Tampa Dog Bite Attorney
Compassionate representation for victims bitten by vicious canines
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Pet ownership is incredibly fulfilling. It is also a responsibility. Not only are pet owners responsible for their animal’s care, but pet parents Florida’s laws also hold animal owners responsible for their pet’s behavior. If a dog bites someone, a Florida civil court may hold the pet owner responsible. Beyond civil court liability, the pet owner may also face criminal court consequences.
Florida dog bite statutes
According to Florida’s dog bite law, a dog owner is liable if he or she owns a dog and if the dog bites another person in public or in a lawful private place. The private place can be the dog owner’s property. The dog bite statute is specific to injuries caused by bites. However, if a dog knocks someone over or otherwise causes injury without biting, the injured party may still file a claim against to dog owner based on the theory of negligence.
Unlike most other personal injuries, Florida dog bite cases are not based on the owner’s negligence. Instead, state courts follow the strict liability rule in dog bite cases. Dog owners are strictly liable without regard to whether they knew or had reason to know their dog could potentially cause harm by biting someone. Therefore, the injured party is not required to prove the dog owner behaved unreasonably.
State law recognizes two instances in which a dog owner is not strictly liable for injuries caused by his or her dog bite. If an individual is injured by a dog bite while on a property illegally, the law does not impose strict liability. The dog owner may not be liable if he or she has a “Beware of Dog” sign posted and readily visible and legible to people who enter the property. Strict liability still applies if the dog bite victim is under six years of age.
Comparative negligence in dog bite cases
Although dog owners are automatically liable in cases that do not fall under either exception, courts also apply the comparative negligence rule in dog bite cases. The comparative negligence rule allows dog owners to present evidence to establish that the injured party was partially at fault in the accident. Florida specifically applies the pure comparative negligence rule in most personal injury cases. Therefore, even if the plaintiff is at fault, he or she may still receive compensation. The court will calculate the percentage of fault each side contributed to the accident and subtract the plaintiff’s percentage of fault from his or her award amount. For example, if a plaintiff is awarded $100,000, the court may hold the plaintiff responsible for 15 percent of the fault in the accident. The plaintiff’s judgment amount would be reduced by 15 percent, and he or she would receive $85,000.
‘Negligence per se’ in Tampa dog bite cases
The doctrine of negligence per se allows victims to recover compensation if the victim’s injury occurred as a result of the defendant violating a statute or ordinance that was enacted to keep others safe. For example, a defendant may be liable if his or her unleashed dog attacked someone in an area in which leashes are legally required.
Tampa dangerous dog statute
Florida has enacted a Dangerous Dog statute with the intent of protecting the public from dogs who may be more inclined to bite and cause injury. In very serious dog bite cases, a dog may be declared a dangerous dog according to the law. Pet owners who have a dog that is declared dangerous may be subjected to criminal liability if the dog bites again. Owners of dangerous dogs are required to register the pet with the local authorities. The dog must me kept in a secure location. The location must have signs posted to indicate the presence of a dangerous dog. If the pet owner removes the dog from the premises, the dog must be restrained with a harness or leash and collar, and the dog’s mouth is required to be muzzled.
Landlord liability in Tampa dog bite cases
Florida courts generally hold landlords responsible for protecting their tenants from dangerous dogs on the premises. Therefore, a landlord who owns a multi-unit property may be liable if one tenant’s dog attacks someone else on the property. The injured party must establish that the landlord had knowledge of the potentially vicious dog and failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent injury to others. If a property or community has breed and size restrictions, the landlord may be liable for not enforcing the rules if a tenant has a restricted pet on the property.
Scienter in Tampa dog bite cases
The term “scienter” refers to the common law doctrine that holds that a person’s knowledge of the nature of something in his or her possession is often an element of an offense. Florida’s “One Bite Rule” relies on the concept of scienter to hold people other than the dog’s owner liable. State law requires a victim to recover compensation from the dog’s harborer or keeper if 1) the dog has previously bitten or acted like he wanted to bite someone in the past and 2) the harborer or keeper was aware of the dog’s previous conduct.
Tampa dog bite injuries
Dog bite injuries can range from relatively superficial puncture wounds to more severe injuries. Common dog bite injuries include:
- Puncture wounds and lacerations
- Eye injuries
- Head and neck injuries
- Face injuries
- Nerve damage
- Rabies and other infections
Small children are especially at risk for severe injury due to their size. Whether a dog bite victim’s injuries are mild or severe, contacting a Tampa dog bite lawyer is always advisable.
Head and neck injuries
Bite wounds inflicted upon the head and neck may injure the face or vital structures like the blood vessels, the nerves, the trachea and the esophagus. Facial injuries may affect the eyes, the ears, or the mouth. A head or neck injury may require the victim to take pain medicine and possibly an antibiotic if the wound becomes infected. In severe cases, a doctor may recommend surgery to repair the injured area. Dog bite victims may receive compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering if the injury is very severe.
Infections caused by dog bites
Dogs’ mouths are unclean. A bite can introduce bacteria into the resulting open puncture wound. If left untreated, bacteria from a dog bite may cause an abscess or cellulitis, an infection in the underlying tissue. The bones, joints, chest, and abdomen may develop an internal infection in very severe cases. Dogs that are infected with rabies may behave more aggressively. If someone is bitten by a dog that has rabies, the individual should immediately seek medical attention as the serious disease may be spread to a human through a bite or scratch from an infected dog.
The potential for infection is a compelling reason for victims to receive a medical exam immediately after a dog bite. It can take several days for the victim to realize he or she may have an infection that requires immediate treatment. Going for a medical exam will allow medical professionals to properly examine, diagnose, and treat injuries. The medical professional may also be able clean the wound to prevent bacteria contamination from developing into an infection.
What to do If a dog bites
In the event of a dog bite, the first step is to ensure the victim receives medical attention. If the bite victim needs an ambulance, call to request one. If the injury does not require transportation in an emergency vehicle, the victim may drive to the emergency room. It is critical that dog bite victims receive a medical exam and treatment right away. Delaying and waiting one or more additional days to get treatment may allow a dog bite injury to become infected or otherwise worsen.
The involved parties should also exchange contact information. Record the dog owner’s name, address, phone number, and insurance company. If possible, document the incident before you leave the scene. Take photos of the bite injury, the dog, and the setting in which the bite took place. If there are witnesses, request their info if they are willing to give their account of the incident. Try to write down how the event took place and everything else you can remember about the dog, the dog owner, and the details surrounding the incident.
Once the victim has received a medical examination, immediately contact a Tampa dog bite lawyer. Contacting a lawyer earlier rather than later will allow the attorney to gather evidence that may not otherwise be available. In addition to calling an attorney, also call Animal Control Services. An investigation by Animal Control may help you in civil court if you file a claim for compensation.
Preventing dog bites
There are certain practices adults and children can learn to reduce the risk of being bitten by a dog. Dogs generally bite as a result of feeling threatened or severely agitated. There are certain behaviors that may not seem threatening to humans. Meanwhile, a dog may find the same behaviors provocative. If a dog appears agitated, breathe normally, and act naturally.
Avoid eye contact with an agitated dog
If a dog appears agitated, avert your glance, and avoid looking the dog directly in the eye. Dogs may interpret direct eye contact as a challenge. A dog that feels challenged by a human may feel anxious and try to attack.
Dogs sometimes feed off of the energy of humans. Very excitable human behavior is more likely to cause a dog to feel anxious or overly excitable. Behaving aggressively toward an unfamiliar dog may prompt a dog to respond aggressively. Avoid twitching and moving erratically.
Avoid running away from a dog
Running away from a dog will generally cause the dog to run toward you. Even if you are just playing around, a dog may revert to instinctive herding or predatory behavior.
Avoid touching ill or injured dogs
Dogs who are not feeling well are more protective and defensive. Therefore, they may interpret a person approaching or extending a hand as a threat. Injury or illness can make a dog feel vulnerable. A dog who feels vulnerable may snap with the intent to fend off what the dog interprets as a potential attack.
Supervise children when around dogs
Adults should never allow a child to be out sight when a dog is present. Children do not understand canine behavior. They are also less inclined to understand the risks of playing too roughly with a dog. An unsuspecting child may reach toward a dog that does not want to be handled. A dog may also perceive a small child as another small animal and chase the child, knock the child down, or behave aggressively toward the child.
Contacting a Tampa dog bite lawyer
Between the comparative negligence theory and strict liability, Florida’s dog bite laws may seem complex to the average person. A Tampa personal injury attorney can help accident victims understand how Florida’s laws apply to the victim’s unique case. A lawyer can help the injured party gather evidence and document the injury. The attorney will handle discussions with insurance companies and negotiate on the client’s behalf to obtain a fair settlement. If no settlement is reached, the attorney will represent the accident victim in court and fight for the victim’s rights to receive compensation for his or her injuries.
Our Tampa dog bite lawyer is available to represent injured parties in dog bite cases. Contact us today to receive a free case evaluation. We will face the insurance companies and navigate the civil court process on your behalf. We are committed to fighting on your behalf to help you achieve the best legal outcome available to you in your specific case. We handle each case with discretion, and we treat each client with compassion and professionalism.