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Dog Bites in Florida: What You Should Know and Do

Dogs can be our best friends, but they can also become our worst enemies when they bite. The prospect of a dog bite is one that no one wants to deal with. Even the smallest dogs can do some damage when they make contact with the right part of the human body. And unfortunately, dog bites don’t just cause pain. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, dog bites can result in serious injury or nerve damage.

Additionally, dog bites can become infected and place a bite victim at risk for illness or in rare cases, even death. In dog bite cases, a plaintiff’s cause of action is usually regulated by a so-called dog bite statute, under which the defendant-owner is generally liable for damages inflicted by his dog on any person while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the owner’s property, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge thereof.

In some states, dog bite cases may be governed by the laws of negligence or strict liability. The latter theory requires that the plaintiff prove the dog was known by the owner to be vicious or dangerous prior to the time it inflicted the present injury. Such knowledge is commonly referred to as “scienter,” and can be difficult to establish.

Florida’s Dog Bite Statute

In Florida, the dog-bite statute supersedes the common law and provides the exclusive remedy in dog-bite actions brought by an economic invitee against a business establishment which owns the dog. Section 767.04 imposes absolute liability upon the owner of a dog for any injury caused by the dog regardless of scienter and provides absolute defenses by which a dog owner may escape liability from a dog bite injury inflicted by his dog. One of those absolute defenses, and the one at the center of the instant dispute, is that a dog owner may escape liability if an easily readable sign with the words “Bad Dog” is displayed in a prominent place on the premises.

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 owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon private property of the owner when the person is on the property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of Florida or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States or when he or she is on the property upon invitation, expressed or implied, of the owner.

Liability Against Dog Owner

Owners of dogs are liable for any damage done by their dogs to a person, a domestic animal, or livestock. Florida law, the first two essential elements for pleading and proving a dog bite action against the dog’s owner are that the defendant is the owner of the dog and that the defendant’s dog bit the plaintiff. The final element can be met by and of the following: Plaintiff, when bitten, was either in a public place or lawfully on private property and at the time of any such injury the owner had not displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words “Bad Dog”; or Defendant was under the age of six and suffered damages that were proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the dog owner; or Plaintiff (who is over the age of six) has suffered damages that are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the dog owner, if at the time of any such injury the owner had not displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words “Bad Dog.” These elements arise out of the dog bite statute.

This statute replaces the former common law cause of action which required the owner to have knowledge of the dangerous propensities of his dog before he could be held liable for the injuries it caused. In the text of the dog bite statute, the Florida legislature codified its finding that dangerous dogs are an increasingly serious and widespread threat to the safety and welfare of the people of Florida because of unprovoked attacks which cause injury to persons and domestic animals; that such attacks are in part attributable to the failure of owners to confine and properly train and control their dogs; that existing laws inadequately address this growing problem; and that it is appropriate and necessary to impose uniform requirements for the owners of dangerous dogs. principles.

Deadlines to File a Lawsuit

Florida has a statute of limitations that limits the amount of time an injured person has to file a lawsuit after a dog bite injury. The statute of limitations requires an injured person to get their lawsuit filed in Florida’s civil court system within four years of the date of a dog bite. If you miss the four-year deadline, the court will likely throw your case out instead of hearing it. To ensure your case will be heard, make sure it is filed before the deadline passes.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today!

Understanding Florida law and a personal injury case are best left to the experts. Factors such as the state’s no-fault law when it comes to insurance and medical expenses are tricky. Navigating the legal process alone is confusing and downright stressful. When you’re involved in any type of accident including a dog bite, you should talk to a personal injury attorney about your options going forward. There is no replacement for quality legal advice after being bitten by a dog.

The attorneys at Suarez and Montero would love to have an opportunity to explain the law in Florida to assist you in presenting a strong claim against the at fault party. At the Law Offices of Suarez & Montero, you are never just another file or claim to us—you are part of our family and your well- being are just as important to us as if you were our own family. Our skillful attorneys are genuinely committed to our clients. We will fight to make sure that you get the maximum amount of compensation owed to you. Let us help you get the medical care you need and fight to make sure you are compensated for your injuries! Our attorneys are ready to provide proven legal representation in pursuing your claim and stand ready to protect your rights.

We are available 24/7 to give you a free, no risk case consultation.