There is much confusion surrounding dog bite liability in Florida. Some people erroneously believe that a dog gets ‘one free bite’. Fortunately, this is not true and all dog owners are liable for injuries caused by their dogs — even for the ‘first’ bite.
Florida Statute 767.04 is the Statute that governs dog bites and holds that even if your dog has never exhibited vicious behavior previously, the dog owner is liable if their dog bites another person in public or while that person is lawfully in a private place.
Like many states, Florida has adopted strict liability as the legal standard for dog bite cases. This means that a victim need not show that her injuries were a result of the dog owner’s failure to employ a certain level of care. Instead, the owner is held strictly liable for those injuries, and the victim is permitted to recover monetary damages as a result. However, like most rules, there are a few exceptions that may apply or reduce the amount of liability on the part of the dog owner. These exceptions include:
- At the time of the bite, the victim is not in public or lawfully on private property. For instance, a trespasser may not be able to collect damages for his dog bite injuries, as he was on private property without permission to be there.
- There is a clearly visible sign reading, “BAD DOG” that is prominently displayed on the property, and the owner did not act negligently in causing the dog bite.
- The victim acted in a way that provoked or encouraged the dog to bite.
If someone sufferes a dog bite injuries under different circumstances than what the above standard provides, they may still recover under four alternative theories:
- Negligence. A dog owner is liable if she failed to exercise a certain level of care that any other reasonable dog owner would have, and, that owner’s failure to exercise such care caused the dog to bite the victim and result in injuries to that person.
- Negligence Per Se. There is a presumption that if a dog owner violates a law or regulation already in place to ensure the safety of others, she has acted in a negligent matter. For example, if you are walking your unrestrained Rottweiler through a public park where dogs are not allowed, and that Rottweiler suddenly bites another visitor, that visitor may be able to sue under negligence per se for his injuries.
- Scienter. Any owner with knowledge of her dog’s prior attacks or attempted bites may be held liable for damages. This theory is commonly known as the “one bite rule.”
- Intentional Torts. It should go without saying – when an owner intentionally provokes his dog to bite another person, the victim may pursue a claim under an intentional tort action (such as battery), holding the dog owner liable for the victim’s injuries.
Like any injury, dog bites range in severity. They can leave a victim with a minor wound or result in life altering injuries. If you have suffered injuries due to a dog bite, contact the Personal Injury Law Office of Chelsie M. Lamie, P.A., where we fight to get victims the compensation they deserve.
Attorney Chelsie M. Lamie is a personal injury attorney located in Safety Harbor, Florida. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, slip and fall accident or dog bite, please call 727-501-3464 for a free consultation. You can also learn more about Attorney Lamie at www.chelsielamie.com.