When properly trained and socialized, most pets pose no threat, but one or more of a potential host of mistakes by negligent pet owners can allow a dog to quickly become dangerous. Even if a dog has never shown aggression before, fear can put him in defense mode and prompt a bite.
This means that, when an owner fails to restrain a dog, even one who has previously been non-aggressive, this can cause significant harm to people and other pets, including through bites that puncture the skin, which in turn can cause permanent scarring and/or serious infection and disease.
Throughout this page of content, we will often refer to dog bites, doing so because the majority of animal bites are from dogs. Having said that, owner liability after a bite is not limited to ones inflicted by a dog.
In short, if you or a loved one are a victim of an animal attack, whether it’s from a dog or other animal, seek medical treatment immediately. Then, contact our experienced animal bite attorneys online or call us at 904.251.1111 to schedule a free consultation about your situation.
Animal bite law is a niche type of personal injury law, one where an animal harms a person. This is considered a form of tort law, because an injury takes place for which the victim may be able to receive compensation. As mentioned before, the animal involved is usually a dog, but this is not always the case.
Dog bite law, overall, is a blend of:
In Florida, there is a statute that’s specific to dog bites, and that’s statute FLSA 767.04. This states that the owner of a dog is liable for another person’s injuries if the dog bites him or her when that person is in a public place, or lawfully in a private one.
Although this statue refers specifically to dog bite injuries, if you were injured in another way by a dog, you may be able to receive compensation. Animal law is complex, which is why it makes sense to seek legal counsel if injured in this way. Another reason to react promptly is because Florida has a statute of limitations that limits the time frame you have to file a lawsuit to recover damages from an animal bite.
Because Florida is a strict liability state with dog bite law, the owner could be held liable for the injuries, even if he or she had no reason to believe that the dog might bite. Having said that, there are defenses that a dog owner might use against an injury claim you might have. The law requires the injured person, for example, to lawfully be where the bite occurred, so the animal owner might dispute that this was the situation.
Plus, there is the concept of comparative negligence. This means the dog owner might claim that you, the injured party, are partially to blame for the bite and subsequent injury. If the legal system agrees, then damages paid to you would be reduced by the percentage of blame assigned to you.
Some states ban specific breeds of dogs, but Florida doesn’t do that, distinguishing instead between dangerous and non-dangerous dogs based upon each animal’s behavior. Also, note that Florida law requires pet owners to keep their dogs’ rabies vaccinations current.
Because animal bite laws are complicated, it makes sense to seek legal counsel early in the process. This is true, overall, but even more so if extra complications exist.
This could be the case if, say, a landlord knew that his tenant had an aggressive dog, but didn’t address the situation appropriately, and then the dog attacked someone. Or, what if you were bitten while working? Is that a worker’s compensation situation or does it fall until animal bite laws? These are the nuances that our animal bite attorneys are highly experienced in investigating and resolving, advocating for our clients throughout the process. As yet one more scenario, what if you have reason to believe that the owner was provoking the dog into an attack?
We invite you to contact one of our dog bite attorneys to schedule a free consultation. Or, call us at 904.251.1111.
Pet owners, attack victims, insurance carriers, and government officials may very well disagree about what defines a dangerous dog—but we’re discussing the definition that matters in the eyes of the law.
Florida law defines a “dangerous dog” as one that has, at any one time, “severely injured or killed a domestic animal (dog, cat, ferret, rabbit or bird) while off the owner’s property.” However, in most instances, if you or a loved one are attacked by a dog, it doesn’t matter if the animal has previously bitten someone or whether the animal is on or off the dog owner’s property.
Bottom line, owning a pet comes with many responsibilities—including to keep others safe from their pets. When that doesn’t happen, and you’re injured, it’s reasonable to receive full and fair compensation.
Bites by dogs account for up to 90 percent of all animal bites, according to experts, with 4.5 million of them happening every year in the United States alone (some believe this estimate is significantly too low). Although some bites are minor, more than one million people each year need emergency medical care for the bites—and 27,000 of these bites, annually, are severe enough for the victims to require reconstructive surgery. Injuries may go far beyond skin punctures to involve “muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels.”
If bitten by a dog, the potential for infection is “extremely high,” as well, with common bacterial infections, post-bite, including Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and Pasteurella.
Other serious issues include contracting rabies and tetanus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you’ve been bitten or scratched, you should immediately wash any wounds with soap and water, and then see a healthcare provider. After any wound care is addressed, your doctor will likely work with you to determine if you need treatment for rabies. This is actually a series of treatments, and it’s important, the CDC says, to have the initial treatment as soon as possible after the bite. If it’s been more than five years since your most recent tetanus shot, the doctor will likely give you this immunization, as well.
This is worth repeating. If you need immediate medical attention, then seek it.
If there are witnesses to the bite, get their names and contact information, along with that of the dog owner and the person who was with the dog when the bite occurred, if not the owner. Ask for copies of the dog’s rabies vaccination records, plus a copy of the owner’s homeowners or renters insurance policy.
Ask a friend or family member to take pictures of your injuries and then take good notes about what happened, where it happened, and when it happened. Make a report about the animal attack to the appropriate agency in your area and ask for a copy.
If the dog owner’s insurance company calls you, get the full name of the person on the policy, along with the full contact information of the insurance adjuster. Get the claim number associated with your injury report and ask about liability coverage limits and the limits for medical expense coverages.
Use this opportunity to gather information, but do not discuss a settlement. Do not make an appointment with the insurance company or put any information in writing to them or to the animal owner.
If you or a loved one was injured due to an animal bite, or otherwise harmed by an animal (perhaps by being knocked down by a dog), then contacting us immediately puts you in a stronger position. During negotiations with the animal owner’s insurance, for example, the discussion should go beyond the settlement amount that the insurance company offers. What about any future medical costs that may be incurred, as just one example? What about pain and suffering? What about lost wages while you recover from your injuries?
Each situation is unique, and our experienced attorneys will know just how to navigate the negotiations to maximize your protection.
You may feel, at first, that your injuries are minor. But, the entire extent of an injury isn’t always fully apparent right away, which is why it’s important to speak to an attorney after an animal attack—and before you settle with the owner’s insurance company. And, the sooner that you contact a personal injury attorney who specializes in animal bites and attacks, the more quickly that evidence can be collected and preserved, giving you the strongest case possible.
Choosing the right attorney is important, so do your research. Ask friends and family for recommendations and check references. Avoid the urge to solely rely upon eye-catching advertisements. Instead, review your list of recommended attorneys and research their firms on their websites; also read the profiles of the attorneys in the firm. How long has the law firm been practicing? What practice areas do they focus on? Some attorneys will take on personal injury cases if someone contacts them, but you want attorneys who are highly experienced in personal injury law, and the niche area of it—in this case, animal attack law—that matters to you.
After successfully recovering compensation for clients over a period of decades, we know that it makes sense to consult with an expert personal injury lawyer before accepting any settlement offered by insurance companies.
Our team of legal experts will respond quickly on your behalf, navigating through the often-complex laws and claims processes. We will use the latest in technology to develop your case, and we use the expertise of a medical director and our full-time staff nurses who will thoroughly review the details of your situation. Then, we’ll recommend the best course of action so that you can seek full and fair compensation.
This can be even more crucial if the victim is a child. Find out more in our case study described below.
Harrell & Harrell, P.A., represented the family of a three-year-old child who was left unattended at her babysitter’s home. There, she was mauled by a dog, and the animal attack attorneys at Harrell & Harrell, P.A., were able to secure the family a settlement of $3 million.
Here, you can find a broad sample of other verdicts and settlements we’ve received on behalf of our clients.
When you or a loved one suffered injury because of someone else’s animal, you may be focusing more on how to pay your medical bills than on someone’s liability. You may hesitate to take action, given the complexities of animal attack laws, but the reality is that a no-risk consultation with one of our animal bite attorneys can increase the odds of your recouping the true costs of the injuries suffered.
Our personal injury attorneys will gladly meet with you where it’s convenient: your home, our office, or at the hospital. Don’t hesitate. Contact us by completing the form at the top of the page, or call us at 904-251-1111 or 800-251-1111.
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