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Do You Have a Right to Sue If Bitten by a Dog?

  • Nov 01, 2020
  • The Harr Law Firm

Angry dog baring teeth behind fenceDogs are frequently called “man’s best friend”—and for good reason. In general, dogs are unwaveringly loyal, love their families unconditionally, and are excellent companions throughout their lives. But in some situations, a dog can lash out violently and even unexpectedly. If you or a family member has been bitten by a dog, you may be wondering what legal recourse is available to you to seek compensation for damages and suffering. Keep reading to learn more about dog bite cases and your right to sue.

Who Is Liable?

In some situations, the liability is readily apparent to anyone. For example, if you were on public property (such as at a park) and a dog charged at you and attacked you without provocation, then the dog’s owner would be entirely liable for their dog’s behavior, especially given that they were in public without being properly leashed.

But what if you were on that person’s property? What if the dog owner claims the dog was provoked in some way? How is liability determined in these grayer areas?

According to Florida law, “The owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten”. In layman’s terms, if you were in a public place or were legally on private property, including the dog owner’s property, then the dog owner is still liable. So, if you were on the property but were invited to be there or were there performing some kind of work on the property, you are not at all liable for the attack.

If you were on their property without expressed or implied invitation of the owner, or if you provoked the dog in some way (even if you believed it to be “harmless” teasing of the animal,) this “reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident.” A judge or jury would be the party to officially determine what percentage of the incident you are liable for, but a consultation with one of our attorneys may give you a better idea of what to expect before you pursue a case.

What If There Was a Sign?

The one course of action an owner can take in regards to protecting themselves from liability is to post a prominent and easily readable sign warning about a dog’s aggressive nature. In these cases, even if you were on the property by invitation, if you chose to approach a dog after knowing that the dog could be aggressive, the dog owner would likely not be held liable for the biting incident, unless the incident was brought on by a negligent act on the owner’s part.

What If a Child Was Bitten?

Florida law makes a special provision for children under the age of 6. If a child under this age is bitten by a dog, it doesn’t matter if there was a sign warning of the dog’s tendency to bite. If your young child was bitten by someone’s dog, you still have the right to sue, regardless of any signage that may have been posted.

What If the Owner Didn’t Know?

In some cases, a dog owner may not have a sign warning about their dog’s aggressive behavior simply because the dog has never acted aggressively before. However, this alone does not absolve the dog owner of any liability. Of course, it would need to be determined if the dog was provoked into violence in some way. However, barring provocation from the individual who is bitten, the dog owner can still be held liable for damages from the biting incident, “regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.”

What Compensation Can You Receive?

Now that you have a better idea of the laws surrounding dog bites and where the liability lies, you might be wondering what types of compensation you can receive. In many cases, dog bites can be severe and lead to hospital bills, temporary loss of income, and extreme pain and suffering. You have the right to sue for damages within all of these categories.

If you or a family member has been bitten by a dog, please schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. We’ll go over the circumstances surrounding your case and determine the best course of action to help you receive the compensation you deserve. Give us a call today!