Orlando Florida Dog Bite Attorneys
Typically, it happens in a fraction of a second when you are least expecting it. Many of us cherish the companionship of our loyal canine friends. However, when a dog owner is irresponsible and fails to control their dog, the damage can be devastating. Even minor dog bites may require extensive medical care to ensure that infections don’t develop. If you’ve faced an injury from a dog or any other pet, get in touch with us At JustCallMoe Injury & Accident Attorneys. Our dedicated team of dog bite lawyers grasp the profound impact of such incidents on a person’s life. We’re here to fight to get the rightful compensation for your ordeal. Dial (407) 245-7723 now for a complimentary consultation. Contact us today!
Dog Owner’s Liability in Florida: What You Should Know
Typically, a dog owner is held accountable for all injuries caused by their pet. Though fatalities from dog bites are rare, the lasting repercussions can be physically and emotionally taxing.
According to the Florida Statute 767.04, if your dog bites someone, you, as the owner are held liable for the damages. It doesn’t matter if this was your dog’s first-time showing aggression or if you were completely unaware of any prior incidents. The statute places strict liability on the owner, making them responsible for injuries even if they had no knowledge of their dog’s potential to bite. Florida Statute 767.01 further elaborates that owners can be held accountable for any harm their pet inflicts on people, other animals, or property. This means if a dog chases someone causing them to trip and hurt themselves, or damages property without any physical contact, the dog owner could still be held liable. Whether it’s a bark, a chase, or an intimidating growl, if it leads to injury or damage, the owner may be held accountable.
Compensation for Dog Bites
The average compensation for a dog bite case in Florida can vary widely depending on the specifics of the incident, such as the severity of the injuries, medical costs, potential lost wages, and other factors. Compensation may range from a few thousand dollars for minor incidents to hundreds of thousands or even more for cases that involve severe injuries or fatalities.
A report from the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm noted that the average payout for dog bite claims nationwide was around $64,555 in 2022. However, Florida alone saw 1,331 claims in the same year with an average payout of 78,203. Of course, these are simply national averages and the actual compensation you may be entitled to receive will be based on the specific facts of your case.
What Should You Do After a Dog Attack in Florida
- Prioritize Medical Attention: Your health is paramount. Even if the bite seems minor, it’s essential to seek medical care immediately. Dog bites can lead to infections, and a medical professional can ensure it is properly cleaned and treated.
- Report the Incident: Always report the dog attack to the local authorities. In Florida, this would typically be your local animal control agency or the police. Documenting the incident will be crucial if you decide to pursue any legal action.
- Gather Information: Obtain details of the dog owner, including their name, address, and contact information. If there are witnesses, gather their details too. This can provide valuable testimony should you need it later.
- Photograph Your Injuries: Documenting the severity and extent of your injuries can be crucial. Take clear photos of the bite marks, scratches, and any other injuries. This can serve as evidence in your case.
- Avoid Negotiating with the Dog Owner Directly: While it might be tempting to sort things out amicably, it’s recommended to communicate through legal channels. This helps to ensure your rights are protected, and you receive the compensation you deserve.
- Contact an Attorney: Florida has specific laws surrounding dog attacks. By consulting with a Florida-based personal injury attorney, you’ll have someone experienced in navigating the complexities of the Sunshine State’s legal system. They can guide you on the potential compensation for medical bills, pain, suffering, and other damages.
- Keep Records: From medical bills to days missed at work, keep a thorough record of all the costs associated with the attack. This documentation will be invaluable when determining the compensation, you might be entitled to.
Common Injuries from Dog Bite Cases:
- Puncture Wounds: These are small but deep holes caused by the dog’s teeth piercing the skin. They can lead to infections if not properly cleaned and treated.
- Lacerations: These are deep cuts or tears in the skin that might require stitches or surgical intervention.
- Bruising: This results from the force of the dog’s jaw and can indicate deeper tissue damage.
- Abrasions: Scratches or grazes on the skin surface often caused by the dog’s teeth or nails.
- Crush Injuries: Especially in attacks by larger breeds, the pressure from a dog’s jaw can cause bone and tissue damage without breaking the skin.
- Fractures: Dogs can cause bone breaks, especially in smaller bones like those in the hand or wrist.
- Face and Neck Injuries: Many dog attacks target the face, leading to injuries that can be disfiguring and might require reconstructive surgery.
- Scarring: Even after wounds have healed, they can leave permanent scars, which might also require surgical intervention to minimize.
- Eye Injuries: Bites near or on the eyes can lead to permanent vision issues.
- Nerve Damage: Deep bites can damage nerves, leading to numbness, tingling, or even paralysis of the affected area.
- Rabies: Although rare, if the attacking dog is not vaccinated, there’s a risk of transmitting rabies to the victim.
- Infections: Bacteria from a dog’s mouth or external sources can lead to infections in the wound. Common infections include Pasteurella, MRSA, and tetanus.
- Psychological Trauma: Apart from physical injuries, victims often suffer from emotional and psychological trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), fear of dogs (cynophobia), anxiety, and depression.
- Death: In very severe cases, especially when vital areas like the neck are attacked or when the victim is vulnerable (such as infants or the elderly), dog bites can unfortunately be fatal.
- Compartment Syndrome: This is a serious condition that arises when there’s increased pressure within a muscle compartment. It can lead to muscle and nerve damage and is considered a medical emergency.
- Sepsis: If an infection from a dog bite is left untreated, it can spread through the bloodstream, leading to sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to infection.
Whenever someone experiences a dog bite, it’s crucial to seek medical attention promptly, even if the injury initially appears minor, to prevent complications and ensure proper treatment.
Florida Dog Bite Incidents: Your Rights & Recourse
In Florida, dog bite incidents are unfortunately frequent, leading to numerous hospital admissions annually. Beyond the immediate medical treatment like stitching, dog bites pose a significant risk of infections due to the bacteria in the dog’s saliva. The medical costs can be daunting. Victims of dog bites in Florida should be compensated for both medical bills and their emotional trauma. The state laws hold dog owners accountable for the injuries inflicted by their pets. Yet, if the victim had any role in provoking the dog, the compensation might be adjusted based on Florida’s comparative fault rule. If affected by a dog-related injury, consider consulting an Orlando dog bite attorney immediately.
Understanding Dog Attacks and Their Demographics
Experiencing a dog bite, especially during one’s formative years, can leave lasting emotional scars and cause a lifelong fear of dogs. While the majority of dogs are harmless, a few breeds have garnered negative attention. According to a study spanning 1982-2014, the American pit bull was identified as the perpetrator in 59% of fatal dog attacks in the U.S. Disturbingly, most severe or fatal dog attacks target the very young or elderly. The same study revealed that the molosser breed group, which encompasses pit bulls, rottweilers, and boxers, despite being just 9.2% of the dog population, is linked to:
– 86% of attacks causing physical harm;
– 81% of attacks on children;
– 89% of attacks on adults;
– 76% of fatal incidents;
– 86% of maiming incidents.
It’s essential to remain cautious, especially in places like Orlando where these breeds are prevalent. According to the CDC, approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur annually in the United States with approximately 800,000 needing medical intervention. Among those affected, children aged 14 and below accounted for 42%, with boys aged between five to nine at higher risk.
Tips to Prevent Dog Bites:
- Stay cautious around dogs you aren’t familiar with. Some might turn aggressive when approached.
- If a dog comes closer out of curiosity, don’t rush to pet it. Let it come to you at its pace. Surprising a nervous dog could lead to defensive bites.
- Never disturb a dog during its sleep or mealtime; they could react unpredictably.
- Refrain from direct eye contact with unfamiliar dogs, as it might be perceived as a threat.
- Stay clear of stray dogs and alert the concerned authorities.
- If confronted by an aggressive dog, don’t run. It might trigger their chase instinct.
- In case of a bite, ensure immediate wound cleaning and inform your local animal welfare agency.
- If knocked down by a dog, curl up and remain still to protect yourself.
Guarding Against Dog Attacks
In the unfortunate event of a dog attack:
- Let the dog latch onto an object rather than your body, like a backpack or clothing.
- Shield your face, neck, and chest.
- The forearm and shin are relatively safer areas for a bite.
- Keep hands clenched to protect fingers.
- Avoid yanking away from a latched bite.
- If possible, lift the dog’s rear legs.
- Yell for assistance.
What is Florida’s Dangerous Dog Statute?
Florida’s “Dangerous Dog” statute designates a dog as “dangerous” if it has aggressively bitten, attacked, endangered, or inflicted severe injury on a human without provocation, or if it has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s property. Once labeled as “dangerous,” the dog’s owner must adhere to specific regulations, including registering the dog, securely confining and properly identifying it, and maintaining liability insurance to cover potential damages from future bites or attacks. Non-compliance with these requirements can lead to severe penalties, including the potential euthanization of the dog. Florida’s “Dangerous Dog” statute is outlined in Chapter 767 of the Florida Statutes.
- Definition of a Dangerous Dog: A dog is classified as dangerous if it has:
- Aggressively bitten, attacked, endangered, or inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property,
- More than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while out of the owner’s property,
- Chased or approached a person upon streets, sidewalks, or any public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, or
- Has a known propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack, causing injury or otherwise threatening the safety of humans or domestic animals.
- Exceptions: A dog may not be declared dangerous if the threat, injury, or damage was sustained by a person:
- Who, at the time, was unlawfully on the property or, while lawfully on the property, was tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog or its owner or family members,
- Who was committing or attempting to commit a crime, or
- If the dog was protecting or defending a human being within the immediate vicinity of the dog from an unjustified attack or assault.
- Requirements for Owners of Dangerous Dogs:
- Register the dog with the local animal control, obtaining a certificate of registration which must be annually renewed.
Properly identify the dog with a permanent ID, like a tattoo or microchip.
- Secure the dog in a proper enclosure and post warning signs at each possible entrance to the property where the dog is kept.
- When not in the enclosure, the dog must be muzzled and restrained by a substantial chain or leash, under the control of a competent person.
What is Florida’s Leash Law?
Florida does not have a statewide leash law per se. Instead, dog control and leash laws are generally determined by individual counties and municipalities within the state. However, Florida Statute Section 767.04 provides guidance on dog bites and the liability of dog owners. The statute implies that if a dog bites a person who is either in a public place or lawfully in a private place (including the property of the dog owner), the dog owner is liable for the damages, regardless of the dog’s previous behavior or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness.
The absence of a state-specific leash law does not mean dogs can freely roam. Instead, individual counties and cities in Florida often enact their own ordinances concerning dogs and leashes. For instance, many counties and cities require dogs to be on a leash when outside of their own property, and others might have specific leash length requirements or restrictions on certain breeds. It’s crucial for dog owners in Florida to be familiar with the local ordinances in their specific county or city. This ensures not only the safety and well-being of the dog but also reduces the chances of potential legal complications or liabilities. If someone is unsure about their local dog regulations, they should check with their city or county government or animal control department.
What Does Animal Control do after a Dog Bite is reported?
In Florida, when a dog bite is reported, Animal Control plays several critical roles in the aftermath to ensure public safety. Upon receiving a report, Animal Control officers will initiate an investigation. This can involve interviewing the victim, the dog’s owner, and any witnesses. They’ll also document the incident with photos and gather relevant evidence. If the biting dog’s rabies vaccination status is unknown or not up-to-date, Florida law mandates that the dog be quarantined for a specific duration, usually 10 days. This can occur at the owner’s home, at a vet’s office, or in an Animal Control facility, depending on the circumstances. The primary purpose of this quarantine is to monitor the dog for signs of rabies.
Animal Control might also assess the dog’s behavior to determine if it poses a danger to the community. Depending on the severity of the bite, and if the dog has a history of aggressive behavior, it might be labeled a “dangerous dog.” Issuing Citations or Fines. Based on the investigation’s outcome, Animal Control may issue citations or fines to the dog’s owner, especially if they violated local leash laws, failed to vaccinate the dog against rabies, or if other negligence is determined.
In extreme cases, where the dog bite is severe or if the dog has a history of unprovoked attacks, Animal Control may decide that the most appropriate course of action is to euthanize the dog. However, this is typically a last-resort decision.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Florida’s law on dog bites?
In Florida, under Statute 767.04, a dog owner can be held liable if their dog bites someone, regardless of the dog’s previous behavior or the owner’s knowledge of such behavior.
Am I entitled to compensation even if the dog never bit anyone before?
Yes. Florida operates under a “strict liability” dog bite law. This means the owner can be liable even if the dog never showed aggressive behavior or bit anyone in the past.
Does it matter where the bite occurred?
In most cases, as long as the victim was legally allowed to be in the location where the bite occurred (i.e., not trespassing), they can claim compensation.
What if I was partially at fault for the bite?
Florida follows a ” comparative negligence” rule. If you’re found partially at fault, your compensation might be reduced based on your percentage of fault as long as you are not found to be more than 50% at fault. For instance, if you’re 20% at fault, you might only receive 80% of the compensation, but if you were 60% at fault, you would receive nothing.
What damages can I claim in a dog bite case?
Victims can claim medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, and even psychological trauma in some cases.
Can I claim compensation if a dog caused injury without biting, like knocking me over?
Yes, under Florida Statute 767.01, dog owners are responsible for any damage their dog causes, even if it doesn’t involve a bite.
How long do I have to file a dog bite lawsuit in Florida?
In Florida, you have two years from the date of the dog bite to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, the statute of limitations may vary depending on the circumstances of your case. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible to find out how long you have to bring a claim.
Does homeowner’s insurance cover dog bite liabilities?
Many homeowner’s insurance policies cover dog bite liabilities. However, some breeds may be excluded, or certain policies might require additional premiums for coverage.
What should I do immediately after a dog bite incident?
Seek medical attention, report the incident to local authorities, gather details of the dog owner and any witnesses, take photos of the dog and your injuries, and consult a personal injury attorney to understand your rights.