The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 4 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, 800,000 of whom require medical attention. Dog bites are serious, and so are the personal injury lawsuits that often follow such attacks. But can a dog owner always be held liable for the injuries caused by his or her dog? Certainly not, but here in Florida our state’s dog bite laws are much more favorable to plaintiffs (i.e. the people who are suing) than the dog bite laws in some other states.
Dog Owner Liability in Florida
Under section 767.04 of the Florida Statutes the owner of a dog that bites any person who is in a public place, or is lawfully on private property (including the property of the dog’s owner), is liable for damages suffered by the bitten person, regardless of whether the dog had acted viciously in the past or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.
Q: What if the bitten person provoked the dog or acted negligently in some way? Is the dog owner still fully liable?
A: Florida law addresses this situation by stating that if a bitten person’s own negligence was a proximate cause of the biting incident, then the dog owner’s liability is reduced by the percent that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the incident.
Q: Is a dog owner still liable if the biting incident occurred on private property that had a posted sign warning visitors to beware of the dog on the premises?
A: In Florida, a dog owner can limit his or her liability under some situations by posting a sign warning visitors of the dog. In fact, an owner is not liable in Florida for a bite that occurs on private property if at the time of the incident the owner had displayed an easily readable sign in a prominent place that included the words “Bad Dog” (so long as the victim was not under the age of six and the damages were not proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner).
It is also important to note that dog owners in Florida can also be held criminally liable for injuries caused by their dogs under some circumstances. Under the Dangerous Dog Act (Florida Statutes section 767.13) a dog owner can be charged with a misdemeanor if their dog was previously designated as “dangerous” (or if the owner knew that their dog had acted aggressively in the past) and then subsequently attacks or bites a person or a domestic animal without provocation.
Let Us Help You with Your Case
If a dog has bitten you first seek medical attention and then contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Piccin & Glynn, Attorneys at Law. Our Ocala based firm handles dog bite cases throughout Florida and would be happy to help you pursue the compensation to which you are legally entitled. To get the ball rolling you can either call us at (352) 351-5446 or reach us via our online contact form.