In America and around the world dogs are considered to be the ideal pet, because as a general matter, most dogs are fun, friendly, and kind. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 36% of all households in America own at least one dog, but even the most avid dog lover knows that a dog can be violent and aggressive at times. This aspect of a dog’s nature is demonstrated by the fact that so many people, including our own government, use dogs as a means of protection – but those who use dogs in such a manner have an obligation to protect the general public from their animal. We, as common citizens, expect dog owners to take this responsibility seriously, because a dog bite can cause a person to sustain very serious injuries.
This point is demonstrated by the fact that, according to the CDC, nearly one out of every five people bitten by a dog require medical attention. Moreover, according to the Florida Department of Health, over 600 Floridians are hospitalized every year due to injuries from dog bites. In Hillsborough County specifically, the Florida Department of Health has indicated that there were 1,330 emergency room visits due to dog bites in 2017, and the likelihood that a dog bite will occur is amplified when a dog is off of its owner’s property without a leash. A study conducted by the Florida Department of Health from 2009 to 2010 found that 32% of the dog bites examined occurred while a dog was both off their owner’s property without a leash. Due to the serious injuries a dog bite can cause and some of the clear instances of negligence on the part of a dog’s owner, Florida law allows dog bite victims to seek compensation from a dog’s owner for injuries sustained as a result of a dog bite, but there are some very specific provisions of Florida’s dog bite laws that every accident victim should be aware of.
Dog Bite Laws in Florida
As the statistics above demonstrate, dog bites are a common occurrence in Florida. In fact, dog bites are so common that the Florida Legislature has passed very specific statutes that dictate the extent of a dog owner’s liability if their dog attacks or injures a human or another person’s animal. Fla.Stat.§767.01 states very clearly that owners of dogs shall be liable for any damage done by their dogs to a person or to any “domestic animal” as defined by Fla.Stat.585.01(10). Under this portion of Florida law, domestic animals are defined as:
- Any equine or bovine animal
- Domestic cats
- Any other domesticated beast or bird
Although Fla.Stat.§767.01 establishes that a dog owner is liable for any damage done by their dog to a human, dog owners are not liable in every situation where their dog attacks a person or animal. Fla.Stat.§767.04 states that a dog owner is only liable for damages when their dog attacks a person who is:
- Lawfully on public property
- Lawfully on private property
- Lawfully on the dog owner’s property
Critical Factors when Proving a Dog Bite CaseSo, if you have been bitten by a dog, you need to establish a few important facts: First, you will need to demonstrate that you were on either public or private property lawfully, and second, you will need to establish that the dog’s owner did indeed own the dog that bit you. These two factors will allow you to meet your burden of proof under Fla.Stat.§767.04. In addition to these factors, you will also need to prove that you sustained legally recognized damages and that the dog bite was the cause of these damages.What Can You Get Compensated For After a Dog Bite?Dog bite victims often hire attorneys who specialize in dog bite cases to represent them for a few reasons. First and foremost, dog bite attorneys understand exactly what type of evidence is needed to successfully prove the critical factors previously discussed. Moreover, dog bite attorneys can effectively project and justify the highest amount of damages possible in your case based on their experience as a legal practitioner. Damages in any dog bite claim can be separated into two categories: punitive damages, and compensatory damages. Compensatory damages, which are the most common type of damages awarded in a dog bite claim, compensate you for things such as:
- Medical bills
- Future medical care
- Lost wages
- Disfigurement or scaring
- Pain and suffering
- Mental Anguish
In contrast, punitive damages are awarded to punish the dog owner for their behavior in an effort to deter them from repeating their actions in the future. However, punitive damages are only awarded in cases where the judge or jury has found that the dog owner committed gross negligence or intentional misconduct. As such, punitive damages are typically only awarded in the most egregious dog bite cases, and the determination as to whether or not you should pursue an award of punitive damages should only be made with the guidance of a dog bite attorney in Tampa.Connect with a Dog Bite Attorney in Tampa TodayDog attacks occur every day in the Tampa Bay area, but you don’t have to let a dog bite injury ruin your future. 1800-Injured is a lawyer and medical referral service that connects accident victims with dog bite attorneys in the Tampa area. If you or a loved one has been bitten or attacked by a dog, Call 1-800-Injured today to be connected with a dog bite attorney in Tampa immediately.