Dog Bites and Other Injuries

Monday, October 22, 2012

Florida has some pretty specific laws governing dog bites and other injuries caused by dogs. These laws help determine who is responsible for the animals’ actions and under what circumstances.  It can become fairly technical sometimes and each situation will depend on the specific facts involved.  An attorney can help interpret the law and advise what can be done.  Whether you are the victim of an attack or the owner of a dog, you need to know what the law provides. 

Dog Bites

The most common type of incident involving animals is, of course, a dog bite.  In Florida, the law actually distinguishes between injury by an actual bite and injury by other contact such as being scratched or knocked down, but, as a practical matter, the owner of the dog is responsible for the injuries and damages caused.  This includes medical bills, plastic surgery, lost time from work, torn clothing, etc.  It can even apply to veterinary bills for a dog injured by another dog. While it used to be that the owner was not responsible unless he knew the dog was vicious, that requirement no longer applies and the owner is liable regardless of such knowledge; the dog no longer gets a free bite in Florida.


This rule of absolute or strict liability is, however, subject to some exceptions.  One is that the victim did not antagonize or provoke the attack by something he did, such as teasing the dog or going into the dog’s pen.  Another is trespassing on the property where the dog is.  A third exception is where the owner has posted a “bad dog” warning sign where it can readily be seen.  In such cases, responsibility for what the dog did is reduced  by what the victim did, and this could limit the damages recoverable based on the percent of fault as determined in court.


Florida also has some specific rules about vicious dogs and these are sometimes quite harsh.  Dogs that roam about and kill livestock can be killed on sight and the dog’s owner is liable for the damage caused by the dog.  A dog can be classified as “dangerous” or "a risky breed" if it has a history of attacks and serious bites and once that happens, the dog must be registered and kept in a securely enclosed area.  If that dog bites or attacks anyone, the owner is charged with a crime and the animal is destroyed.


Other people besides the owner of the dog may be held responsible for its actions too.  For example, a landlord who allows a tenant to have a dog can be responsible if the dog bites someone on the rented property, but only if the landlord knows the dog is dangerous.  Someone having control of the dog, although not the owner, may also be responsible for it, but only if he or she knows of the dangerousness of the animal.


Finally, it is important to understand that not all homeowners or business insurance covers dog bites and attacks.  Some policies exclude this or limit it unless it is requested.  If you are a victim, this may mean you will have trouble getting compensation even though you are in the right.  If you are a dog owner, you should check with your insurance agent to make sure you are covered adequately.  Again, each case is different and competent legal advice is needed.  Feel free to contact Draper Law Offices for help with Kissimmee person injury law issues.

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