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.