411: Liability for Dog Bites in Florida
They say dog is a man’s best friend, but how good is a friend if he bites you so hard that you wind up in the hospital? This is not an exaggerated hypothetical, nor is it an infrequent problem; every day, roughly 1,000 Americans require emergency care due to dog bite injuries. With this in mind, do you know that you would probably be legally responsible if your dog inflicts injuries on someone?
According to Florida law, the owner of a dog who bites someone is liable “for the damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.” Let’s say that the dog has never so much as chased a cat in all its life and then, one day, it attacks a house guest; as the dog’s owner, despite the fact that the dog has been well-behaved up until that point, you are responsible for the damages. The excuse “there was no way for me to know the dog would attack” doesn’t fly in the State of Florida.
Now, there are some exceptions to this “strict liability” law. A dog owner may not be liable for the damages caused by the dog’s bites:
If the victim of the bite is, at the time of the incident, not on public property or not lawfully on private property. So, if the incident takes place at a public park or at a home to which the victim was invited, the dog owner is responsible. But, let’s say the victim is a thief, who has broken in (obviously without permission) and, while in the house, is bitten by the family dog; in this instance, the dog’s owner would not be liable for the damages.
If a sign warning people of the dog is present. Let’s say someone was invited to a house, and at the house that person is bitten by a dog; if there was a clearly visible, suitable sign warning guests about the presence of a dog, the dog’s owner may not be liable for the damages, unless the dog biting incident was a proximate cause of the dog owner’s negligence, recklessness or other wrongdoing. (Another caveat to this has to do with the age of the victim: if the victim was under 6 years of age, regardless of a sign being present, the dog’s owner is still liable for the victim’s damages.)
If the victim of the dog bite acted negligently in a manner that encouraged the dog biting. If the victim had been ruthlessly taunting the dog, or engaging in some other negligent manner that was a proximate cause of the dog biting, such negligence reduces – but does not necessarily eliminate – the liability on the part of the dog’s owner.
Far and away, most canine attackers are pit bulls, who comprise just 6% of the overall dog population in the U.S. but are responsible for a whopping 62% of injury-causing dog attacks. While many dogs are loving and gentle, there are some who cause great injury to thousands of people; many victims of dog attacks even die from the injuries. In accepting the responsibility of owning a dog, you must understand that you will be liable for the harm it might cause (except for in the circumstances listed above).
If you have been injured due to a dog attack in the State of Florida, please contact our experienced personal injury attorneys. For a free consultation, please contact us at the Law Offices of Aronberg, Aronberg & Green by calling 561-266-9191 or emailing us at email@example.com.