If you are injured in a dog attack, do you know your legal rights? Florida’s dog bite law is more favorable to victims than similar laws in other states, and as a result dog bite victims were able to recover $5.6 million in financial compensation in 2014 alone.
Strict Liability for Dog Bites in Florida
While most personal injury claims in Florida are governed by the rule of negligence (meaning that the person who causes you harm must be at fault in order for you receive compensation), dog bite claims are governed by a rule known as, “strict liability.” Under strict liability, a dog owner is financially responsible for victims’ injuries regardless of whether the owner was negligent in allowing the attack to occur.
But, what if you were negligent in provoking the attack? In Florida, you may still be entitled to financial compensation. Florida’s dog bite law states that a victim’s negligence only reduces the owner’s liability “by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting accident.”
Florida Leash Laws – Compliance is Not a Defense to Liability
In Florida, many counties also have leash laws. In Okaloosa County (where our offices are located), the “leash law” imposes varying requirements depending on where the dog is located. For example, in public, dogs must either be:
- On a leash held by a competent person
- Under the control of a responsible person’s commands
- In an animal carrier or crate
- Inside a vehicle
- Confined in a secure location with the owner’s or occupant’s permission
Many people mistakenly believe that they cannot seek compensation for a dog bite if the dog’s owner was complying with the leash law at the time of the attack. This is not the case. Florida’s leash laws are designed to protect citizens, not make it easier for reckless dog owners to get off of the hook. Regardless of whether an owner was complying with the local county’s leash law when you were attacked, the rule of strict liability will still apply.
Exception: “Bad Dog” Warning Signs
The Florida dog bite statute contains a single exception to the rule of strict liability: If the attack occurs at the owner’s home and the owner has a warning sign (such as, “Bad Dog”) displayed in a prominent place at the time of the attack, then the owner will be liable only if the attack results from his or her negligence. Importantly, this exception does not apply when the victim is under the age of six.
Regardless of the facts, if you have been bitten by someone else’s dog, we encourage you to seek a thorough legal evaluation. Dog bites can lead to lasting physical and psychological injuries that require years of medical treatment and rehabilitation, so you want to make sure that you recover the financial compensation you deserve.
Speak with One of Our Destin Dog Bite Lawyers Today
Powell, Powell & Powell is a family law firm that represents dog bite victims in Destin and other parts of Okaloosa County. If you or your loved one has been injured in a dog attack, we want to help you recover just compensation for your losses. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, please contact us today.