Dog Bite Attorney in Tampa, FL
If you’ve been bitten by a dog you do not own, it’s important to connect with an experienced dog bite attorney in Tampa, FL as soon as you can. Florida has strong dog bite laws. As a result, it’s a good idea to explore your options even if you’re unsure of whether you want to take any legal action. Scheduling a free case evaluation with the experienced Florida legal team at Jeff Murphy Law doesn’t obligate you to file a lawsuit or submit an insurance claim. All the consultation setting is designed to do is ensure that you have a safe, informed space in which to tell your story, ask questions, and explore whether it makes sense to take any legal action under the circumstances. With that said, you’ll want to act – in some ways – as if you plan to take legal action, even if you’re not sure yet whether you want to embrace that option. It’s important to take these steps so that you can protect your rights and preserve your legal options, in the event that you want to exercise one or more of them sooner or later.
I’ve Been Bitten by a Dog – What Do I Do Now?
In the wake of a dog attack, it is imperative that you seek medical attention. Even if your injuries are relatively superficial, you need to get emergency medical attention. Too often, tough Floridians balk at the idea of getting checked out in the wake of a bite. However, it is (first and foremost) important for your future health to ensure that you haven’t contracted rabies or suffered other damage that needs attention and (secondarily) important that you get checked out by a doctor to preserve your ability to seek compensation for your injuries down the road.
After you’ve received medical attention, please take pictures of your injuries and the scene where the bite occurred. You’ll also want to take time to write down your memories of the event (no detail is too seemingly insignificant to note) and the names and contact information of any witnesses. These notes may be invaluable later on.
Can I Sue if Someone’s Dog Has Bitten Me?
As long as your situation meets certain criteria (we’ve outlined details below) you can absolutely sue the dog’s owner and/or other responsible parties for the harm you have suffered. It’s important to understand that not all legal actions go to trial. In fact, almost no legal actions like these go to trial. Chances are that we’ll be able to negotiate a fair settlement for the compensation you’re owed before the need to take your case all the way to court arises. As a result, if you’re hesitant to connect with our Tampa, FL dog bite attorney because the thought of going to trial stresses you out, know that this fear is highly, highly unlikely to become a reality. Even if it does, our firm will handle the legal “heavy lifting” so that you can minimize your stress and focus on your recovery.
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. Our Tampa, FL dog bite attorney 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. Our firm’s Tampa, FL dog bite 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.