Debunking Some Insurance Company Defenses in Dog Bite Claims
Any dog can bite any person at any time. And, especially if the victim is a child, even a small dog can cause a serious injury. As a result, dog bites make up over a third of the homeowners’ insurance claims in Florida. The per-claim average has increased substantially since 2015.
If you were the victim of an animal attack, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. That’s especially true in Florida, where the laws are favorable. A Brandon personal injury attorney can obtain compensation for your economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Since so much is at stake, insurance company lawyers fight hard to reduce or deny compensation in these matters.
Dog Bite Injuries
Compensation is generally high in dog bite claims, and the legal fight is usually a tough one, because of the nature of these injuries.
Physically, injuries begin when an animal lunges at the victim. These knockdown injuries are especially severe if the animal is a large mastiff breed dog, like a pit bull, and the victim is a small child or an older person. These knockdowns usually cause broken bones and even serious head injuries.
Then, when dogs bite, they normally cause both deep puncture wounds and severe slashing lacerations. The dog’s teeth usually pierce internal organs. Since these organs have no protective skin layer, any wound usually bleeds profusely. As for the tearing lacerations, these wounds usually require extensive corrective and reconstructive surgery.
Emotionally, many dog bite victims experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms. Victims deal with things like an unnatural fear of all dogs, nightmares, and flashbacks. These symptoms only improve after months of therapy.
The Provocation Defense
In the ordinary sense, “provocation” is a very broad word. Particularly when an animal is involved, provocation could mean sudden movements, loud noises, or anything else that the dog perceived as potentially threatening to itself or its owner. Additionally, provocation is not necessarily intentional. People do provocative things all the time even though they intend no harm.
But in a legal sense, “provocation” is a very narrow word. Typically, people only provoke animals when they intentionally inflict a high degree of pain on the animal.
As a result of all this, insurance companies usually try to hide behind the provocation defense. But given the narrow definition of this defense in Florida, the doctrine rarely applies. That’s especially true if the victim was a young child.
The Assumption of the Risk Defense
Many animal attacks occur on or near the owner’s property. Since many owners display signs like “Beware of Dog,” the assumption of the risk defense sometimes comes into play in these claims. But a warning sign is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. Such signs simply make it easier to establish the elements of assumption of the risk, which are:
- Voluntary assumption of
- A known risk.
Sign-based assumption of the risk assertions often come down to the victim’s reading comprehension ability, or lack thereof. The victim must be able to read the sign and understand what it means. Otherwise, the victim did not voluntarily assume a known risk.
The nature of the sign may be relevant as well. For example, was it large and prominently displayed, or was it small and partially concealed behind a tree?
Connect with Dedicated Attorneys
Insurance company lawyers usually pull out all the stops in dog bite cases. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).