Dogs make excellent pets. They are called man’s best friend. Nonetheless, sometimes a dog can attack you causing severe injuries, psychological trauma, or even death. The Florida Department of Health reports that more than 600 Floridians are hospitalized, and around two die from dog bite injuries annually. Inapt dog behavior management is the leading cause of these bites at 26%.

Any dog owner aware their dog is dangerous must always restrain it. Failure to do so amounts to negligence. If you sustain injuries from a dog bite, you must speak to an injury attorney to file an injury suit to hold the owner accountable and pay for your damages.

Florida Dangerous Dog Breeds

A dangerous dog, per Florida law, has previously caused severe injuries or death of another animal outside the owner’s property. However, even if a dog has never shown aggressive conduct in the past, it will be deemed dangerous if it attacks you or another person on or off the owner’s property. Specific dog breeds pose a greater risk of aggressive behavior than others. Particular states prohibit people from keeping certain dog breeds, but Florida does not do that. Instead, they rely on dog behavior to distinguish between vicious and non-dangerous ones. Examples of dangerous species include:

  • Chow chows
  • Akitas
  • Pitt Bulls
  • Rottweilers
  • Malamutes
  • Great Danes
  • German shepherds
  • Wolf hybrids

Even though a dog appears on this list does not mean it possesses aggressive conduct. However, insurance adjusters will make it challenging to receive compensation when you sustain bite injuries from particular dog breeds.

Florida Dog Bite Statutes and Liability

Florida adopts the strict liability doctrine regarding dog bites unless you were trespassing when you sustained the injuries, there is a ‘dangerous dog’ warning sign on the property, or you were commissioning a crime. Under Fla. Stat. Sec. 767.04, a dog owner will be strictly liable for your injuries if their dog bites in a public place or when legally on private property. The owner will be accountable even if they did not contravene the law or their dog has no history of aggressive behavior.

You, the victim of the bite, could be held partially liable for the injuries if the owner claims you were negligent or provoked the dog. Under these circumstances, the comparative fault will apply. If their argument is successful, the damages you were to receive for the harm caused by the dog will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned by the court to you that led to the dog’s aggressive conduct. For instance, if you provoked or teased the dog when it attacked and the defendant proved it, the court will allocate you a percentage of the blame. The damages will be reduced in proportion to the negligence percentage.

You should understand that you will not have a liability claim if bitten by a military or police dog.

Negligence and Dog Bite Liability

In addition to strict liability, the dog owner can face liability for negligence or recklessness when they engage in an act or fail to do something a sober dog owner could have done in the same situation. However, you will be the person to demonstrate to the court that the owner’s negligence or recklessness caused your injuries and other damages like medical bills, loss of income, and pain.

In a personal injury claim, the burden of proof shifts to you, the plaintiff, and you must prove with a preponderance of the evidence that the action by the dog owner amounts to negligence.

Negligence per Se in Dog Bite Claims

Leash laws in Florida are intended to keep the public safe. Therefore, when an owner violates these statutes by allowing a dog to roam without a leash, they breach the negligence per se doctrine and should be accountable for damages or injuries caused by a dog attack. The state has no leash statutes covering the entire state. Nevertheless, counties have ordinances that must be adhered to. In Volusia County, when a dog is outside the owner’s property or in public spaces, it must be restrained, controlled by voice command, or leashed.

In Orange County, dog owners should put a leash on the dog in public or outside their private property. Also, in Flagler County, dogs should be on a leash whenever they are in a residential or public area.

When a dog owner intends or provokes their dog to attack you, you can file an intentional tort to seek reimbursement for the harm caused by the bite and damages.

Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Injury Claims 

You only have four years to file an injury claim for dog attack injuries. The time frame accrues the moment you are bitten. If the duration provided by the law lapses without filing a claim, you relinquish the right to pursue compensation for your injuries.

Dog Bite Injuries in Florida

The injuries from a dog bite can be catastrophic and life-changing, so personal injury law allows you to sue the dog owner for financial losses stemming from the bite and injuries. The common injuries you will sustain after a dog attack are:

     1. Cuts and Lacerations

In a dog attack, the claws will scratch you causing lacerations and cuts on your body. A minor blemish will disappear in days, but a major one will need suturing and medical attention. Again, if the dog scratches and bites you, drawing blood, you must see a doctor to administer antibiotics to prevent bacterial infection.

      2. Scratch Marks

When a dog attacks, it scratches you with its claws. If the scratches are minor, they will disappear within days, but if they are deep, you will need stitches, so you must visit the hospital.

      3. Abrasions

If the dog that attacked you is strong enough to knock you off your feet, you will develop abrasions. These injuries involve the wearing down of the skin and usually look like brush or grass-burn injuries. Minor abrasions will heal within weeks, but the severe ones will take time and often cause scarring and other invisible marks.

     4. Permanent Scarring

If a dog bites you, it causes deep wounds that cause scarring once they have healed. Scarring is common in instances where the injury requires closure using sutures. If the wounds are on the face, you develop facial scarring, which changes your appearance and causes low self-esteem and social anxiety.

     5. Bite Marks

A dog attack usually results in a bite. You will develop teeth marks around the bite area based on the extent of the nip. If the bite causes a puncture wound, you must stitch it up to close it.

Other Injuries

Additional injuries you can sustain from a dog attack are:

  • Fractured bones
  • Permanent damage
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Injuries to children

Also, a dog attack can result in injuries that are not necessarily caused by the bites. You are entitled to compensation if an overexcited dog jumps on you, causing you to trip and fall. Furthermore, if a dog scratches you with its claws, the scratched area will become infected and need to be treated. Again, you could sustain harm when fleeing from the vicious dog.

Damages you can Obtain from a Dog Bite

When attacked by a dog in Florida, you need an injury attorney to help you seek compensation for the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Physical therapy
  • Lost income
  • Pain and anguish
  • Scarring
  • Loss of life enjoyment
  • Loss of earning capability
  • Loss of limb
  • Out-of-pocket expenses

When a dog bite results in injuries, you should consult an injury lawyer to assess your claim and determine whether you have a case. If there is one, the attorney will help you estimate the available damages and whether they are worth pursuing.

The Process of Making a Dog Bite Injury Claim

The majority of dog bite injury cases are resolved outside of court. However, if a settlement cannot be reached, you can formally resolve the situation by filing a lawsuit in court against the dog owner's insurance company. The owner's insurance policy is usually where you can make the claim. The stages are essential in determining whether you will be compensated before filing the claim. The following essential actions are necessary for you to achieve success in your claim or injury lawsuit:

Recording Your Injuries

To increase the chances of a settlement before even going to court, you must prove you sustained injuries from the dog bite. Therefore, your first step after the attack should be to document the injuries. You can do this by taking pictures of the scratches, abrasions, lacerations, and other damages you have obtained from the animal attack. If you cannot take the images yourself, you can ask someone to do it on your behalf.

When injuries from the attack prevent you from working, you should record the days you have missed and the income you have lost. Also, you should report the dog bite to the county health or animal control officer. Even if you are unaware of the dog's owner, you should make a statement to the local police.

Again, when seeking treatment, make sure to collect medical records and receipts because you will need them to prove your out-of-pocket costs and medical bills

Finding Out the Dog Owner

Sometimes you will not immediately recognize the owner of the dog that attacked. If this is your case, talk to the local animal control officer or an investigator to help trace and identify the person.

You can only sue the dog's owner and not the dog. Therefore, building a claim will only be possible if you identify the dog's owner. To determine whether the information you have gathered is sufficient to identify the dog's owner, speak with a personal injury lawyer with experience handling dog bite cases. If not, the attorney should use their investigator and the little information you have to trace the owner.

Reach Out to the Dog Owner

If you locate the owner, let your attorney contact them and inform them of your incident. You could feel tempted to reach out in person, but this is not advisable, primarily if they are your friend. The owner could be so attached to the dog that telling them you are suing for the bite could upset them. And to try and comfort the dog owner, you could end up making self-incriminating statements that could be used to apportion blame, deny or reduce your compensation.

Luckily, an injury attorney will guide you on approaching the dog owner to retain your right to sue. Your legal counsel will send a demand letter and relevant supporting documents. These documents include the following:

  • Medical reports
  • Medical receipts
  • Pictures of the bite injuries
  • Lost income paperwork

Dog owners carry liability insurance as coverage if their dog bites someone. Therefore, an insurance adjuster will be assigned the case when you send the demand letter. You can be sure money will be available to pay for the claim, but because insurers are making profits, the adjuster will try to delay, deny, or reduce the amount you claim as reimbursement. Attorneys know these ploys by adjusters and will have strong proof when they send a demand letter.

When the insurer sends an offer for settlement, take your time accepting it, as the first offer is not always the best. Ensure adequate compensation for your losses by having your attorney negotiate a great settlement offer.

You should proceed to court to file a lawsuit if, despite several attempts at negotiation, the insurer still refuses to comply with your demands. No insurer wants to go to court. Filing a suit will compel them to enter into a settlement. If their offer is inadequate, you should proceed with the case and go to trial. However, before you go to trial, you must seek your attorney’s advice. The lawyer will evaluate your case and advise whether you should accept the offer, negotiate, or proceed to trial.

Find a Profound Dog Bite Injury Attorney Near Me

A severe dog bite can result in life-altering injuries like deep wounds, bone fractures, or other conditions that require expensive medical care and keep you from working or having fun. Therefore, you should seek financial compensation for all the losses incurred. If a dog has injured you, do not hesitate to contact a Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney to help you claim damages. Dial 904-800-7557 for a no-obligation consultation or a face-to-face meeting at 542 S. Edgewood Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32205.