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People's Law Guide

 

Injured by a Dog Bite/Attack?

Russell M Thompson, Esq.
Website

01/31/11

If you have been injured by a dog you may have a claim against the owner of that dog for your damages. Also, if you own a dog you may be legally liable if your dog bites another person in a public place or on your own private property; even if the dog never bit a person before. Florida dog bite law is controlled by state statutes and local regulations that may differ by city and county. Florida does not have the "one-bite rule". Under Florida law, contrary to other states, you are not off the hook the first time your dog attacks someone. A dog owner is strictly liable for any of the injuries or death caused by their dog to somebody else.

If a person is injured by a dog's attack, the owner may be liable for: (a) present and future medical bills; (b) present lost wages and estimated future earnings; (c) present and future pain, scarring, and mental suffering; and (d) property damage.

Medical expenses resulting from dog bite injuries can be rather expensive, especially when scarring is involved. Scars can be permanent, and due to their small stature, children are particularly prone to bites to the head and facial area. Aside from the physical difficulties they present, scars can contribute to long-term psychological problems that can require counseling.

There are some situations that can reduce a dog owner's liability. If the victim was negligence and provoked the attack (antagonized the dog) the owner may not be entirely responsible. Another example would be when the owner tells the victim not to pet the dog because it doesn't respond well to strangers, but the victim nevertheless pets the dog and is bitten. In that case a jury may not find the dog owner liable at all, or it may apportion a percentage of the fault to the victim. However, if a dog owner knows they have a hostile pet; measures should be taken to prevent any potential attack.

Posting a sign on your property that says "Bad Dog" is a good way to warn others your dog is hostile. Owners typically will not be held responsible if they boldly display this sign unless they participated in some other form of negligence that incited the attack. The warning sign places the burden on the visitor who decides to pursue the dog. However, a dog owner may still be taken to court even if they had a visible warning sign on their property.

Homeowners' insurance usually covers dog bite injuries unless the policy specifically states otherwise. It will often compensate the victim for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, reconstructive surgery, and counseling sessions if necessary.

If you are the victim of a dog attack, consult an attorney quickly to devise a strategy to hold the proper parties accountable.

Russell M Thompson, Esq. is an attorney who has been practicing since 1985. Located in Sunrise, his office handles Personal Injury, Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death. He can be reached at (954) 316-8988, e-mail: rthompson@rmtlawfirm.com or his website at www.ForTheInjuredOnly.com

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