Florida’s dog bite statute, FLSA 767.04, states that a dog owner is liable for injuries if:
- the dog bites another person, and
- the person is in a public place or lawfully in a private place.
This statute only covers injuries caused by dog bites. However, a person who is injured by a dog in another way may be able to prove the owner is liable if the injured person can show the owner’s negligence, or failure to use reasonable care, resulted in the injury. For instance, a person who is knocked down and injured by a dog may be able to hold the owner liable for failing to use a leash and properly restraining the dog.
Florida is a “Strict Liability” Dog Bite State
Florida is a “strict liability” state when it comes to dog bites. In other words, a Florida dog owner may be held liable if his or her dog bites someone, even if the owner had no prior knowledge or warning that the dog might bite. The injured person does not have to prove that a lack of reasonable care caused the bite.
Defenses to a Florida Dog Bite Claim
A Florida dog owner has two defenses to a dog bite claim: trespassing and comparative negligence. Florida’s dog bite law requires an injured person to be “lawfully” in the place where the bite occurred in order to recover damages. A person who is trespassing on private property without permission is not “lawfully” on the private property. Therefore, a dog bite owner could argue that the injured person was trespassing and is therefore not entitled to collect damages.
One partial defense a dog owner might raise is the defense of comparative negligence. Under Florida’s dog bite law, if a dog bite injury victim’s own negligence is partly the cause of the dog bite, the amount of damages a liable owner must pay will be reduced by a percentage equal to the percentage of blame assigned to the injured person.
Dog bite injuries can cause medical bills, permanent injuries, lost wages and the loss of the capacity to enjoy life. If you have been bitten by a dog, call Rowe Law Offices for a free consultation.