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Dog Bite Law

March 9, 2018

Orange County Personal Injury Attorney

This month, a Putnam County man was attacked and bitten by three dogs.  According to the article, the man “was jogging along East Cowpen Lake Road on Feb. 24 when his exercise was interrupted by three dogs.  According to the offense report, the three unleashed dogs came from one property.”  The article goes on to say that the man recounted he saw them “out of the corner of my eye, they were right on me. All I had was shorts on and shoes.”  The man stated that the “only thing I could do to keep them at bay was to try and kick them.”  Unfortunately, the dogs did not stop, even after he fought them off with a stick.  He was left with seven dog bites and multiple puncture wounds.

This harrowing account demonstrates the danger that untamed dogs can be to unsuspecting pedestrians.  You may not realize that if you are attacked by a dog, you are more than likely entitled to compensation from the owner.  Dog owners have a responsibility to train their dogs, keep them tame, and ensure that they do not attack or bite others.

Florida statute § 767.04 states that dog owners are “liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.”  Section 767.04 applies to anyone in public, and those lawfully on private property.  If the person bitten contributes to his own injury through carelessness or provocation, this “reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident.”  To lawfully be on the private property of the dog owner, according to the statute, you must be performing “any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States,” or be there by invitation from the owner.  However, the owner may not be liable if they prominently display “on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words ‘Bad Dog.’”  This prominent display does not apply if the one bitten is under the age of six, or if the dog owner carelessly causes the dog bite.

Some jurisdictions abide by what is called the “one bite” rule.  Another way to think about this rule is that the dog owner must be on notice that he or she is the owner of a vicious dog before the law will attach liability for a dog bite.  This is also sometimes called the “free bite” rule because dog owners will not be held liable for the first instance of biting.  As demonstrated above, § 767.04 does not follow the “one bite” rule.  In Florida, dog owners are held liable “regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”  Dog owners in Florida are held strictly liable for their dog’s viciousness, and their liability is only reduced if the one bit somehow contributed to the bite.

Some jurisdictions impound dogs immediately or quarantine them after an episode like the one the man from Putnam County experienced.  Other jurisdictions are laxer on their enforcement.  Regardless, it is important that if you have suffered any injury, to document it right away.  If you plan on seeking compensation for your injury, you should contact a lawyer to advocate on your behalf. Dog owners may be reluctant to take responsibility, or even pay for your medical expenses.  Dog bites can result in infection and may be so severe that they require ongoing medical treatment.  The statute of limitations may also completely bar your recovery if you do not file on time.

Bryan W. Crews is a seasoned Orange County personal injury attorney with decades of experience.  If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite, contact Bryan W. Crews for a free case evaluation.

March 11, 2018
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