Articles Tagged with Dog bite

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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.