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.