Dogs can be people’s most beloved pets; some are even members of the family. However, dogs are also animals, and like all animals, they have instincts to protect themselves (or their loved ones) from harm. Sometimes, this means that a dog will bite or otherwise harm a person that they perceive as threat. Only in rare cases will a dog viciously attack someone with the intent to harm.
No “One-Bite” Rule in Florida
Many states have what is known as the “one-bite” rule. This is a law that makes allowances for a dog’s behavior the first time there is an incident. The specifics vary from state to state, but generally the law forgives the dog and its owner for the first instance of aggression—as long as the victim reported it. If there any further incidents with that same dog, the law will hold the owner completely liable because he or she knew the dog could behave that way.
Florida does not have the one-bite rule, however. In Florida, the owner of a dog may be held liable for any injuries his or her dog caused, even if it was the first incident. The owner of the dog cannot escape responsibility for compensating the victim by claiming he or she had no knowledge of the dog’s tendency to act aggressively.
The owner of a dog in Florida is liable for harm caused by the dog on public or private property—even property that belongs to the owner—as long as the injured party was on the property lawfully. “Lawfully” means, in this case, that the owner of the property invited the person (either an expressed or implied invitation) or is on the property carrying out a duty that the government imposed upon him or her by the laws of the state or laws/postal regulations.
However, if the owner has prominently displayed signs featuring the words “Dangerous Dog” on the property, then he or she may not be liable for harm the dog caused on the property—unless the dog hurt a child under the age of six or the owner was otherwise negligent.
Liability for Dog Bites
While Florida law does hold the owner of a dog liable for injuries caused by the dog, even on the first incident, the law also reduces that liability in certain circumstances. The owner’s liability for the victim’s suffering can be reduced if the victim is found to have been partly negligent in their actions or inactions, leading to the incident with the dog.
The court may reduce the dog owner’s liability for damages by the percent that the injured party is found to be responsible for causing the incident that led to the injuries.
Types of Injuries Dogs Cause
Bites are not the only injuries a dog can cause; they are only what we think of first. A dog can also injure a person by scratching or knocking him or her down. Generally, scratching injuries are not severe, but a dog’s untrimmed nails can cause some damage—especially to children.
When a dog knocks a person down, that person can suffer a variety of injuries. The impact may cause damage to the head, back, neck or spine. If the person is hit hard enough, he or she could even suffer brain damage. The chances of a more serious injury increase if the dog who knocked the person down is a large, heavy breed.
Any person who is the victim of a dog biting incident or has been harmed in some other manner by a dog should seek legal counsel to discuss his or her legal options and the possibility of compensation. Florida residents can contact the offices of Brandon Stein for a complimentary case review and list of options.