Dog Bite Injuries
Dogs are our companions and friends. For many households, dogs are considered a member of the family. However, a small percentage of dogs of all breeds give other dogs a bad name so to speak. That's right, a dog can be quite less than a friend or companion when that dog bites a person. In virtually all communities, there are frequent incidents of dog bites that are reported to the police and animal control offices. Many such dog bite incidents go unreported. Whether a dog bite is reported to the authorities or not, the dog bite victim is left with quite a harrowing experience in being bitten or attacked by a dog. In the aftermath of a dog bite incident, a dog bite victim can and should seek legal advice, consultation, and representation.
A dog bite injury is considered a personal injury case or claim. However, there are unique laws and insurance issues that apply. It is important for the dog bite victim to seek out an experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney to make sure that legal rights are protected and enforced. The State of Florida has adopted a "Strict Liability" standard for dog bite cases. In other words, a dog owner is strictly liable or responsible for the damages / injuries caused by a dog bite incident regardless any knowledge of prior aggressiveness of the dog AND regardless of the negligence (if any) of the dog owner. Florida's "Strict Liability" standard is quite different that the laws in other states which may allow for "one free bite" or may require proof of negligence or prior knowledge of the aggressiveness of the dog. Again, Florida has adopted a "Strict Liability" standard for dog bog incidents and cases. While dog bite incidents are indeed categorized as personal injury cases, dog bite incidents are handled a bit differently than other personal injury cases like automobile accidents and premises liability cases.
The key Florida Statutes on point for dog bite incidents are as follows:
767.01 Dog owner's liability for damages to persons, domestic animals, or livestock .-Owners of dogs shall be liable for any damage done by their dogs to a person or to any animal included in the definitions of "domestic animal" and "livestock" as provided by s. 585.01.
767.04 Dog owner's liability for damages to persons bitten .-The owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners' knowledge of such viciousness. However, any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person's negligence contributed to the biting incident. A person is lawfully upon private property of such owner within the meaning of this act when the person is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when the person is on such property upon invitation, expressed or implied, of the owner. However, the owner is not liable, except as to a person under the age of 6, or unless the damages are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner, if at the time of any such injury the owner had displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words "Bad Dog." The remedy provided by this section is in addition to and cumulative with any other remedy provided by statute or common law.
While the above laws are somewhat favorable to the dog bite victim, there are many issues and challenges that arise in dog bite cases or incidents. One such challenge or issue involves the availability or lack of availability of applicable homeowner's insurance / liability insurance. Most dog bite incidents involve dogs owned by a person than that a business or governmental entity. If a person is bitten by a dog owned by an individual, then there could be a case or claim pursued against the homeowner's insurance policy for the dog owner. Here are factors that will lead to coverage for a dog bite incident:
- The dog owner is a homeowner.
- The dog owner has homeowner's insurance coverage on the home.
- The homeowner's insurance policy contains coverage for dog bite incidents.
- The homeowner's insurance policy DOES NOT EXCLUDE dog bite incidents from coverage.
If the dog owner is a renter of the home, there may be dog bite insurance coverage under a renter's policy; however, most people do not bother to purchase and obtain renter's insurance. Furthermore, many of these renter's insurance policies exclude coverage for dog bite incidents.
With dog bite incidents, homeowner's insurance coverage is a big and important issue for both the dog bite victim and the dog bite attorney handling the case. From a practical standpoint, if there is no applicable homeowner's insurance in place for dog bites, this will make it a bit more challenging form a practical standpoint for the attorney to pursue the case further. Of course, a dog bite case should be evaluated on its own facts, circumstances, and merits.
A property owner, who is not the dog owner, may also be liable for the personal injuries caused by the dog residing on the property. However, a property owner, who is not a dog owner, is not strictly liable in the State of Florida the damages / injuries caused by the dog bite incident. For a property owner to be held liable or responsible, negligence or fault must be proved against the property owner. In other words, the evidence must show that the property owner failed to act reasonably OR acted unreasonably in light of notice or knowledge that property owner had prior to the incident taking place.
Because of the complexities of dog bite cases, it is important to retain the services of a Florida Personal Injury Attorney or a Florida Dog Bite Injury Attorney to properly investigate the issues of liability and insurance coverage.
David A. Wolf has over 30 years of experience serving clients and the community in the field of personal injury including dog bite cases. He is the author of the book - When a Dog Is Not Man's Best Friend - The Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims . The book will be published in the Spring of 2016.