DOG BITES ACTIONS
Are you the owner of a fur baby that may have attacked another individual?
Have you been attacked and injured by an animal?
The State of Florida is a “strict liability” state, which means that an owner of a dog may be liable if his/her dog bites someone – even if the owner had no prior knowledge or warning that his/her dog may bite another person. The victim does not have to prove that the owner did not use reasonable care in securing the animal.
Section 767.04 of the Florida Statutes provides that a dog owner is liable for injuries if:
(1) the dog bites another person; and,
(2) the person is in a public place or lawfully on or in a private place.
It is essential to realize that Section 767.04 of the Florida Statutes only covers injuries that are caused by dog bites. Nonetheless, if a dog injures a victim in any other manner, that individual may be able to prove the owner is liable for the injuries sustained. In that case, the victim may have to show the owner of the dog was negligent and failed to use reasonable care, which resulted in the person’s injury.
When does a victim have to file a lawsuit?
Florida’s statute of limitations requires a victim to file a lawsuit within four years of the date of the dog bite. That is quite a long time to file a lawsuit; however, if you miss the deadline, the court will not consider the case. Therefore, it is important to file the lawsuit before the statute of limitations has passed.
Does a dog owner have any defenses? Yes.
First, if applicable, the owner can raise trespassing as a defense. As stated above, the dog owner is only liable for the injuries sustained if the victim is lawfully on or in a private place. Thus, if the victim trespassed on the property, and the dog attacked and injured the person, the victim may not be entitled to collect damages.
Second, if applicable, the owner can raise comparative negligence as a defense. If the victim partly caused the dog bite, then the amount of damages the owner may pay could be reduced to an amount equal to the percentage of the victim’s part.
The following is an example of how comparative negligence would work in a dog bite case. Say you visit your family member for an anniversary party, and you did not see the family member’s dog, you step on his paw, and then the dog bites you. At court, the jury may find that you are 40% responsible for the injury, your family member is responsible for 60% of the injury, for total damages sustained is the amount of $1,000. Under Florida Statutes and the comparative negligence law, you would only receive a total of $600 of the total damages sustained (i.e., $1,000 less $400 (or 40%), representing your portion of responsibility for the injury).
If you have any further questions regarding Florida’s dog bite laws, please contact Kimberly M. Soto at 321.972.2279 so she can further advise you.