Articles Tagged with homeowner’s insurance

Florida-Dog-Bite-150x150In 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:

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.

mle_1935a-022614-calGun ownership is protected by the Second Amendment.  Certainly, there is a strong history and constitutional right to gun ownership in Florida and the United States.  With this right, there are also the responsibility of sensible and reasonable ownership and safety especially when children are present in a home or a location where guns are owned, maintained, and stored.   A homeowner / gun owner can be held liable for leaving a gun in a place or location that is accessible to a young child.   It is well known that children especially toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary school children are curious and do not always recognize the danger of touching or handling a gun.  Civil or legal responsibility for injuries or the death of a young child does not in any way abrogate or curtail gun ownership or rights.  Like driving an automobile or running an amusement park right, there must be responsible maintenance and operation surrounding the potentially dangerous activity.

An Arkansas woman was recently charged after her six year old nephew shot and killed himself with a gun she owned. The young boy was waiting in a car while the woman was in a nearby residence. The accidental death lead to the woman being charged with manslaughter. She was charged criminally because she was  alleged to be negligent or careless for keeping the gun in a place accessible to the young boy. With such a tragic event, this particular incident and others are wake up calls for all gun owners and homeowners to be responsible any time that guns and children are present in the same location.

Gun related injuries can happen to a child of any age. In fact, toddlers, aged two or three, are strong enough to pull the trigger of a loaded gun. Often, these toddlers are too young to understand what a gun is and the danger that it poses. Coupled with the fact that one in three children live in a home with a gun, this is all the more reason to practice proper gun safety.

106-1113tm-vector2-2936Trampolines can provide hours of enjoyment and exercise to children.  Unfortunate, a trampoline can also be the site or location of a serious personal injury to a child.   There are three major reasons why children are injured while playing on a trampoline:
1.  Improper Maintenance / Repair of the Trampoline.
There are far too many homeowners, summer camps, schools, and day care centers with trampolines that are older and / or without proper safety measures and equipment.   Many trampolines lack side netting and barriers.  Alternatively, the side netting or barrier is in place but in disrepair.  There are also trampolines in use and available for play with issues with the legs or footing of the trampoline.  Some have missing springs and holes in certain areas.   When a trampoline is not properly maintained, children can be harmed even during simple light use.

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: