Dog Bites and Attacks

The laws in Florida are comparatively favorable for dog bite victims. Some states have what is called the “one-bite” rule, meaning that a dog’s owner is liable for injuries only if he knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous. In other words, a dog’s owner will not be liable the first time the dog attacks someone, as long as the dog hasn’t displayed dangerous behaviors before (biting, growling, etc.). Florida is not a one-bite state, so you can receive compensation for your First Coast dog bite injury, even if the dog has not displayed a vicious propensity in the past. Florida Statute 767.04 reads, in relevant part, “The owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.” Similarly, Florida Statute 767.01 provides that “owners of dogs shall be liable for any damage done by their dogs to a person or to any animal included in the definitions of “domestic animal” and “livestock.” This is not to say that a dog’s owner will be found liable in every case where his dog injures someone. If the owner shows that the person who was bitten had kicked, teased, or otherwise provoked the dog, the damages can be reduced under the theory of comparative negligence. This means that if a jury finds that your injury was 10 percent your fault, the damages you are awarded will be reduced by 10 percent. Another important exception to Florida’s strict liability dog bite rule is that a dog’s owner is not liable if the injury occurs on the owner’s property and there is a prominent and easily readable sign on the premises that includes the words “Bad Dog.” This exception does not apply to children under the age of six, however. If you have been attacked by a dog, a First Coast dog bite attorney may be able to help you recover damages for past and future medical treatment, emotional trauma, lost wages, and items damaged in the attack. If you are not already represented by a dog bite lawyer, please contact John Fagan for a free evaluation of your case.