What To Do After You Were Bitten & Injured By Someone Else’s Dog In Florida
In Florida, the weather is finally “warming up” (after our brief winter, which was admittedly beautiful compared to the brutal ice-over that much of the country received, but which kept Floridians in boots and sweatshirts nonetheless). Florida springs are short and wonderful – there are a couple months where the oppressive heat of our summers has not yet begun, which means that more and more people will be spending time outside to take advantage of the mild temperatures: jogging, biking, and walking their dogs more frequently or for longer periods of time.
The saying that dogs are “man’s best friend” holds true in the state of Florida, which is ranked as one of the top 10 most pet-friendly states by one SafeWise study. However, dogs are not always predictable or friendly towards people who aren’t their owners, which is evidenced by the nearly 800,000 people who seek medical attention for serious dog bites every year, according to data from the CDC. At least half of those who are bitten are young children. The Insurance Information Institute reported that in 2019, Florida had the second highest number of dog bite claims in the United States, at 1,268 (second only to California).
Dogs are not inherently dangerous, but in Florida, dog owners are completely responsible for the actions of their pet. Florida is what is known as a “strict liability state” (Florida Statute Section 767.04) when it comes to dog bites. That means that as long as the person was lawfully visiting a public or private place, and an owner’s dog bites that person, then the owner is liable for their injuries even if the owner had no reason to suspect the dog would bite. Injured parties do not have to prove liability in these cases – the liability is inherent. (If someone was injured by a dog in another way besides being bitten, they have to prove that the owner’s negligence caused their injury).
There are three potential defenses, or exceptions, to this rule of strict dog bite liability. If the injured dog bite victim was trespassing at the time of the bite, they are not entitled to collect damages. If the owner makes a case that the injured dog bite victim was partially at fault for the incident (for example, antagonizing the animal) then the amount of damages the owner must pay may be significantly reduced. Also, if the dog bite owner displayed an easily readable sign that includes the words “Bad Dog”, they are not liable for injuries unless the victim is under 6 years old.
Dog bites can be painful and expensive, and in some cases, deadly. An injured dog bite victim may have to pay for the costs of ambulatory care and hospitalization, surgery or multiple surgeries (including plastic surgery or amputation), stitches, medications, prosthesis, physical therapy and rehabilitation, doctor visits, specialized care, imaging tests like X-rays, and more. These medical costs can be sought in a personal injury lawsuit. If the dog bite led to permanent disability or disfigurement like scarring, lost visual abilities, or permanent nerve damage, non-economical costs of pain and suffering can also be sought in a settlement, because that single incident will affect that person’s self-esteem and ability to enjoy activities for the rest of their life.
If you suffered a dog bite injury in Florida, here are some steps you can take to make it more likely that you will be able to recover the full amount of damages you deserve.
Document the incident
If you are able to do this safely before you leave the scene to seek medical attention for your dog bite injuries, take pictures of your injuries, the scene, the dog, etc. After you are in a safe state, preferably the same day, write down everything you can remember about the incident. The more documentation you have, the more smoothly your dog bite claim will proceed.
Exchange information with the dog’s owner and with other witnesses
At the scene, get the dog owner’s name, address, phone number, insurance company, and any other relevant contact info, just like you would at the scene of a car accident. If there are any people nearby who witnessed what happened, get their name and phone number as well in case they can corroborate your story and provide an eyewitness account if the need arises.
Seek medical care immediately
As soon as you are able to leave the scene, get medical help. In some cases an ambulance may have to be called, but even if you are able to get alternative transport to an emergency room or are able to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician, that is fine as long as you get a medical exam and treatment as soon as possible – don’t wait several days, several weeks, or several months to be seen. Besides the fact that dog bite wounds are prone to infection, especially if the dog has not been vaccinated, the earlier that a doctor can document the extent of your injuries and treat them, the more likely it is that you will recover compensation. If you wait, the defendant or defendant’s insurer could make the case that the dog bite did not directly cause your injury or that you let it get worse, for which they are not responsible.
Call Animal Control
If you file a report with your local animal control agency, their investigation might help your case as well as prevent other people from future dog bites in the area.
Call a Florida personal injury attorney
Not all bites are serious enough to sue over, but you should not have to pay for the consequences of an accident that was not your fault. Because in the vast majority of dog bite cases, the owner’s home insurance will pay, you do not have to worry about being able to recover the damages you deserve or feel guilty for suing the owner. However, this does mean that you will be dealing with an insurance company – an entity that will do everything in their power to devalue or deny your claim because doing so protects their bottom line. If the dog owner is uninsured, the process is even more complicated.
That’s why you need a personal injury lawyer on your side guiding you through the process and standing up for your best interests! The Florida Law Group is nationally recognized as one of the best law firms in the country. We have recovered over $1 billion dollars for injured accident victims in the state, and our lead attorney, Chris Limberopoulos, is a board certified civil trial specialist (which only 1% of lawyers can claim). Our mission is to relentlessly pursue justice for dog bite victims and help them to recover the maximum compensation they deserve. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and learn about your legal options! You don’t pay us unless we win your case.