Dogs can be a blessing to us in many ways. After all, they don’t call them man’s best friend for nothing right? However, there are instances when they can and will attack, which can result in severe injury, psychological trauma, and even death. Though most encounters we have with our furry friends are snapshot worthy, we must remember that ALL animals, wild or domesticated, are capable of breaking free of the social norm and acting out of instinct, fear, or territorial breach.
According to the Florida Department of Health, each year an average of over 600 Floridians are hospitalized and 2 deaths occur from injuries sustained from a dog bite. Most incidents occur in the home or on the property the dog resides at, affecting people the dog is already familiar with. A whopping 26% of all reported bites were caused due to interaction during inappropriate times, such as:
24% of dog bites are caused by protective behavior, which occurred regularly both on and off of the dog owner’s property. Over 50% of all reported bites occurred when victims over the age of 15 attempted to break up a dog fight.
Florida statute §767.04 states that a dog owner is liable for injuries if the dog bites someone, and if the victim is on public property or lawfully (not trespassing) on private property. This statute only covers dog bites, but that doesn’t mean you can’t seek damages for other injuries obtained. Being knocked over, scratched, or injured in any other way from a dog other than a bite can still be costly if injuries occurred.
Here at Vasilaros Wagner, we’re dog lovers who understand life doesn’t always go as planned. Though your dog bit someone, we know you’re most likely stressed out, empathetic, and worried about potential consequences. Being a Florida dog owner, you have two defenses on your side if rightfully adequate—trespassing and comparative negligence.
An individual unlawfully trespassing on private property would not be able to collect damages from a dog bite injury. This includes a privately owned home or piece of land. A dog bite occurring on a business property, even if it is a private business, could still deem you liable if customers or clients are bit and not considered to be trespassing.
Comparative negligence refers to a bite that occurred from the negligence of another person, even if they are on your property. This could include anything from an individual harassing the dog while eating, roughhousing with the dog, or accidentally stepping on its tail or tripping over it. The total damages would be divided between you and the bite victim based on what percentage the court feels each of you are responsible for. The victim’s percentage would be deducted from the total damages.
Florida has no state-wide mandated leash laws in effect, however, individual counties do have ordinances you are required to follow.
Volusia County: Dogs must be either leashed, kept under humane restraint, or controlled by voice command when off the home owner’s property or public property.
Orange County: Dogs are required to wear a leash when off the owner’s property or on public property.
Flagler County: Dogs are required to wear a leash when off the owner’s property or in a residential area.
In 2018, Florida had the second highest amount of dog bite claims in the US, totaling over 56 million dollars. The average cost per claim in Florida was $43,893.
The Florida Statute of limitations allows a person injured from a dog bite up to 4 years from the date of the injury to file a claim in Florida’s civil court system. Waiting longer could potentially result in your case being thrown out and not being heard. Don’t hesitate or let yourself be further victimized by the fear of costs.