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Dog Bite Laws in Florida

We are all familiar with news stories involving dog bite attacks, where individuals were left injured after a family pet or neighborhood dog turned vicious and bit somebody. Sadly, these incidents are more common than many people believe, with around 4.5 million dog bites occurring every year across the country.

Dog bite laws in Florida exist to identify who is liable for any damages when these attacks occur. They explain why a postal worker bitten by a dog in Orlando might be able to claim damages, while a person trespassing and harassing a dog in Jacksonville might not. They explain the damages that an individual might be able to recover and the defenses a dog owner might be able to use if their dog bites someone on their property.

What are Florida’s Dog Bite Laws?

When a dog bites somebody In Florida, a dog owner is liable for the damages they suffer regardless of whether the owner already knew that the dog was prone to being vicious. This covers where the individual was:

  • In a public place, or
  • Lawfully in a private place.

This includes a visitor to a dog owner’s home, whether they were clearly invited there by the owner or their presence was implicitly consented to (for example, a neighbor delivering a regular community flyer). This also covers individuals with a lawful duty to be there – such as a police officer or a postal worker.

As the name suggests, Florida’s dog bite laws only cover where a dog injures somebody by biting them. A person who is injured by a dog in any other way might, instead, be able to establish their injury was caused by the owner’s negligence.

What are the legal defenses when a dog bite injures someone in Florida?

Florida is a “strict liability” state where a dog owner is liable for bites regardless of any prior knowledge of their dog’s capability for violence. However, there are a number of possible defenses that an owner might be able to use.

The liability of the dog owner could be reduced if it can be shown that there was negligence on the part of the victim that contributed to the incident. This could include, for example, where a person has harassed or provoked the dog before it attacked. Where negligence can be proven, liability will be reduced by the percentage that this negligence contributed to the bite.

A dog owner is also not liable where they were, at the time of the incident, prominently displaying an easily-readable sign that included the words “Bad Dog”. However, this will not apply if:

  • The victim was under the age of 6, or
  • The damages were closely linked with a negligent act or omission of the dog owner.

What is the statute of limitation for a Florida dog bite claim?

To file a dog bite claim anywhere in Florida, it is important to note that the state’s statute of liability requires that you file your case within four years of the bite happening.

Speak to an Experienced Animal Attack Attorney Today

This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified animal attack lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local animal attack attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.

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