Animals can be unpredictable, particularly when they are startled, feel threatened, or feel that someone they are loyal to may be in danger. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that there are about 4.5 million dog bites in the United States each year. While many dog bite injuries are minor, some cause serious injury. Each year, a few dog attacks prove fatal.
Florida Dog Bite Statute
While many states address dog bite cases under the general law of negligence and some specifically protect dog owners from liability if they’ve had no prior notice that the dog might bite, Florida has enacted a statute specifically making a dog’s owner liable for nearly all bites. The fact that a dog owner had no reason to believe his or her dog might be vicious does not excuse liability under Florida law.
Instead, the dog’s owner is responsible for injury that occurs if the animal attacks unless:
- The person bitten was trespassing at the time of the injury; or
- The bite occurred on the owner’s property, where there was a clearly posted sign reading “Bad Dog”
Although the statute specifies the phrase “bad dog,” other terminology that makes the risk clear has been deemed sufficient. For example, a conspicuous sign reading, “Beware of Dog” or “Biting Dog” would likely suffice. However, having a sign posted will not relieve the owner of liability if the victim is under the age of six.
Negligence in Florida Dog Bite Cases
Although negligence is not required for a dog owner to be held liable for damages caused by a dog bite, negligence may play a role in a Tampa dog bite case in one of two ways:
- An owner who has a conspicuously posted “Bad Dog” sign may still be held liable if some negligence on the part of the owner was the proximate cause of the injury
- A dog bite victim whose own negligence contributed to the attack will see his or her award reduced by the percentage that he or she was responsible for the biting incident
In short, except under very limited circumstances, the victim of a dog bite will have a claim against the dog’s owner for damages. It is also worth noting that the dog bite statute is not an exclusive remedy. As such, this specific law does not preclude a dog bite victim from suing the dog’s owner under a general negligence theory or any other applicable law.
Talk to a Tampa Dog Bite Attorney
If you’ve been bitten by a dog, you are very likely entitled to compensation for your injury, including damages such as:
- Medical costs
- Compensation for any lost work time
- Pain and suffering
- Cosmetic damage and associated emotional distress
Whether you were attacked in the park, bitten by a neighbor’s dog that was running loose or suffered your injury in a friend’s living room, it is in your best interests to speak with a Tampa personal injury lawyer to learn more about your options. In many cases, the owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance will cover the verdict or settlement.
Call 1-800-253-5523 or fill out the form on this page to take the next step.