As a dog owner, or soon-to-be pet parent, you probably wonder what the best brand of dog food is, how quickly they can be house trained and how often a dog should see their veterinarian. But one of the most important questions you should be asking is to what extent can I be held liable for damages if my dog bites someone? It may not be a thought that generally comes to mind until an animal attack unfortunately occurs, but it's always a good idea to understand the state's law governing dog bites should your dog cause injury to someone.
What is Florida's Dangerous Dog Law?
Florida statute 767.04 explains a dog owner's liability for damages to persons bitten as follows:
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.
Simply stated, Florida dog owners are responsible for any injuries and subsequent damages their dog inflicts if their dog bites a person in a public place, such as a park, restaurant, shopping area, etc., as well as any injuries suffered by invited guests upon the dog owner's private property. Moreover, as a “strict liability state” a Florida dog owner will still be held liable regardless of whether the owner knew that their dog had a tendency or potential to bite, or if it is their dog's first attack or one of many.
The law does provide an exception to owner's liability where the injured is a child under six years old or “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.'” This exemption to liability is predicated on an owner's visible warning of their dog's potential temper or propensity to bite.
In some Florida counties and cities, certain dog breeds are limited or banned, and just one attack automatically classifies the dog as “vicious”. Be sure to check city codes and ordinances to learn more about what is expected of dog owners.
Who is Most at Risk for Dog Bites?
Children in particular make up the largest percentage of dog bite injury victims. Most recently, a 10-year-old Florida boy was attacked by his neighbor’s pit bull. According to the report, the neighbor allowed the child to enter her home so that he could retrieve his ball from her backyard. While the neighbor claims she had confined her dog in to a “safe area” of her home, the dog was loose (not crated or secured by a leash) and attacked the boy on his face and head.
Steps to Take After a Dog Bites
Depending on the location and severity of the bite, dog bites can pose dangerous health risks. Unlike adults, children are most at risk for bites to their heads and neck. Left untreated, dog bites can lead to serious infections that require antibiotics.
If a dog bites you,
- Clean and disinfect superficial wounds with warm soapy water and hydrogen peroxide, and cover with a bandage.
- If the wound is bleeding, apply a clean towel over the wound with light pressure to minimize the bleeding.
- If the wound is deep or does not stop bleeding, immediately seek emergency medical attention.
- Check for signs of infection such as swelling, redness, warmth around the wound and oozing pus.
It's advisable to receive a precautionary rabies shot if you have been bitten by any dog. Be prepared to answer a few questions about the dog, including if you know the owner, if the dog is current on all vaccinations and if the dog was provoked in any way.
Don't Wait to Contact an Attorney
If you have sustained injuries from a dog bite and you suspect the owner may be at fault, contact the attorneys at SKG to discuss your legal options. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with, please call us at (800) 350-FIRM or contact our offices online for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.