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Another One Bites the Dust: Understanding Florida Dog Bite Laws

If you or a loved one was bitten by a dog and suffered a serious injury, you may have the grounds to pursue a personal injury claim against the dog’s owner. Under Florida law, a dog owner is held “strictly liable” for the actions of their pet, pursuant to Florida Code Section 767.04. This means that the dog owner can be held accountable for their dog’s actions regardless of the circumstances.

Understanding Florida’s Dangerous Dog Statute

Under Florida law, if a dog is deemed “dangerous,” the animal must be registered with the authorities and be permanently identified as such. The owner of a “dangerous” dog must take specific steps by protect the public at large. For example, the dog is to be kept in a secured area with warning signs at all entrances that notify people of the dangerous nature of the animal. If the dog is taken outside, the dog must be restrained by a muzzle and walked by someone older than the age of 18.

However, keep in mind that there is generally no liability for a dog bite from a dangerous dog if the following factors exist:

  • The victim is six years of age or older,
  • The bite occurred on the dog owner’s premises, and
  • If there is an “easily readable” sign that displays “bad dog” or “beware of dog.”

In addition to the Florida Code, there are other legal foundations to pursue a potential dog bite claim. For example, you could pursue damages if the dog owner failed to execute a level of ordinary care that a reasonable and prudent person would in the same, or similar, situation. This would be a “negligence theory” for a dog bite personal injury claim.

Understanding The “One Bite Rule”

Florida has a “one bite rule” which means that a dog bite victim can pursue damages when the dog has a history of biting people or coming close to biting people. The dog owner can be held liable if it is established that they were aware of the dog’s propensity to bite a person.

Proving a Dog Bite Case

In a strict liability state, you have no burden of proof to show that the dog owner was at fault. However, it does not mean you simply get to walk into court and get a favorable judgment. For example, there are instances where the dog owner can raise mitigating factors that may affect your damages assessment.

How Comparative Negligence Can Affect Your Dog Bite Injury Case

Comparative negligence takes into account any actions, or inactions, by the victim that may have contributed to the injury. A judge and/or jury can include these actions in assessing what to award the victim in a verdict. For example, if a jury determines that the dog owner was 75 percent at fault and the dog bite victim was 25 percent at fault, that means a verdict in favor of the victim would be reduced by 25 percent. However, comparative negligence will only be applied if you are over the age of 6.

Speak to an Experienced Florida Dog Bite Lawyer Today

As you can see, Florida dog bite laws can get complicated. That’s why you need to speak to an experienced dog bite injury attorney right away. Gillette Law, P.A. is centrally located to serve clients in Florida and Georgia. Contact us online, or call us at 904-358-1304 or toll-free at 888-366-5904. If you are unable to visit one of our offices, we can meet with you in your home or hospital room.

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