Many people believe that dog bites only come from breeds such as pit bulls and rottweilers; however, many animal injuries may come from breeds such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and even Poodles. They may also come from other exotic pets, including rare lizards, snakes, and primates. If you have been injured by a dog bite or other animal, a dog bite injury lawyers at Burnetti, P.A. may be able to help you receive compensation for medical bills and lost wages.
Animal Attack Injuries
A dog bite can be a serious and traumatic event, especially if the victim is a child. Attacks may cause physical injuries, including puncture wounds or deep lacerations that require stitches. The most vicious dog bites can cause lifelong injuries, and may even lead to death.
Did you incur dog bite injuries in Lakeland, FL? You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and related losses. The best way to find out what your rights are is to consult a Lakeland personal injury attorney. Reviewing Florida dog bite laws should help as well.
Florida Dog Bite Laws
Under Florida law, in order to obtain compensation after a dog bite, you should prove:
1. Statutory Strict Liability
Section 767.04 holds dog owners liable when their animal bites and injures someone. Under this section, there is no need to prove that the dog was dangerous. However, the claimant cannot have contributed to the bite and injuries in any way.
You cannot claim compensation under this section if:
- Were trespassing on the dog owner’s property
- Were bitten and injured by a military or police dog performing its duty
- The dog was vicious and caused property damage
To find out if your case qualifies for compensation, consult a personal injury lawyer in Lakeland, FL. Certainly, they know Florida dog bite laws well and can explain exactly where you stand.
When statutory strict liability does not hold, another option is to prove dog owner negligence. It means showing that the dog owner failed to act reasonably in that particular situation.
You would have to establish:
- That any reasonable dog owner would have acted in a particular way
- That the owner of the dog that bit you did not do so
- That their failure to act reasonably led to the bite and your injuries
You may find these difficult to prove. However, they are mere routine for a Lakeland personal injury attorney. The latter can turn to case precedents, specialty literature, and expert witnesses.
3. Negligence Per Se
It means showing that the dog owner violated Florida dog bite laws and related statutes. Common examples of negligence per se are dog owners walking their pet without a leash. Letting the animal roam unsupervised on the streets qualifies as negligence per se as well. This aspect of Florida dog bite laws only applies when the injuries occur during the act of negligence.
4. Intentional Torts
In some cases, dog owners intentionally cause bites and injuries. They encourage their animal to attack people. If that is your case, obtaining compensation should be easier. You will still need evidence and witnesses, though. These are easier to obtain with the help of a personal injury lawyer in Lakeland, FL.
Statutes of Limitations or Deadline for Filing a Dog Bite Compensation Claim
No matter which category your case fits into, you have a four-year deadline for claiming compensation. The countdown begins at the time of the dog bite. Exceptions may apply to cases involving minors or resulting in disability. The countdown may begin when the child becomes of age or the victim recovers from their disability.
Types of Damages a Claimant or Their Lakeland Personal Injury Attorney May Recover
Each dog bite case is different. Also, hthelosses for which you can be compensated will vary from case to case.
Depending on the particularities of the dog and the circumstances of the bite, the injuries can be:
- Bruises, cuts, and abrasions
- Bite marks
- Permanent scars
- Broken bones or fractures
- Traumatic brain injury
- Soft tissue injuries
- Temporary or permanent disability
The compensation can cover the treatment of these injuries and the pain and suffering they caused. It will also cover property damage and financial losses (income and earning capacity). In exceptional cases, the victims may claim additional losses like consortium and life enjoyment.
Obviously, the dog owner wants to avoid paying compensation. In their defense, they may try to show that:
- You were trespassing
- Somehow you provoked the dog and, caused the injuries
- You harmed the dog in the past and that justified the attack
To make sure their defense will not hold, you should hire a personal injury attorney. They will explain everything you need to know and take over all the formalities.
Are Dog Bites the Toughest Personal Injury Claim to Prove?
As Florida’s population continues its upward climb, the number of pets accompanying people will undoubtedly rise, too. And, with the rise of pets comes an increase in dog bites. Since attacks of this magnitude are treated either as premises liabilities or personal injuries, many calls to question just how difficult these cases are to adjudicate. While there’s no clear-cut answer, we’ll go through the process of fighting for compensation from dog bite injuries to provide clarity as to what’s involved with Florida’s dog bite statute and claims against owners.
First, Your Incident
Whether walking down the sidewalk or attending friendly social gatherings at friends’ homes, dogs don’t usually pick when or why they attack; sometimes they just don’t feel comfortable around certain people or may be reactive to certain scents. Nonetheless, you were attacked without provocation, and need immediate ambulatory care.
If you’re wondering whether the animal owner is culpable for their dog’s angry outburst, the short answer is yes. You have probably spent the time since getting bitten evaluating what legal recourse may be available, but more importantly, how much of these medical bills will be covered by insurance.
Although the dog may have free will, if it is capable and likely of causing damage or harm to any individual then it is up to the owner to control it and remove it from situations where incidents, such as biting, can occur.
Next, the Medical Bills and Loss of Income
Much like other personal injuries, dog bites will leave victims without gainful employment throughout the duration of their recovery. Months if not years of physical therapy could ensue. With no income, many cannot pay healthcare bills and everyday living expenses.
How much victims can collect, if anything, depends on what losses are incurred, and the likelihood the claim is payable. Stipulations may apply.
Laws and Potential Defenses to Dog Attacks
Florida has adopted strict liability dog bite laws that make pet owners liable for their pets’ actions, regardless if the owner knew an attack was imminent or it happened by complete surprise. FLSA 767.04 makes dog owners liable if the victim is on one’s premises, and indeed bites.
But pet owners are afforded defenses to claims, much like any personal injury accident. For one, was the dog antagonized to the point of aggression? Was the person who was bit lawfully on the premises, or did they break in? These are two primary defenses.
Upon successful application of either pet owner defenses, an element of comparative negligence may occur which could lessen the amount victims receive. Victims who, for example, accidentally step on the dog’s tail, or knock over their food bowl, could be partially responsible for their own injuries.
In determining victim compensation where victims had some responsibility, amount of total dog owner liability reduced by the percentage of the victim’s negligence. So, if the jury awarded $5,000 for the attack but the victim was 40 percent liable, they would get $3,000 ($5,000 – 40 percent, which is $2,000).
Florida statute dictates that victims have four (4) years from the incident to file civil suit, although its unlikely victims would wait for much longer than their recovery to file.
Who Dogs Attack Most in Florida?
The Florida Health Department collects data and offers dog bite prevention tips useful to new and experienced pet owners. According to data, 600 people go to the hospital and two people die annually from dog attacks statewide. Children under nine, specifically boys, are at highest risk of having an injury.
In nearly all available data, one constant remains unchanged: temperament is the strongest factor in how dogs react to people.
What to Do If Bitten?
To reiterate, dog bites are serious and may lead to homeowner liabilities into the thousands of dollars. You need to take certain steps should you wish to have an ironclad case in court:
- Immediately call for ambulatory care or head to the emergency room, and phone police, even if you feel the bite isn’t significant. Rabid or otherwise sick dogs can cause complications even with the smallest bite. If animal control is prudent, law enforcement will phone them on your behalf.
- Avoid hostility. Scream for help if necessary, but don’t become aggressive toward the pet owner, as this may trigger unwarranted violence.
- Make sure to note the dog owner’s address and contact information. Getting the pet owner’s information if away from home is vital.
- Contact an experienced Florida dog bite attorney, who can guide you through the civil suit process and answer any questions that arise.
Unless uninsured, renters’ and homeowners’ insurance policies cover premises liabilities claims like dog bites. This is usually why they won’t grant some policies if the breed of dog is highly aggressive by nature.
You Have Entitlement to Compensation If Bitten
Homeowners may intimidate you into taking a few hundred bucks in exchange for silence. Even worse, some pet owners may threaten legal action against you.
Make no mistake – persons injured have an entitlement to compensation for injuries by no fault of their own. Never accept offers from dog owners when injured as they’ll probably be significantly less than your case is worth.
If you’ll be away from work and require extensive medical treatment, it’s worth fighting for every penny.
Contact a Dog Bite Lawyer
If you or your loved one has been bitten by a dog or attacked by an animal, it is important to be aware of what compensation may be available to you; a law firm that handles dog bite claims can evaluate your injury and assist with legal needs.
Would you like to know more about Florida dog bite laws or get help with your case? Our Lakeland personal injury attorney can help. Schedule a consultation with us by calling 1-888-BURNETTI or filling in the online contact form. The first consultation is FREE. Also, we accept a contingency-based agreement. This means you only pay for our services if and when we win so you have nothing to lose.