Dog Bites in Florida
A dog bite can be a frightening experience for the victim of the bite. In Florida, dog owners are strictly liable for the damages done by their dogs when they bite or attack someone who is in a public place or lawfully in a private place. It doesn’t matter whether the owner had any notice, inkling, or prior knowledge that the dog was prone to aggressive behavior.
If you are bitten or otherwise injured by a dog, there are three theories under which you can attempt to recover: strict liability/negligence per se, negligence, and intentional torts.
Strict Liability/Negligence Per Se
Because Florida holds dog owners strictly liable, you will not have to prove that the owner was somehow careless or failed to control the dog.
The strict liability rule only holds true for dog bites; if you were somehow otherwise injured by someone’s dog (it knocked you down, etc.) you can attempt to sue the owner based on the theory of negligence. You would have to prove that:
- The owner owed a duty to you to control the dog in a certain way;
- The owner failed to fulfill that duty (i.e. improperly using a leash or not using one at all); and
- The dog caused the damages you allege (i.e. the dog knocked you down and you were injured because of the fall).
You can sue a dog owner for a tort such as battery if they intended for their dog to harm you. You would have to prove, however, the elements for the intentional tort you are alleging. For example, if you are suing for battery in a situation where another individual threatened you with their dog who then attacked you, you would have to prove the elements of that tort, which do include an intent to cause harm.
If you sue a dog owner, they have two main ways of attempting to remove their liability, partially or fully. One is by claiming that you have trespassed. If you were in a private place at the time of the bite, Florida statute requires that you be there lawfully. If the owner proves that you were not there lawfully, they could argue that you are not entitled to recover for your injuries.
Another potential defense from the other side would be that you were also negligent; the principle of comparative negligence. If the dog owner could prove that you are somehow also responsible for your own injuries, they could decrease their liability by the percentage of responsibility allocated to you.
What Happens After a Judgment?
After you receive a judgment in court for damages incurred, collection can be a difficult obstacle. If the dog owner has no insurance, is unable to pay the judgment, and does not have any assets to garnish for the purpose of the judgment, the victim may be in danger of not being able to collect. However, if the dog owner has homeowner’s insurance or liability insurance coverage, then you may be able to collect for your damages against the policy.
If you have been bitten by someone else’s dog in Clearwater or Tampa, you should not let your injuries go unaccounted for. Roman & Roman can help you obtain justice for your injuries and compensation for the costs associated with them.