Most dogs make friendly companions and wonderful family pets. However, every so often, a dog might lash out and cause an innocent victim to suffer injuries. Dog bites can be serious and result in disfigurement, permanent scars and emotional trauma.
Under Florida Statute § 767.04, an owner can be held strictly liable if their dog bites someone who was in a public place or lawfully on someone’s private property. Regardless of whether the owner knew the dog to be vicious, they will still be responsible for the victim’s damages. In other words, it does not matter whether the dog previously bit anyone or if the owner had warning the dog might bite for them to be held responsible. The victim also does not have to prove negligence or that the owner failed to act with reasonable care to recover under the strict liability statute.
Despite Florida’s strict liability law, there are certain defenses an owner may assert, including:
- Unlawful presence — The strict liability statute requires that the dog bite victim was lawfully present on the property to recover their damages. Trespassers may be barred from recovery.
- Comparative negligence — If the victim’s own negligence, such as provoking the dog, was a proximate cause of the incident, their recovery may be reduced by their share of fault under Florida’s comparative negligence rule.
- A “Bad Dog” sign was posted — If an easily readable sign was displayed in a prominent place on the property that included the words “Bad Dog,” an owner will not be held liable for dog bite injuries. However, an owner is not shielded from liability if their own negligence caused the accident, or the dog bite victim was under six years old.
It’s critical to understand that the strict liability statute only covers dog bites. If you were knocked down or hurt by a dog in some other way, you may be able to hold the owner liable for negligence if it can be proven that the owner’s failure to use reasonable care resulted in their injury.
Dog bite injuries can be devastating — physically and emotionally. If you or your child suffered dog bite injuries, it’s vital to contact a personal injury attorney who can help ensure you obtain the maximum amount of compensation you deserve. Offering compassionate counsel and reliable representation, Frank Charles Miranda, P.A. provides high-quality legal services to dog bite victims throughout the Tampa area. Call 813-902-3925 or contact us online to schedule a consultation at our office.