Do I have a claim for injuries resulting from a dog bite?
A rise in the occurrence of dog attacks has been noted recently and they mostly involve young children. Victims of dog bites usually require hospital treatments, and if the dog isn’t vaccinated, there is also an increased risk of acquiring rabies. Sometimes people are bitten by their own dogs, but it usually occurs when a dog bites a stranger or a person with whom the dog is not familiar. In these cases, you will likely have a valid personal injury claim.
If you want to make a claim against the dog’s owner, you must file the lawsuit before the deadline to do so. Florida has a statute of limitations that requires any lawsuit for such an injury must be filed within 4 years of the date of the dog bite. If you miss this deadline, you will lose your claim and recover nothing.
Florida has a specific statute pertaining to dog bites, which provides as follows:
767.04 Dog owner’s liability for damages to persons bitten—The owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness. However, any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident. A person is lawfully upon private property of such owner within the meaning of this act when the person is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when the person is on such property upon invitation, expressed or implied, of the owner. However, the owner is not liable, except as to a person under the age of 6, or unless the damages are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner, if at the time of any such injury the owner had displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words “Bad Dog.” The remedy provided by this section is in addition to and cumulative with any other remedy provided by statute or common law.
As you can see from the statute, Florida is a “strict liability” state when it comes to dog bites. This means that the dog’s owner may be held liable if his or her dog bites someone, even if the owner had no prior knowledge or warning that the dog might bite. The injured person does not have to prove that the owner was negligent in order to make a successful claim. However, note that the statute only protects persons who are “lawfully” on the private property. Therefore, if you are trespassing on someone’s property, you might not have a valid claim if their dog bites you.
Will the owner’s homeowner’s insurance cover your claim? Historically, these insurance policies protected the owner and the insurer would have to pay the victim’s claim. However, more recently, insurance companies have been trying to avoid liability for dog bite injuries. The companies either refrain from selling insurance to households with dogs, refrain from selling insurance to people who have certain breeds of dogs, or exclude dog bites from coverage. Many policies now contain “dog bite exclusions” which specifically state the insurance will not cover any injuries resulting from a dog bite. Your attorney will want to obtain the dog owner’s insurance policy to carefully review it and determine whether there will be insurance coverage for your dog bite injury.
If you have been bitten by somebody else’s dog, call Jeff Murphy Law for a free consultation.