Legal Options for Dog Bite Victims
Animal attacks seriously injure tens of thousands of people every year. These injuries include broken bones from the knockdown, severe bite wounds from the bites themselves, and frequent complications, such as wound infections. Largely thanks to Florida’s strict liability law, the legal environment is very victim-friendly in the Sunshine State.
However, homeowners’ insurance companies do not simply give away compensation in these situations. In fact, the opposite is often true. Insurance company lawyers use various defenses, such as provocation and assumption of the risk, to reduce or deny compensation in these situations.
Therefore, an assertive and knowledgeable Brandon personal injury attorney is essential. Otherwise, the victim may not choose the correct legal path and be forced to settle for less.
Strict Liability Claims
Under Section 767.04, owners are strictly liable for dog bite injuries. It does not matter if the owner knew the animal was potentially vicious or not.
These claims are often quite effective, but there are some issues. The statute is clearly limited to bite injuries. Many times, the knockdown is worse than the bite. That’s especially true if the dog is a large mastiff breed, like a Doberman pinscher, and the victim is a small child. Additionally, if the victim suffers emotional injuries, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, it’s difficult to assign such injuries specifically to the bite.
Moreover, jurors may only award limited damages in these situations. Many jurors, especially pet owners, see the strict liability law as a dog ownership penalty.
This Latin word means “knowledge.” If the owner knew the animal was potentially vicious and the animal attacks someone, the owner may be fully liable for all damages, whether or not they are directly bite-related. Evidence of knowledge includes pre-bite behavior, like:
- Aggressive barking,
- Loud growling,
- Baring of teeth, and
- Sudden lunging.
Prior attacks against people or other animals may also serve as evidence of knowledge. However, such evidence may only be admissible in limited situations.
There are some pros and cons here as well. If the owner knew the dog was potentially vicious and failed to take any precautions, many jurors, even pet owners, are willing to award larger damages. Obviously, though, there must be admissible evidence of knowledge. Typically, the more evidence the victim/plaintiff produces, the higher the damages will be.
Ordinary negligence is essentially a lack of care. Teachers who allow students to play near a strange dog might be negligent, especially if there are any signs of vicious propensities. Anyone can be negligent in this context. The defendant need not be an owner or custodian.
These claims are often complex. Negligence may also involve third-party liability. For example, the school district or other entity which employed the negligent teacher might be vicariously responsible for damages in the above example.
Negligence per se is the violation of a statute. Brandon and other municipalities in Florida usually have strict animal restraint laws, like leash laws and fence laws. If an owner violates such a law and that violation substantially causes injury, the owner might be liable for damages as a matter of law.
In all three kinds of negligence cases (ordinary negligence, negligence per se, and scienter), the victim/plaintiff must establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence. That’s the lowest standard of proof in Florida law.
Contact Aggressive Attorneys
Dog bite victims have several legal options in Florida. For a free consultation with an experienced Brandon personal injury attorney, contact Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).