If you've been bitten by a dog in Florida, you should contact a personal injury attorney. There are laws in Florida that make the owner of a dog that bites liable for any injuries you receive. The degree of liability the owner will face is determined by a number of factors. These factors, plus the severity of your injury, will determine the amount of money your personal injury attorney can recover for you in court. Your opponent's attorney will use these laws to their advantage, so it is important that your attorney is experienced in dog bite cases so they can do the same. Here are three things you need to know about dog bite laws in Florida.
1. The Owner of the Dog Is Always Liable
Some states have laws that eliminate a dog owner's liability in cases where the owner had no way of knowing the dog would bite, and the dog never showed any sign of viciousness in the past. This is not true in Florida.
According to AnimalLaw.Info, the owner of a dog in Florida is liable for a bite even if the dog never showed any previous sign of viciousness. It doesn't matter if the owner had previous knowledge of the dog's temperament or not, and it doesn't matter where the dog was when it bit you. The owner is always liable for your injuries from the bite.
2. Florida's Comparative Negligence Law May Reduce Your Monetary Award
Though the owner of the dog is always at least partially liable if the dog bites someone in Florida, that liability may not be 100 percent. This is due to Florida's comparative negligence law that looks at how much of the bite's blame can be assigned to the owner, and how much can be assigned to some other factor (even if that factor is you).
For example, a dog could be leashed properly and perfectly well-behaved. You may even know the dog and have interacted with it in the past. If you accidentally step on its foot or make a sudden move that startles it and it bites you, then you are partially responsible for the bite. The same thing is true if something like a passing motorcycle startles the dog and makes it bite...the motorcycle rider has part of the blame.
When the owner is not 100 percent responsible for the bite, your award in court will be reduced accordingly. So, for example, if you are awarded $100,00, but the owner is found to only be 75 percent liable, then your award will be reduced to $75,000.
3. There Are Two Exceptions to the Strict Liability Rule in Florida
There are two exceptions to a dog owner's automatic liability for their dog biting you in Florida. These two exceptions are:
- If you were trespassing on private property where the dog lives or was being kept
- If you provoked the dog on purpose in some way, such as by physically abusing it or taunting it
In these cases, you will probably not be awarded any money in court. This is because the bite will be looked upon as entirely your fault. These are the only times when a Florida court will side with the owner of a biting dog over the person who was bitten.
Florida dog bite law is usually pretty clear about the owner being at fault, regardless of the circumstances of the bite. However, comparative negligence can reduce your financial award, and you may not be entitled to any compensation at all in two rare circumstances. If you've been bitten by a dog in Florida, contact a personal injury attorney today to discuss the details of your case.