Under Florida law, a dog owner can be held liable for any injuries resulting from a dog bite in a public or private space. Florida is a “strict liability” state, which means an owner can be held liable for a dog bite, even if they were not previously aware of the aggressive nature of the animal. Most importantly, Florida dog bite laws do not require the victim to prove their injuries were a result of an owner’s negligence.
Under Florida law, a dog owner can be held liable for injuries if it can be proven that the dog bit the victim and that the victim was either in a public space or lawfully on private property. If a victim was injured under circumstances other than those listed above, it may still be possible to bring a personal injury claim against the owner. In these cases, the victim will have to prove the owner acted negligently or failed to use reasonable care, which caused the injury.
Victims may be able to recover compensation for their injuries under one of the following common law claims:
- Negligence: An owner may be found negligent if they failed to provide a level of care similar to how another reasonable person would have acted under the same circumstances.
- Negligence per se: An owner may be held liable if they violated statutes or regulations that are put in place to protect and ensure the safety of the public.
- Scienter: Known as the “one bite rule,” this provision allows anyone with knowledge of a dog’s attack history or attempted bites to be held liable for damages.
- Intentional tort: In certain cases, a claim, such as battery, may be pursued if the owner intended for the dog to attack the victim.
Dangerous Dog Statute
The dangerous dog statute is an important statute within Florida dog bite laws meant to protect the public from dangerous dogs.
In serious cases, an aggressive dog may be declared dangerous under Florida law. In these situations, the owner must take specific precautions and follow strict rules regarding the animal. They can be held criminally responsible for any injuries caused by a dangerous dog.
The dog must be registered with local authorities and kept in a secure location that is appropriately marked with dangerous dog warning signs. If the dog is taken off the premises, it must be restrained with a harness or leash and a muzzle.
Florida dog bite laws consider a dangerous dog as:
- A dog that has aggressively attacked, bitten or caused severe injury to a person. Any attempt to attack or endanger a person is also considered dangerous behavior.
- A dog that has seriously injured or killed another animal more than once.
- A dog that has chased or aggressively approached a person without being provoked.
Limitations in Dog Owner Responsibility
Although under most circumstances Florida dog bite laws allow an owner to be held liable for injuries caused by their dog, there are certain instances in which an owner’s liability can be reduced or even eliminated.
These limitations can include:
- If the victim was unlawfully on the property.
- If the victim was provoking the animal.
- If the dog was defending its owner or someone within the immediate vicinity of the dog from a perceived threat or attack.
Additionally, if the owner of a dangerous dog has proper warning signs and precautions in place, they most likely will not be held liable for any damages. However, the victim may still have grounds to file a claim depending on other circumstances.
In situations where the victim had some fault in the attack — such as if they provoked the dog — the damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to the victim.
Because dog bite claims can be complicated, it is important to contact a reputable attorney as soon as possible to review the details of your claim.
Florida dog bite laws are complex and determining the level of liability that should be placed on an owner can be complicated. That is why having an experienced attorney by your side is critical in helping ensure that you receive fair and just compensation for your injuries and suffering.
Remember, in Florida, you generally don’t need to establish that the dog’s owner was negligent; they will generally be held liable even if they were not previously aware of the aggressive nature of the animal.
If you or a loved one has suffered from a dog attack, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call Miller Trial Law today at (305) 697-8312 for a free, no-risk consultation. We look forward to serving you!