Florida's dog bite statute, FLSA 767.04, states that a dog owner is liable for injuries if:
- the dog bites another person, and
- the person is in a public place or legally in a private place.
This particular statue only covers injuries caused by dog bites. However, a person who is injured by a dog in another way may be able to prove the owner is liable if the injured person can show the owner's negligence resulted in the injury. For example, a person who is knocked down and injured by a dog could possibly be able to hold the owner liable for failing to use a leash and/or properly restraining the dog.
Florida has a statute of limitations that limits the amount of time an injured person has to file a lawsuit after a dog bite injury. The statute of limitations requires an injured person to get their lawsuit filed in Florida's civil court system within four years of the date of a dog bite. If you miss the four-year deadline, the court will likely throw your case out instead of hearing it. To ensure your case will be heard, make sure it is filed before the deadline passes.
Florida is a “strict liability” state when it comes to dog bites. This means, a Florida dog 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 negligence or a lack of reasonable care caused the bite.
A Florida dog owner has two defenses to a dog bite claim: trespassing and comparative negligence. Florida's dog bite law requires an injured person to be “lawfully” in the place where the bite occurred in order to recover damages. A person who is trespassing on private property without permission is not “lawfully” on the private property. Therefore, a dog bite owner could argue that the injured person was trespassing and is not entitled to collect damages.
Another partial defense a dog owner might raise is the defense of comparative negligence. Under Florida's dog bite law, if a dog bite injury victim's own negligence is partly to blame for the dog bite, the amount of damages a liable owner must pay will be reduced by a percentage equal to the percentage of blame assigned to the injured person.
An example of this is:
You are at a friend's house and you are busy talking that you do not notice the dog and step on him. The dog bites you, the jury finds that you are 30 percent responsible for the bite and your friend is 70 percent responsible, and that your damages total $1,000. Under Florida's dog bite law, your $1,000 total would be reduced by $300, or 30 percent, because this was the percentage of fault assigned to you. You would receive a total of $700 in damages.
Do you have questions about a dog bite? Call Avallone Law P.A. today at 386-682-9235 for your free consultation.