/rueziffra.com/Allan Ziffra-Personal Injury Attorney/ 05/15/2009
Florida law affords dog bite victims the rights to various forms of compensation. Equally important, however, is the need for dog owners to be aware of their responsibilities in the supervision and oversight of their four-legged companions. Under Florida law, the owner of any dog is strictly liable for a victim’s injuries sustained as the result of a dog bite. Specifically, Florida statute § 767.04 provides as follows: “The owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully in or on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.”
The dog bite victim must meet certain burdens of proof before he/she is entitled to hold the dog owner strictly liable for his/her injury. In particular, the plaintiff must show that 1) the defendant is the owner of the dog that bit or injured him, and 2) he/she was bitten while on or in a public place or while lawfully on or in a private place. A person is “lawfully” upon private property of such owner within the meaning of this act when the person is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him/her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when the person is on such property upon invitation, expressed or implied, of the owner. The courts have not focused on the place of injury in the context of dog bite cases. Persons engaged in the postal service, law enforcement officers and firefighters would probably constitute the majority of those entering the private property of another to perform a duty imposed by law. By no means, though, are these categories exclusive. Therefore, in order for a plaintiff to prevail in a dog bite case where he/she was bitten on the private property of the dog owner, it is likely that such plaintiff must have been on the owner’s property by express or implied invitation.
Dog owners can avail themselves to two defenses provided for in the statute. If the owner has an easily readable sign that is prominently displayed on the premises at the time of injury containing the words “Bad Dog,” such owner will not be liable except as to children under the age of six. Additionally, any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident. Furthermore, homeowners’ insurance often covers dog bite injuries unless the policy states otherwise. Nevertheless, dog owners should take all reasonable precautions to guard against the possibility of having to defend themselves in an action for dog bite.
If you are the victim of a dog bite, you may be entitled to all present and future medical bills, present lost wages and future estimated earnings, damages related to present and future pain, scarring, and mental anguish, and property destruction. If you suffer harm due to a dog bite or attack, the Central Florida Dog Bite Injury Attorneys / lawyers at Rue & Ziffra, P.A., will be happy to discuss the merits of your potential dog bite case.
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