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Attorneys For Dog Bites In Florida

Dogs are commonly referred to as “man’s best friends.” However, canine encounters are not always friendly. Unfortunately, dogs sometimes bite or otherwise attack people without warning or provocation. Dog bites can leave victims with serious physical injuries such as bruises, lacerations, deep tissue wounds, disfigurement, and torn ligaments and muscles. Victims also often suffer from emotional trauma.

Dog bite victims and their loved ones have the right to pursue compensation for their injuries. The experienced attorneys for dog bites in Florida at Scott Marshall Injury Attorneys are have handled many of these types of cases over the past three decades.

What to Do After a Dog Bite

More than 600 Floridians require hospitalization after suffering dog bites every year. What’s more, on average, two of those dog bites each year are fatal. Sadly, most dog bite victims in Florida are children under age 14.

Dogs may bite for a variety of reasons, and those reasons are not always clear. Statistically, nearly one-third of dog bites occur outside of the dog owner’s property, when dogs are off leash. In these cases, victims typically do not know the dog. In other cases, dog bites occur on the owners’ properties, involving victims who were familiar with the attacking animals.

Whether you were bitten by a stranger’s dog or a neighbor’s dog, your injuries may require extensive treatment and rehabilitation. If you or a loved one was bitten by a dog, it is important to seek immediate medical care. You should also report the incident to law enforcement, document the events and circumstances that led to the dog bite, take photos of your injury and of the animal (if it is possible to do so without incurring further harm), and capture the names and contact information for any witnesses to the attack.

Consulting with dog bite accident attorneys can help you understand relevant laws, the legal framework for pursuing your rights under Florida law, time limit considerations, and your options. The location where a dog bite occurs can also impact your claim options. For example, if a dog bites you while you are working, you may have a valid workers’ compensation claim. A dog bite that occurs on someone else’s property could give rise to a premises liability case.

During your initial consultation, your dog bite injury attorneys will ask questions about the incident to determine the best course of action based on the facts and circumstances.

Florida Dog Bite Laws

If you or your loved one was bitten in a public place in Florida, or if the attack occurred in a private place where you were lawfully present, the dog’s owner is liable for your injuries. This means the dog’s owner is responsible for paying for the victim’s medical care (initial visits and required follow-up treatments), medication, rehabilitation and more. If a victim is unable to work due to his or her injuries, the owner may be responsible for paying lost wages. Further, dog bite victims frequently suffer emotional trauma. Dog owners may also be held financially responsible to compensate victims for pain and suffering related to the incident.

Limitations in Dog Owner Responsibility

While dog owners are generally responsible for the consequences of their dogs’ behavior, there are some limitations.

A victim bitten while trespassing on someone else’s property cannot hold the dog’s owner responsible for the incident. Victims who suffer only property damage but no physical or emotional harm because of a vicious dog cannot claim compensation under Florida’s personal injury laws.

Another limitation applies if a victim was bitten by a police dog or military dog that was performing its duties when the attack occurred. For example, a suspected thief who was apprehended and bitten during a police chase could not file a claim for compensation for injuries sustained.

Florida law also includes a provision that absolves a dog’s owner from responsibility related to dog bite injuries sustained on the owner’s property if, at the time of the incident, the owner had a sign prominently displayed that included the words “Bad Dog.” However, this exemption does not apply if the victim was under age six, or if the owner’s negligence or omission was a proximate cause of the injury.

Dangerous Dog Statute

Ultimately, any dog could attack or bite a person at any time. Statistically, certain dog breeds are more likely than others to be involved in dog bite injury incidents. These include:

  • Rottweilers
  • Pit Bulls
  • German Shepherds
  • Akitas
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Wolf hybrids
  • Great Danes
  • Malamutes
  • Chow Chows
  • Staffordshire Terriers

Florida law includes a “dangerous dog” statute, which defines a dog as dangerous if it has “aggressively bitten, attacked, or endangered or has inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property.” FL statute 767.11(a). In addition, a dog that has killed more than one domestic animal outside of the owner’s property, or a dog that has chased or approached someone in a menacing manner while unprovoked, falls under the “dangerous dog” umbrella.

Dogs involved in dog bite incidents may be quarantined by animal control or impounded and held at the owner’s expense, pending the outcome of an investigation. Owners of animals deemed to be dangerous must obtain, and must annually renew, a certification with the animal control authority. Owners of dangerous dogs must also provide evidence of current rabies vaccinations, sufficient enclosures for the animals, clearly visible warning signs on their premises, and permanent identification on the dog (such as an electronic implant or a thigh tattoo).

When a dog previously identified as a “dangerous dog” is involved in a dog bite incident or other attack, the owner is guilty of a misdemeanor offense. If the attack causes significant injuries or leads to a death, the owner will be guilty of a third-degree felony.

Statute of Limitations for Filing a Dog Bite Compensation Claim

After a dog bite injury, many victims and their loved ones feel they need some time to recover from their injuries, before they consider their options for pursuing justice. However, it is important to understand that there are time limits under Florida law for recovering compensation in dog bite personal injury claims.

In general, victims have up to four years from the date of the incident in which to file a claim for compensation. Waiting until this statute of limitations has passed means victims may not be able to recover any financial compensation. In practice, the sooner you meet with a knowledgeable Florida dog bite attorney to discuss your potential case, the better. It is generally easiest to track relevant evidence and witnesses soon after the attack.

There is also an argument to be made for pursuing a dog bite compensation claim promptly in the interest of holding the animal’s owner accountable, thereby potentially helping other would-be victims avoid injuries.

Seeking Legal Representation for a Dog Bite Accident

While dog bite victims may be entitled to compensation for their injuries, not every injury gives rise to a valid claim for damages. For example, a dog bite that does not break the skin and is merely superficial may not be compensable. A dog bite that becomes infected with rabies, tetanus, Pasteurella bacteria, staphylococcus, or another bacteria or virus is generally eligible for compensation under Florida law.

An attorney  may also be able to help you obtain compensation for a range of other injuries, including soft tissue injuries, broken bones, bite marks, permanent scars, bruises, abrasions, fractures, lacerations, traumatic brain injuries and more.

Hiring a skilled personal injury law firm to help you with your claim means you will have an experienced advocate in your corner, fighting for your rights. Your dog bite injury attorney will handle all communications with the dog’s owner and his or her insurance company, and will negotiate on your behalf. In the event the other party does not agree to full and fair compensation for your injuries, your lawyer will build a strong case to argue for you in court.

Contact Our Attorneys for Dog Bites in Florida

The AV-rated attorneys at Scott Marshall Injury Attorneys are proud to serve clients throughout Florida. With offices in Orlando, Miami, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Palm Harbor, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Aventura, we strive to make it easy for dog bite victims and their families to meet with our legal professionals.

Since 1997, our boutique law firm has focused on helping personal injury victims recover from their injuries and obtain the compensation they need to be able to move forward with their lives. Our experienced attorneys have successfully helped many dog bite victims recover financial damages, in cases involving minor injuries and in situations where victims suffered debilitating injuries.

We also represent victims’ loved ones in wrongful death claims. If you or a loved one was attacked or bitten by a dog, you owe it to yourself to understand your rights and explore your options. Contact Scott Marshall Injury Attorneys today to schedule a free consultation.