In the United States, dangerous dogs kill one person every seventeen days. Moreover, a significant proportion of these animals attack strangers without any provocation whatsoever. In other words, serious dog bite injuries happen a lot, and they can happen anytime or anywhere.
Fortunately for victims, Florida has one of the strongest anti-dog bite laws in the country. Because of the random nature of these attacks, dog owners in the Sunshine State are strictly liable for the bite damages that their animals cause. This section of the Florida Statutes in an explicit rejection of the old one-bite rule.
How to Win Money in a Florida Dog Bite Case
The strict liability law does have some holes. It only applies to “bites” and “owners.” Many people suffer serious injuries from non-bite injuries, such as knockdowns and lacerations. Moreover, the owner is not necessarily in charge of the animal at the time of attack. The owner is still legally responsible in these cases, but the custodian may be responsible for damages in these cases as well.
In addition to strict liability, wherein victims need only prove cause, some other animal attack theories in Florida include:
- Scienter (Knowledge): If the dog walker, veterinarian, or other custodian knew or should have known that the animal was potentially dangerous and the animal causes damages, liability attaches. Evidence of knowledge includes baring teeth, growling, snapping, and prior biting.
- Negligence Per Se: Most municipalities have very specific laws regarding fences, leashes, and other animal restraints. If the owner or custodian broke one of these laws and that violation substantially caused the injuries, the owner or custodian is responsible for damages.
- Landlord Liability: Landlords have a legal duty to protect their tenants from injury. So, if the landlord has rules prohibiting certain dog breeds and a prohibited breed causes injury, liability attaches.
- Negligence: If the owner, custodian, or any other third party demonstrates a lack of care, that party may be responsible for damages. For example, a school is negligent if a teacher allows kids to play with a stray dog.
Compensation in Florida dog bite cases includes money for both economic damages, such as medical bills, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. Both are very costly. Animal attack medical expenses tend to be very high, due to the vicious nature of these attacks. Furthermore, many victims, especially younger ones, usually suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms for months or even years following the attack.
The Provocation Defense in Florida
Insurance companies almost always raise this defense, which is an offshoot of the contributory negligence rule. Essentially, insurance company lawyers claim that the dog only attacked because the victim provoked the animal.
However, in this context, “provocation” has a very narrow meaning. Teasing and taunting is usually not enough. Instead, the victim must inflict such severe pain upon the animal that it justifies a violent response. Moreover, the provocation defense does not apply as a matter of law if the victim was a young child.
Work With Experienced Attorneys
Substantial compensation is available after unprovoked animal attacks. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).