In the eyes of thousands of Americans, dogs are important members of their family. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 36% of all households in America own at least one dog and indeed, many dogs are harmless to people. Unfortunately, we, as people, understand that not all dogs are the same, and some are prone to bite or even viciously attack people. When this occurs, the effect a dog bite or attack can have on an accident victim can be catastrophic. The CDC has indicated that one out every five people bitten by a dog requires medical attention, and our children are more likely to be bitten by a dog than adults. When a child is bitten by a dog, the child’s injuries tend to be more severe. Moreover, among adults that are bitten by dogs, men are more likely to be bitten than women.

Dog bites themselves can cause severe injuries such as large cuts, nerve damage, and severe bruising, but a large amount of the physical damage sustained by a dog bite victim stems from a bite either becoming infected or being inflicted by a dog with a disease. Common diseases caused by dog bites include rabies, capnocytophaga which is a type of bacteria that is carried by dogs that can cause respiratory tract infections, gum disease, and eye infections, pasteurella, MRSA which is a type of staph infection, and tetanus. When these infections or illnesses are contracted by an accident victim, the result can lead to costly medical expenses, lost time from work, or even death, which is why Florida law allows dog bite victims to seek compensation from dog owners for the damages incurred by the victim as a result of pet owner’s negligent handling of their animal.

Florida Dog Bite Laws

target=”_blank”Fla.Stat.§767.01 states that a dog owner is liable for any damages caused by their dog to another person or to any animal included in the definition of domestic animal or livestock as prescribed by Fla.Stat.§585.01(10). Domestic animals defined by Fla.Stat.§585.01(10) include:

  • Any equine or bovine animal
  • Dogs
  • Goats
  • Poultry
  • Sheep
  • Ostriches
  • Swine
  • Emues
  • Domestic cats
  • Rheas
  • Any other domesticated beasts or birds

This means that a dog owner can be held liable not just for damages incurred by a human but also, damages incurred by a pet that belongs to another owner. Fla.Stat.§767.04 specifically defines the scenarios where a dog owner is liable for damages caused by their dog to another person. This statute also indicates what the elements of proof are required in a dog bite case over and above the regular elements needed to prove negligence. Fla.Stat.§767.04 states that the owner of any dog that bites any person while they are 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 the person(s) bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.

When is a Pet Owner Responsible for a Dog Bite or Attack?

To properly understand this statute and ultimately, some of the elements that you, as an accident victim, would have to prove in a court of law, you need to read the statute one piece at a time. In doing so, it is easy to understand that you will have to prove:

  • The pet owner did own the dog that bit you.
  • You were on public property, in a public place, lawfully on private property, or lawfully in a private place when the dog bite or attack occurred. Fla.Stat.§767.04 goes on to define being lawfully on private property or in a private place as:
    • A person being on private property in the performance of any duty imposed upon them by the laws of this state.
    • A person being on private property in the performance of any duty imposed upon them by the postal regulations of the United States.
    • A person being on private property by express or implied invitation of the property owner.
  • You sustained injuries and thus, incurred damages as a result of the dog bite.

In the case of dog bites that occur on private property, Fla.Stat.§767.04 also allows dog owners to reduce if not completely alleviate their liability if they post a prominently displayed sign on their property that is easily readable containing the words “bad dog.” However, this provision does not apply in cases involving a dog bite victim that is less than six years of age or if the damages caused by the dog were the result of the pet owner’s negligent act or omission.

Damages in Florida Dog Bite Cases

Florida law allows you to seek compensation for both compensatory and, in some cases, punitive damages from the owner of the dog that bit or attacked you. Compensatory damages can generally be placed into two distinct categories, economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages compensate accident victims for things such as both past and future medical expenses, medication costs, and lost wages while non-economic damages consist of compensation for things such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, etc.

In contrast, punitive damages are awarded to punish a negligent party, which in the case of a dog bite is the pet owner. However, Fla.Stat.§768.72(2) states punitive damages can only be awarded in cases where the defendant, the dog owner, was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. In dog bite cases, such a case could arise out of a scenario where a dog owner has violated the provisions of Fla.Stat.§767.136, which states that a dog owner is guilty of a misdemeanor criminal offense if a dog that the owner knows to be dangerous attacks or kills a human due to the owner’s reckless disregard for the dogs propensities. In these scenarios and others, a dog bite victim might be able to seek punitive damages.

Should I Hire a Dog Bite Attorney in Miami, FL?

Properly initiating and executing a dog bite suit requires legal skill and expertise, which is why hiring a dog bite attorney can be a valuable investment. 1800-Injured is a medical and lawyer referral service that connects dog bite victims with dog bite attorneys in the Miami area. Don’t let a dog bite or attack ruin your future. Call 1800-Injured to be connected with a local dog bite attorney today.