Articles Tagged with Florida law

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.

Florida Bicycle Accident Injuries.001Florida is a state that is filled year round with bicycle rides and cyclists of all ages and skill levels.  During any given trip by a driver of a motor vehicle – long or short, there is a high probability that you will pass or see a bicyclist on or near the roadway. It is vital that all drivers slow down near bicyclists and treat each bicyclist with due respect.  Let’s face it – a bicyclist / bicycle is no match (weight, force, and speed) for any motor vehicle out on the roads.   Distracted driving is an ongoing problem in the State of Florida.  Drivers are unfortunately and tragically paying more attention to their phone, text messages, and e-mails than other drivers, pedestrians, and, yes, bicyclist on or near the roads, highways, and streets.
Florida has adopted a comparative fault set of laws applicable to automobile accidents, trucking accidents, bicycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents.  In other words, in order to pursue a case for compensation for personal injuries, the injured bicyclist can be partially at fault for the accident or incident.  In representing an injured bicyclist, it is preferable if the driver is 100 % at fault; however, there may be circumstances where the bicyclist is partially at fault. There also can be situations in which two or more drivers may be at fault for a bicycle accident leading to personal injuries.
It should be noted that under Florida Statutes a bicyclist is given the same rights as a pedestrian under many situations.  As such, drivers should keep the law in mind as well the safety of all bicyclists and pedestrians in mind when operating a motor vehicle in the State of Florida.  It should also be noted that Florida has adopted a Dangerous Instrumentality Law as it applies to automobile accidents and bicycle accidents.  As such, the registered owner of a motor vehicle is liable for the negligence of a permissive driver even if the owner did nothing wrong OR was not even present at the time of the incident or crash leading to the personal injuries of the bicyclist.

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Many automobile accidents in the State of Florida as well as the rest of the country result from a rear end crash or collision.  In most crashes, the driver, who crashed into the vehicle in front of him or her, is at fault.  There are some exceptions to this general rule if there is a sudden and abrupt stop by the vehicle in front.  Section 316.0895, Florida Statutes – Following Too Closely provides that driver’s shall not follow another motor vehicle more closely than is reasonably prudent.  On Florida streets, highways, and roads, drivers should have due regard of the speed of other vehicles, traffic, road conditions, and weather when driving behind other vehicles and / or when approaching other vehicles.

Some may believe that once a rear end crash is essentially an open and shut case.  The automobile insurance company will recognize and admit liability and responsibility for damages to the vehicle that was rear ended and admit liability and responsibility for the injuries to the driver and passengers who were occupying the vehicle that was rear ended.  The truth is that automobile insurance companies scrutinize every part of a claim or case including the cause and details of the crash, the extent of the impact or the force of the impact, the relationship of the crash to the injuries complained of, the age of the injury victim, the prior medical history and condition of the injury victim, the reasonableness and necessity of the medical care provided, the finding of the treating medical providers, the finding of the treating radiologist, and the reports of the treating medical providers.  Florida law provides that it is the burden of the injury victim to prove by the preponderance of the evidence all elements of a personal injury case which are as follows:
  1. Duty;

 No Swimming.001During the past week, I have lectured and written on the issue of negligence, child injuries, and the unfortunate and tragic incident that took place at the Walt Disney World Resort – Orlando where a 2 year old child was attacked and ultimately drowned by an alligator.  It has been reported that there were “No Swimming” signs posted in or near the area.  Some people, who I have spoken to, believe that this fact should then be a bar to recovery if there is a claim or case pursued by the parents of the child who died.  Florida is a state that has adopted a Comparative Fault system for the pursuit and trial of personal injury cases.  In other words, even if an injury victim is comparatively or partially at fault, there can still be a case pursued on behalf of the injury victim and / or the injury victim’s family.   It should also be noted that there are some special laws in place in Florida when a child is injured.  For instance, in the State of Florida, a child under the age of 6 years old cannot be held liable, responsible, or partially at fault as a matter of law.  As such, a 2 year old cannot be comparatively at fault as a matter of law even though there were “No Swimming” signs that were posted.  However, a parent, as a third party of sorts, can be held liable, responsible, or partially at fault if the parent’s actions or inactions contributed in whole or part to the situation or incident taking place.
As for the Disney alligator attack, it has been reported that there were “No Swimming” signs posted.  The family of the 2 year old were from Nebraska and may not have been aware of the presence of alligators throughout the State of Florida in its rivers, lakes, canals, ponds, and lagoons.  Furthermore, the sign read “No Swimming”.   The reason for the posting of the sign could have included any of the following:
*There was no regular lifeguard in the area.

Scales of Jusice - Red White and BlueUnder Florida law, a parent may be liable for the bad acts whether they are negligent acts or intentional acts of a child.  However, it should be made clear that a parent is not automatically liable or responsible based on the parent – child relationship.  In the State of Florida, the case on point is Gissen v. Goodwill, 80 So.2d 701 (Supreme Court of Florida 1955).  In Gissen, the Supreme Court of Florida noted the circumstances in which a parent may be held liable for the bad acts of a child as follows:
1 – The parent entrusts an instrumentality to the child which because of the child’s age, judgment or experience may be a source of danger to others.  Examples of such an instrumentality may be a dirt motor bike, a lawnmower, a gun, etc. . .
2 – The child is acting as an agent or servant on behalf of the parent at the time that the tort is committed.