Articles Posted in Dogs / Dog Bites / Animals / Pets

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In Florida, a child should be able to ride a bike, spend time with friends, and play sports / games in a safe and nurturing environment.  Most neighborhoods in Florida are safe and filled with neighbors who are friendly, conscientious, and mindful of children in the area.  Unfortunately, at times, a child is injured in the very neighborhood in which the child resides or visits.  For some reason, some dogs have a sense of aggression or fear for children.  This could happen for a variety of reasons or no reason at all.  Because of the unpredictability of dogs and the risks to children, dog owners should use best efforts to keep a dog on a leash or otherwise confined.  When a dog is loose, there is a risk of attack to one or more children in the neighborhood.  In most of Florida’s 67 counties, there is a dog leash law that is referred in the local ordinance of many counties as “at-large dogs”.  It is important to keep a dog under control at all times.

When a dog is attacked or bitten in the State of Florida,  the law recognizes the rights of the injured child or injured adult.  Florida has adopted a Strict Liability law for dog bite and dog attack cases.  In other words, a dog owner is strictly liable for a dog bite or dog attack regardless of the prior history of the dog.  As such, even if a dog had never been aggressive in the past, a dog owner can still be liable for the injuries and related damages.  There are some exceptions to this general law or rule. For instance, if a child trespasses into the yard of neighbor with clearly posted Bad Dog or Beware of Dog signs, this may serve as a defense for the dog owner.  It should be noted that a dog owner can be held strictly liable while a property owner (who is not the dog owner) can typically only be held liable if there is a showing of negligence or fault on the part of the property owner.
One practical issue that presents itself in many dog bite cases involves the availability or the lack of availability of homeowner’s insurance that covers dog bite or dog attack personal injuries.  Unfortunately, many homeowner’s insurance policies these days exclude such coverage.   While there may be a strong legal case against the dog owner and property owner, there are a number of practical problems when there is no coverage for such incidents or injuries.

Dog Bite Book Icon In Florida, every community has a common resident – the family dog.  On most days, dogs are obedient, kind, and gentle.   However, for some children and adults, the family pet or dog of a neighbor may not be so obedient, kind or gentle.  If a dog feels threatened or just has a bad disposition, the dog may attack.  Some attacks result in minor personal injuries while other dog attacks result in significant scarring and even life threatening injuries.  In most of Florida’s 67 counties, there is a dog leash law in place that should be adhered to or followed.  Even if a dog owner is technically in compliance with the applicable dog leash law, a dog owner can still be held liable or responsible for dog bite related personal injuries.  Florida has specific laws in place that hold a dog owner strictly liable for dog bite related personal injuries to other people.  There is no “one free bite” rule in place for the State of Florida.  Furthermore, there is no requirement that the dog bite victim prove that the dog owner knew or should have known of the dangerous propensity or nature of the dog prior to the dog attack.  It should be noted that the elements necessary to prove up a strict liability case are much different than the elements to prove up a common law or negligence type of case. As such, the laws in the State of Florida, to some extent, favor the dog bite victim rather than the dog owner.
One practical issue, consideration, or limitation for many Florida dog bite cases involve the availability or lack of homeowner’s insurance or liability insurance for dog bite related personal injuries.  Many dog owners are renters and do not bother to have any Insruance whatsoever.  Dog owners, who are homeowners, may have homeowner’s insurance; however, there may be an exception or an exclusion for dog bite related personal injuries.  Over the past few years, homeowner insurance companies have more frequently excluded dog bite incidents in the homeowner insurance policy.  It should be noted that a dog bite victim has a case or claim against the dog owner and possibly the property owner; however, the legal analysis of the case is different than the practical analysis of the case.
It was recently reported that a 22 month old child was viciously attacked by a neighbor’s dog in Putnam County, Florida.  The injuries were significant and life threatening.  It was reported by various media outlets that law enforcement and the Florida Department of Children and Families will be further investigating the incident.

cal-0814-cl3-dogs-19In Florida, you will find dogs in every community.  Most dogs are well trained and friendly.  However, dogs are animals and their behavior, at times, can be somewhat unpredictable.  There are some dogs in the community who have a history of roaming and aggression.  Certainly, all dogs should be properly restrained and kept under control.  This is especially true for those dogs with a history of aggression.   Florida has some interesting laws in place as to dog bite incidents.  Florida, like some other states, has a strict liability rule in place for dog bites.  This means that a dog bite victim can pursue a case or claim against a dog owner WITHOUT having to prove that the dog had a prior history of aggression or biting.  Furthermore, there is no need to show that the dog owner knew or should have known that the dog would have been dangerous in a certain situation.  In addition, it should be noted that the dog breed is typically irrelevant to the pursuit a claim.   The dog breed is less important that the dog who attacked the person.   Of course, the bigger the dog breed – the more damage or more serious injuries can be inflicted.
In Jacksonville, Florida, it was reported that a man was seriously injured when he was attacked by four Pit Bull breed dogs.  It was reported by the Florida Times Union and other news outlets that the dogs had a history of roaming through the neighborhood on prior occasions according to the neighbors.   As a result of the incident and the information gathered by animal control, the dogs involved in the attack and others were taken into custody by the City of Jacksonville Animal Control. A full investigation will be conducted to determine the facts of the attack and whether the dogs at issued will be classified as dangerous dogs. You can read more about this story at Jacksonville Florida Man Attacked by Four Pitfalls in Critical Condition.
It should be noted that leash laws are in effect for most of the 67 counties and for most municipalities. It is important for dog owners to comply with the leash laws and other Animal Laws in place.   As noted above, dog bite cases are governed by strict liability.  As such, as long as the dog bite victim was not a trespasser and did not otherwise affirmatively attack the dog at issue, there will be a case or claim to pursue by the dog bite owner. It should also be noted that the pursuit of many cases may hinge from a practical standpoint on the availability of homeowner’s insurance. Unfortunately, many dog owner / homeowners do not carry homeowner’s insurance that covers dog bite related personal injuries.   

NX_dog_pointer_headprofileIn every Florida community, there are dogs. A dog is commonly referred to as man’s best friend. Dogs are wonderful companions and considered part of the family. Unfortunately for some children, a dog can be viewed as a mean and vicious animal that is dangerous.   A child can be significantly traumatized as a result of a dog bite or dog attack. Some dogs are vicious by nature. Some unfortunately are taught to be vicious.  Most domestic dogs are kind animals but, as animals, a bite or attack can still happen at any time.  A dog could get scared or agitated by a certain sound or smell.  Some dogs, for reasons unknown, just do not like children.  As smart as dogs can be, they are still animals that, at times, take action to protect themselves or protect their owners if they feel threatened in a certain manner.   For some dog owners, the fact that the dog bit or attacked a person comes as a total surprise. For others, it is no surprise at all since the dog previously attacked or bit a person.   
Florida, like some other states, has a strict liability law in place for dog bites or dog attacks.  Prior notice of aggressive behavior is not a requisite to pursue a claim or case.   A dog bite victim need only show that a dog attack took place.  There are some limited exceptions to this general law or rule. For instance, if the child is a trespasser who then is bitten, there may be a defense to an action or a case brought on behalf of the dog bite victim. 
Section 767.04, Florida Statutes provides the following:

dog%20bone.jpgDog bite liability laws vary from State to State. Some of the genre of laws are as follows:

1. Negligence Standard. Under the negligence standard, a dog owner is liable if the dog owner knew or should have known that the dog had dangerous propensities but failed to take preventative actions to protect children and others from the aggressions of the dog.

2. One Bite Standard. Under the one bite standard, a dog owner is not liable for the first bite of the dog but after the first bite or first incident – then the dog owner may be held liable for the damages or injuries caused by the dog.

dog%20animal%20bites%20leash%20laws.jpgIn the State of Florida, dog are present in virtually every neighborhood. Dog ownership is both a great job and an important responsibility. In the State of Florida, a dog owner is strictly liable when the dog bites another person. While there are some exceptions to this general law and rule, the dog owner is typically liable for the dog bite related injuries in the State of Florida. When a person is bit by a dog, there is often a question or issue as to insurance question. As a Florida Child Injury Lawyer, the following question is often asked:

Is Homeowner’s Insurance Required to Cover Dog Bite Related Personal Injuries?

The simple answer to this question is “No”. Of course, there is more to the question and answer as stated. First, if there is dog bite related coverage under the homeowner’s insurance policy, then the insurance carrier should provide compensation for the dog bite victim; however, many insurance policies in the State of Florida either do not cover dog bite related injuries or there is an exception or exemption in the Florida homeowner’s insurance policy for dog bite related injuries.

dog%20behind%20bars.jpgIn Florida, a dog owner is liable for injuries caused by a dog bite or dog attack pursuant to Section 767.01, Florida Statutes. Under this law, a dog owner is strictly liable for injuries caused by the dog bite or dog attack. In other words, the injury victim is not required to proof fault, knowledge, or predisposition to attack by the dog in order to prevail on a legal claim or lawsuit. As noted in Knapp v. Ball, 175 So.2d 808 (Fla. 3rd D.C.A. 1965), there was not assumption of risk by a dog bite victim by her mere presence in the Defendant’s house as a guest. The Third District Court of Appeal further noted that liability is based on a legal obligation rather than on negligence. Furthermore, scienter or knowledge of a dog’s prior aggressiveness is not required for such a case.

In most cases, a dog owner is strictly liable for the actions of his or her dog that cause injury to a victim. There are some exceptions to this general rule. When a person is injured as a result of a dog bite attack, there are often times many issues or challenges faced by the dog bite victim including medical bills, medical treatment, insurance coverage, damages, pain and suffering, and other issues.

Florida and other States have unique laws in place for dog bite injuries and attacks. These cases are much different than other types of injury cases like automobile accidents, slip and falls, and other incidents.

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In Florida, children are the unfortunate victims of dog bite incidents and attacks. It was reported that an 11 year old Florida girl was bitten and attacked by a Florida Pit Bull breed type of dog. Trinity Ciolfi, age 11, was bitten when leaving a friend’s house. She was later admitted to the hospital with fractured arms and lacerations. There was a large area on her arm that was injured as a result of the attack. Government officials put the dog under a 10 day quarantine. Unfortunately, the dog did not have its Rabies shots in order. See Dog Attack of a Central (Brevard County) Florida Girl.

Following a dog bite / attack injury to a child, there are many issues and challenges for a parent to deal with. Florida dog bite cases are governed by Chapter 767, Florida Statutes and local dog leash and dangerous dog ordinances and laws. Florid has a strict liability law in place for dog bite injuries. In other words, a dog owner is liable for a dog bite even if the dog did not have a history of aggression. A dog owner is liable regardless of its propensity or likelihood that it would bite a child or adult. Strict liability is different than common negligence which would require that the dog owner did something wrong or was at fault for the dog bite related injuries. In Florida, the privilege of dog ownership comes with it the responsibility for the acts and bites of the dog. There are some limited exceptions to the strick liability laws in Florida. For instance, a dog owner may be able to avoid responsibility if the dog bite victim was a trespasser and / or the dog bite victim purposely provoked the dog. In most dog bite attacks, the injured child is simply a victim who deserves compensation under Florida law for the injuries suffered as a result of the dog attack / dog bite.

Most Florida counties have a leash law in place. See Florida Dog Leash Laws – County by County. In addition, most Florida counties have a dangerous dog law in place. See Florida Dangerous Dog Laws – County by County. When a child is injured as a result of a dog bite, it is important to consult with a Florida Dog Bite attorney as to the rights of the injured child. In pursuing these cases, it is often helpful if the dog bite owner has homeowner’s insurance in place that covers damages for dog bite injuries. Unfortunately, many homeowner’s insurance policies have exemptions for dog bite injuries or animal attacks. If there is no coverage in place, the dog owner is still legally liable for the injuries or damage; however, payment for these damages must come directly from the Florida dog owner rather than the homeowner’s insurance company.

dog%20behind%20bars.jpgIs a Dog Owner Liable for a Dog Attack that Does Not Result in a Dog Bite? The simple answer to this question is “Yes”. Pursuant to Section 767.01, Florida Statutes, owners of dogs shall be liable for any damage done by their dogs to a person or to any animal included in the definitions of “domestic animal” and “livestock” as provided by Florida Statutes – Section 585.01.

The pursuit of a Florida dog bite case or a Florida dog attack case often times involves an interpretation of statutes and case law. A Florida Dog Bite Attorney can help the dog bite victim with advice, consultation, and legal representation regarding these matters.

In Josephson v. Sweet, 173 So.2d 463 (Fla. 3rd D.C.A. 1964), the Third District Court of Appeal noted that a dog owner can be liable for a dog bite and / or a dog attack that causes personal injuries. In Josephson, the Court noted that there is no requirement in a dog attack case to prove or allege that the owner of the dog had prior knowledge of the vicious or dangerous propensities of the dog. The Court also noted that Section 767.01, Florida Statutes, did not require prior knowledge or prior bad acts of the dog to pursue a lawsuit against the dog owner for personal injuries suffered as a result of a dog attack.

gavel%20brown.jpgIn Orange County, Florida, a hearing was held to determine the fate of a German Shepherd breed dog who bit a 3 year old girl at a park. It was reported by the Orlando Sentinel that the dog bit 3 year old – Erica Leinhart – in the face. Following the dog bite incident, the Orange County Animal Service held a hearing to hear statements from the dog owner (Joseph Marcica) and the girls’ parents – David and Alicia Leinhart. The father stated that the injuries to his daughter’s face met the criteria as established by Florida law to meet the injury type that would justify the standard for euthansia of the dog. There were also statement presented by neighbors of the dog owner as to the prior acts of the dog. The dog owner countered with statements that the dog was not dangerous.

See Orange County Dog Bite Attack Animal Services Hearing.

With respect to the animal service hearing, a decision will be made as to the fate of the dog. Whatever decision is made, the fact remains that a child suffered a serious personal injury as a result of a dog attack in Florida. Far too often, children are the unfortunate victims of dog bite attacks. Many of these dog bite incidents are preventable.