A dog can be a great companion and friend. Certainly, there are many benefits to dog ownership. There are also responsibilities as well. When a dog bites a child or another person, the dog owner can be liable for the resulting personal injuries. In the State of Florida, a dog owner is strictly liable for the injuries / damages caused by the dog bite even if the dog never showed any dangerous propensities. Strict liability is a bit different than a negligence standard which applies to automobile accidents, slip and falls, and other personal injury matters.
Under the Florida Strict Liability Rule, the dog bite victim is not required to show negligence or carelessness on behalf to the dog owner. The dog bite victim is only required to show that the victim was bitten or attacked and suffered injuries. There are some exceptions to the strict liability rule when signs are posted and the victim is a trespasser. However, in most instances, the dog owner will be liable for the personal injuries.
Dogs bite for a multitude of reasons whether it is from being put in a stressful situation or protection of an owner/pup. According to research conducted by otolaryngologists, dogs weighing in over 66 pound and dogs with square shaped heads are more likely to cause serious injury with a bite. It is widely believed that dog breed is a tell of an animal’s likelihood to bite, which is represented in myths such as pit bulls being the most dangerous breed. But information from the American Veterinary Medical Association may suggest otherwise. After evaluating multiple data sets the AVMA came to the conclusion that while breed may be a factor in dog bites, the breed type just a small piece of the puzzle. Other factors such as training methods, sex, neutering status, and the environment in which the dog is kept affect the aggressiveness to similar degrees.
Summer is filled with fun, games, and outdoor activities. Children get a break from school and the time to enjoy the outdoors. While summer can be filled with wonderful activities and fun, it also is filled with risks and dangers. This is especially true for any and all activities in or near water. Children, especially toddlers and infants, do not understand the risks / dangers associated with swimming pools and other aquatic areas. While the risks of drowning are well known or should be well known to adults / child care providers, there are still reported drownings of children every year.
For children one to four years old, drowning is statistically the most likely cause of death, but there are ways in which it can be avoided. Unattended bodies of water such as bathtubs, ponds, and pools serve as the biggest threat to your child’s safety. According to KidsHealth.org it takes less than 2 inches of water for a young child to drown, meaning any small bodies of water whether it be in a sink or toilet could pose risks to a child’s safety. Unsupervised access to these bodies of water could quickly lead to a drowning case in which it only takes 90 seconds for your child to potentially pass away. The National Safety Council recommends that parents give their children swim lessons from an early age in order to teach them how to swim and further prevent a possible drowning incident.
From the perspective of a community center or any organization tasked with watching children near bodies of water, supervision is of the utmost importance. Having at least one designated “water watcher” lowers the chances of unexpected drowning instances. In cases pertaining to community pools there may be a lifeguard watching the water but it is always safe to assign at least one additional “water watcher” in order to account for moments in which the lifeguard may not be paying attention OR otherwise occupied with another situation. When a drowning or potential drowning incidnt occurs, there is very little time to react and potentially save a life. Ensure that employees and parents are aware of CPR techniques as this knowledge and skill may be the difference between life and death in these occurrences. Around larger bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, and oceans, ensure that all children are fashioned with life jackets, even if they are adequate swimmers. Life jackets could also be used in smaller bodies of water for weaker swimmers. When at these natural bodies of water also be aware of local wildlife and foliage that could potentially cause a drowning incident. Large waves and undertows are also known causes of drowning so be sure to keep children away from these parts of the water. Teaching children to not stand with their back to waves can lower the odds of them being knocked over and into the water. Safety first should be top of mind in any situation where a child is in or near a water area.
Many States, including Florida, have helmet laws requiring children under a certain age to wear a bicycle helmet. With or without these laws in place, it is important from a safety standpoint that a child wear a helmet. Whether the child is out for a short ride or a longer one, a bicycle helmet can make a big difference in preventing injuries from taking place or by reducing the severity of the injuries caused by a bicycle accident.
Nearly 50 children visit the emergency room every hour due to injuries sustained in wheeled sports activities, like riding a bicycle. Due to this risks of head trauma associated with bicyce riding, parents should go over basic bicycle safety with their children. While riding a bike, children should look both ways while crossing the street and walk their bikes while crossing busy intersections. If riding on the road, they should use bike lanes whenever possible and obey all traffic rules, but children under the age of 10 should stay on the sidewalks. Parents should teach their children the proper hand signals while biking and do regular maintenance on their bicycle to make sure it is safe. All of these techniques are important in keeping bicycle riders safe, but the most important precaution often goes overlooked – the bicycle helmet.
Wearing a helmet by bicycling is paramount in ensuring a child’s safety. Research shows that helmet usage does decrease the occurrence and seriousness of head injuries. Despite this clear research, the statistics as to the non-use of helmets for children while riding a bicycle are staggering. It is estimated that 18% of parents claim their children never wear a helmet while biking. Parents can be quite lenient with their children as to helmet usage. Some children complain about the look or fit of their bicycle helmet, so parents (to avoid yet another right or argument) do not require their children to wear it. But this should not be the case. Helmets are the best method of preventing serious head injury if a rider falls or is hit by a car. The costs of a helmet is a small price to pay for this crucial safety measure.
Video surveillance equipment in the home, day care centers, and schools can and do go a long way in identifying abuse and preventing it. When an infant or toddler is being abused or neglected, the child does not have the ability to advocate for himself or herself; however, a video showing such abuse can do the talking for the child. A caregiver should exhibit restraint, love, and patience when supervising a child. Unfortunately, there are far too many instances of abuse and neglect by the very people who are supposed to protect a child – the caregiver.
Parents should be aware of signs of abuse or neglect. An abused child will have frequent, unexplained injuries like bruises, black eyes, or cuts and often wear unusual clothing to hide these marks. A child may seem withdrawn or have very stifled emotional reactions to things, especially pain. An abused child can often seem watchful, as if he or she is waiting for something bad to happen. A neglected child may have bad hygiene, lack proper bathing or have a noticeable body odor. Clothes can be ill-fitting or unwashed. Neglected children are frequently left unsupervised or allowed to play in unsafe situations. These are all indicators of abuse after it has already happened, but there are some methods to obtain proof of abuse.
A “nanny cam” is a webcam or other small camera placed in a parent’s home where they can monitor their babysitter to see if they are taking proper care of the children. These cameras can even be connected to the internet so parents can watch in real-time. Nanny cams are an effective way to gather evidence of a caretaker abusing a child in the event of a criminal or civil lawsuit. While a nanny cam can document abuse, the video / audio content of the nanny cam is not always admissible in a civil or criminal case. The admissibility of such evidence will be determined by the applicable laws in place and the rulings of the judge assigned to the case. The State of Florida is a “two-party consent state,” which means that, if the nanny cam records both video and audio, parents must notify the babysitter that they are going to be recorded. If there is no consent, nanny cam video or audio might be ruled inadmissible in legal proceedings, according to Florida Statute section 934.03. Nonetheless, nanny cams are the among the best ways to show definitive proof of child abuse, especially when the child is unable to properly communicate. When hiring a nanny, it may be advisable to have the nanny sign an employment form which advises the nanny that the home is equipped with audio and video equipment at random parts of the home. While this will give the nanny notice that he or she is being watched, it does not necessary inform the nanny where the equipment is set up. If the parent incorporates this language into a longer document, the nanny may ultimately forget what he or she signed and still engage in abusive conduct that is documented on the video even with knowledge of the equipment in place.
In Florida and other states, day care center related laws require minimal standard or training for staff members. With or without these standards in place, the safety of children warrant this training and more. When selecting a day care center, it is important to find out information as to training, licensure, and prior inspections. Training is needed for all aspects of care from food consumption to sleeping protocols.
Day care professionals are required to receive a certain level of training before they can work at a day care. In the State of Florida, a person must complete 40 hours of training and pass a competency exam, then an additional 10 hours of in-service training. This intensive training is designed to prepare them for any situation that could come their way while watching children. They become familiarized with basic first aid and CPR, as well as making accommodations for children with allergies or special needs children. There is even more training that must be taken if a caretaker intends to work with children under 24 months. This includes understanding safe sleeping practices to prevent SIDS, general head trauma prevention, and brain development. In short, training for day care providers is meant to keep the children enlisted in the day care as safe as possible.
If this training is not received, the results can be disastrous. A child can get seriously hurt or killed if in the care of an improperly or inadequately trained person. While this situation would likely result in the shutting down of the day care, this does not ameliorate the pain suffered by bereaved parents In order to avoid this, parents should take care to research the day care they intend to send their children to. Just a few hours of online browsing, reading, and related training could save their child’s life.
During the summer months, children get a break from school and and are able to the enjoy the outdoors, swimming, sports, summer camp, and other activities. With these activities, there are risks. Children, especially toddlers and infants, lack basic safety awareness. Elementary school aged children, pre-teens, and even teens do not always recognize the danger of certain activities and situation. As such, it is important for adults, caregivers, counselors, teachers, and others responsible for the care and supervision of children to be mindful of the risks for many summer activities. When a child is injured, the most important thing to do is to get the child out of harm’s way and then address the medical needs of a child. When a child is injured due to the negligence of others, there may be a legal remedy and right to compensation for the injured child. While the pursuit of justice and the enforcement of legal rights are important concepts, it is also important to exercise due care and supervision to begin with so that injuries are avoided. With summer activities, the safety of the child is paramount to other concerns and issues.
In the summer, children will often go swimming. Because of this, pool safety should be the priority for parents, caregivers, teachers, counselorse, and pool owners. More than 1,000 children each year die from drowning and countless others suffer life-altering injuries. The majority of drowning accidents happen in home swimming pools. Of these drownings, most of these could have been prevented had a gate been installed around the pool. Pool gates should be at least four feet tall and be out of the reach of a small child. If your child is swimming, you should be in the pool with them, or supervising from a close distance. Supervision should involve having your eyes on the phone and the child rather than your eyes on a mobile phone, TV, or tablet.
Another potential danger to children this summer is a treehouse. Almost 3,000 children are sent to the hospital every year for treehouse related injuries; anywhere from bumps and bruises to cuts from broken glass and strangulation from rope. Due to the number of risks, a parent should take special care when constructing and allowing a child to play in a treehouse. They should build it low to the ground, no higher than ten feet. The treehouse needs solid barrier walls. And, if children are playing in the treehouse, they should be supervised.
Florida is a state with beaches and scenery that people love to bike through. Unfortunately, bicyclists as well as motorcyclists are at risk when a careless driver does not give due respect and distance to motorcycles and bicycles. It has been reported that over 9,500 motorcyclists were involved in a crash in 2018. This is a slight increase from the numbers for the calendar year 2017. Furthermore, it was reported over 7,000 bicyclists were involved in a crash in 2018. Combined, there were over 16,500 motorcyclists and bicyclists involved in a crash, over 600 of which ended fatally.
The month of May is Motorcycle and Bicycle Safety Month, and motorists are reminded to pay attention and share the road safely. Drivers should avoid following motorcycles and bicycles closely, keep a four-second buffer zone between themselves and a motorcyclist or cyclist. Always utilize caution while on the road, look twice before crossing the street, and do not drive distractedly; keep your eyes on the road and watch for bikers and cyclists. They have the rights and responsibilities as drivers, so drivers must share the road accordingly.
In addition to precautions taken by drivers, bicyclists and motorcyclists can also make strides to act safely. All bicyclists and motorcyclists should wear helmets. Almost 90% of the people involved in a bicycle accident in the last year were not wearing a helmet. Motorcyclists should make an effort to drive defensively and avoid reckless speeding and weaving between lanes. Cyclists should make themselves noticeable with bright clothes and lights, especially while riding at night. They should act predictably in order to minimize surprises for other drivers and think ahead to avoid hazards. Both cyclists and motorcyclists can benefit from referring to the official Florida Driver License Handbook to familiarize themselves with the rules of the road.
In the State of Florida, dog ownership involves a right to possess personal property in the form of a pet. It also involves the responsibility to control the dog and to be responsible when the dog bites or attacks another person. Florida has adopted the “Strict Liability” rule for dog bite related cases. In other words, if a dog bites or attacks a person, the dog owner is liable regardless of the dog’s prior history or lack of prior history of aggression or prior dog bites. For example, let’s say that Fido, a Golden Retrievers, bites another person in the face causing serious personal injuries. Prior to the incident, Fido was the always the nicest and most gentlest of dogs. The injury victim was in the living room of the dog owner and, for some reason or no reason at all, the dog lunged forward and bit the victim in the face. Under these circumstances, it does not appear that the dog owner did anything wrong. There was no duty to have the dog on a leash in the living room. Furthermore, the dog owner did not have any notice at all that the incident was likely to happen based on Fido’s prior history of being a wonderful and friendly pet. Nevertheless, under Florida’s Strict Liability Dog Bite Law, the dog owner, subject to some limited exceptions, will be liable for the injuries caused by the dog bite.
A key consideration or issue in pursuing a dog bite case involves the presence or absence of homeowner’s insurance. Unfortunately, in the State of Florida as well as other states, far too many homeowner’s insurance policies exclude coverage for dog bite related injuries. When there is coverage for dog bite related injuries, many such homeowner’s insurance policies limit coverage to an amount less than other types of liability / injury claims that can be pursued under the insurance policy. When there is insurance coverage, a claim can be pursued. When there is no insurance or an exclusion in place, a case can still be pursued; however, it may prove to be difficult to get the dog owner to pay out of his own pocket for the personal injuries caused by the dog bite.
David Wolf is a personal injury attorney with over 28 years of experience. He is the author of 12 books including the book titled – When A Dog Is Not Man’s Best Friend – Legal Rights Of The Dog Bite Victim. The book has chapters on the following topics: