Leash Laws and Local Ordinances

    Victims should also be aware of any local leash laws or other local ordinances that may affect their case. Many Florida municipalities have specific regulations regarding leash requirements, registration, and restraint of dogs. Violation of these local laws by the dog owner can further support the victim’s claim.

    4. Damages and Compensation

    Victims of dog bites can seek compensation for various damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. In some severe cases, punitive damages may be awarded if the owner’s behavior was particularly reckless or negligent.

    5. Statute of Limitations

    In Florida, the statute of limitations for filing a dog bite claim is four years from the date of the bite. This means that victims have two (2) years to file a lawsuit against the dog owner to seek damages. Failing to file within this time frame typically prevents the victim from pursuing compensation.

    6. Insurance Coverage

    Most of the time recovery for a dog bite is against the homeowner’s insurance coverage of the dog’s owner.  However more and more insurance companies are excluding injuries caused by dogs in their policies unless the owner gets a specific rider.  If you own a dog, check with your insurance company to make sure you are covered for any damage or injury your dog might cause.

    Common Dog Bite Injuries

    Dog bites can cause various personal injuries, some of which may lead to serious complications. Here are the most common types of injuries resulting from dog bites:

    • Puncture Wounds: These are typically deep, narrow wounds made by the dog’s teeth. They are prone to infection due to bacteria from the dog’s mouth.
    • Lacerations and Abrasions: These cuts and scrapes can be severe and might require stitches to heal properly.
    • Broken Bones: Larger dogs can exert enough force in a bite to break or fracture bones, especially in the hands or arms.
    • Nerve Damage: Deep bites can damage nerves, potentially leading to long-term issues like loss of sensation or impaired motor function.
    • Infections: Dog bites can introduce harmful bacteria, leading to infections such as cellulitis or, more rarely, rabies.

    Prompt medical attention is crucial to treat these injuries adequately and minimize the risk of further complications.

    If You’ve Been Bitten by a Dog in Florida

    If you have been bitten by a dog, take these important steps:

    • Seek Medical Attention Immediately: Ensure your injuries are treated properly to prevent infections and obtain medical records for legal use.
    • Report the Incident: Report the bite to local animal control or the sheriff’s department to document the incident officially.
    • Gather and Document Information: Collect details about the dog, its owner, and any witnesses. Take photos of your injuries and the location of the attack.
    • Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney: Speak with a personal injury attorney who specializes in dog bite cases to understand your rights and explore your compensation options.
    • Keep All Records: Keep records of medical treatments, expenses, and lost wages, which will be crucial for your claim.

    These steps will help protect your health and legal rights after a dog bite incident.

    Understanding Florida’s dog bite laws is crucial for victims seeking justice and compensation. These laws provide a framework for holding dog owners accountable and offer a clear path for victims to recover damages. If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog, it is advisable to consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney to understand your rights and the potential for compensation.

    Article by:

    John Leighton

    A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite


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