If you own a pet, in particular a wild or exotic animal, you may be held liable if it injures someone. It is a good idea to learn about the laws governing pet ownership and liability. Depending on the circumstances, you may lose valuable assets and even your home in a lawsuit cautions a Jacksonville dog bite attorney.
Dogs are the most popular companion pet in the United States. They are also the most likely to cause injuries. Approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the U.S. each year according to the Centers for Disease Control. Approximately 20 percent of the people who are bitten by dogs need medical treatment. Dog bite injuries result in more than $1 billion in losses annually.
In most cases, if a dog bites someone, the owner will be held liable if he or she knew the dog was prone to biting and did not take steps to protect the public or was otherwise careless. If you live in a state that follows strict liability law, you will be held responsible if your dog bites, regardless of the circumstances.
The One-bite Rule
Many states follow the one-bite rule. According to this doctrine, explains a Jacksonville dog bite attorney, you won’t be held liable the first time that your dog bites someone. Once your dog either attempts to bite someone or does bite, you can be held liable if it happens again. The philosophy behind this rule is that it will act as a deterrent to pet owners and encourage them not to keep pets that they know have a tendency to bite.
Specific Breed Provisions
When someone is found liable for a dog bite, the settlement is often paid through the person’s homeowner’s insurance policy. Increasingly, insurance companies are including provisions in homeowner’s insurance policies that exclude dog breeds that are considered dangerous. Some excluded breeds may be Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and Pit Bulls.
In addition, several local and state governments have instituted statutes that either ban or restrict particular breeds. In some jurisdictions, individuals who own a dangerous breed are required to carry a specified amount of public liability insurance. Specific breed legislation has been upheld when challenged in court despite strong opposition from animal rights organizations, dog owners and the American Kennel Club.
If you are found liable for injuries caused by your pet, you’ll have to pay compensation to the victim. In other words, you will have to pay for the person’s lost wages and medical bills. If there was any property damage, such as torn clothing or broken jewelry, you will have to pay compensation for that also.
It is possible that you may be found liable to pay for the victim’s suffering and pain. For example, if the person suffers from PTSD following the incident, you may be held liable for additional costs. If the court finds you excessively negligent, you may be responsible for paying punitive damages as well.
If your pet has injured someone or you are concerned about possible future liability, you may want to consult with a Jacksonville dog bite lawyer. Please call the office of injury lawyer John Fagan at 904-278-1000 to schedule an appointment.
John is a Jacksonville native who grew up on the First Coast. He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1975 and went to college at Florida State University where he completed a 4-year program in 3 years. John graduated from the Florida State University College of Business in 1978 and went straight into Florida State University College of Law. While in law school, John earned a position on the prestigious Law Review Board serving as its Business Editor. As a law student, John studied in the Oxford program. He also interned with the Florida Legislature working in the Florida House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee. John was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1981.
John began his legal career as a law school intern in the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville in 1981. After his internship, legendary State Attorney Ed Austin hired John as a full-time Assistant State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties). As a prosecutor, John tried jury and non-jury trial on charges ranging from DUI to Murder.
In 1983, John moved from the State Attorney's Office to begin his career in private practice. He has practiced law for 30 years on the First Coast. For the last 20 years, John and his family have made Clay County their home.
John limits his practice to personal injury and disability cases. While there are many fine attorneys in Clay County, John is one of only a few Clay County attorneys who limit their practice to personal injury and disability cases. John takes pride in helping clients resolve injury claims in ways that avoid the stress, uncertainty, and the expense of unnecessary litigation.
John is the past President of the Clay County Bar Association and has served on the Board of the Clay County Bar Association from 2009-2013. He is an active member of the Florida Bar, and the Federal Bar of the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida. He is also a member of the American Association of Justice, the Florida Association of Justice, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, and the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates.
Service to the Community
John is involved in the Clay County Community serving as a member and Director of the Rotary Club of Orange Park, of the Clay County Bar Association, and the Putnam County Bar Association.
The information provided on this web site is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as legal advice. Every case is different and requires individual attention before such advice can be given. Neither the transmission nor receipt of general advice to or from our website will constitute an attorney-client relationship.