Florida Dog Bite Attorney
As pets, most dogs are affectionate, loving companions that many of us consider to be an integral part of our families. As much as we love them, however, we must also be aware that they are still animals that are capable of attacking.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 4.7 million dog bites occur each year in the U.S., with about 800,000 of those requiring medical attention. When someone else’s dog bites you, the injuries you suffer could be devastating. Dog bites often require expensive medical attention and can have lasting effects. Victims may be forced to deal with issues like scarring and disfigurement, as well as post-traumatic stress and emotional anguish.
The Florida dog bite lawyers of Brooks Law Group represent people who’ve been attacked by dogs. We have the experience necessary to effectively pursue the compensation you deserve. This means determining how the bite occurred, and if the owner’s insurance coverage will be available to compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages, mental and emotional suffering, and other damages.
Our team is here to support you and represent you to the best of our skill and ability. It is our goal to help you seek the maximum compensation possible for your claim so that you can rebuild your life and put the attack behind you.
Call us or reach out to us online to schedule a free consultation with us today.
Who Is Responsible for a Dog Bite Injury in Florida?
Under Florida law, the owner of a dog is strictly liable for bite injuries caused by his or her dog. However, there are generally two legal defenses to a claim for a dog bite injury: trespass and comparative negligence.
Florida law requires the victim of a dog bite injury to be “lawfully” in the place where the bite occurs. If a victim is trespassing in the place where they suffer a dog bite such as, for example, a person breaks into the house where the dog lives, the homeowner owes no liability to the dog bite victim.
An owner’s liability to the victim of a dog bite may be partially reduced or even eliminated based on the victim’s negligence. This is often most relevant in cases where the victim is shown to have intentionally or recklessly provoked the dog, such as harassing or assaulting the dog or assaulting the dog’s owner.
Compensation for Florida Dog Bite Injuries
Compensation for dog bite injuries falls into two categories – economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are intended to compensate for a victim’s financial losses caused by their injuries. Economic damages may include:
- Medical expenses – Compensation for hospital stays, doctor’s visits, medication, surgery, physical therapy, durable medical equipment, and more
- Lost income – Compensation for missed work due to injuries, as well as diminished earning capacity
- Wrongful death damages – Compensation for the loss of your loved one’s income contribution to the family, the loss of their society, companionship, and services to the family, and costs of last injury and funeral expenses
Non-economic damages include compensation for pain and suffering, such as physical and mental/emotional distress caused by your injuries, along with the loss of quality of life or ability to participate in daily activities or activities you previously enjoyed. Non-economic damages also include compensation for loss of consortium, i.e., compensation to your family for the loss of your companionship, society, and services to the family.
What to Do If You’ve Been Bitten by a Dog
If you’ve been bitten by a dog, the Cleveland Clinic recommends steps that you should immediately take to reduce the likelihood of a possible infection:
- Gently press on the wound to cause bleeding to flush out bacteria.
- Clean the wound with mild soap and water.
- Slow down the bleeding with a clean cloth.
- Apply antibiotic cream.
- Wrap the wound with a sterile bandage.
- Replace the bandage several times a day.
- Observe for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or increased pain at the bite site.
As soon as practical, head to an emergency room or your doctor’s office to get the wound examined and, if necessary, repaired with stitches. If you do not know or cannot find out the immunization history of the dog that bit you, your doctor or a hospital may also administer vaccines for diseases commonly carried by dogs, such as rabies. A tetanus shot is also a possibility.
Seeking medical attention as soon as possible after a dog bite is also important to establish that your injuries were caused by the bite rather than from some other cause.
Once medical professionals treat your dog bite injuries, you should promptly speak with a knowledgeable dog bite attorney who can evaluate your case and determine who may be liable for compensation for your injuries.
Understanding Complications from Dog Bite Injuries
In addition to physical injuries, dog bites can also cause serious health complications, most often in the form of infections. The Centers for Disease Control reports that up to 18 percent of dog bites end up becoming infected with bacteria.
Although more than 60 kinds of bacteria can live in a dog’s mouth, only several of them can lead to infections and diseases in humans. Some of the disease complications that can arise from dog bite injuries include:
- Rabies – A virus that affects the brain and is almost always fatal once symptoms appear, complications can be averted with a timely administered vaccine.
- Capnocytophaga bacteria – Although most people who come in contact with the bacteria that live in dogs do not get sick, it can cause illness in persons with weakened immune systems.
- Pasteurella – A bacteria found in over half of all dog bites, it can cause a red, painful infection at the site of the bite along with swollen glands, swelling in the joints, and difficulty moving. It can lead to more serious infections in people with weakened immune systems.
- MRSA – A type of staph infection that is resistant to certain groups of antibiotics, MRSA infections can cause skin, lung, and urinary tract infections in people, or can cause life-threatening infections if spread to the bloodstream.
- Tetanus – A disease caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium tetani, this condition can cause rigid paralysis.
In addition to the infection risk, dog bites can cause lacerations, puncture wounds, avulsions, and crush injuries that can even damage tendons, ligaments, nerve, blood vessels, and bones.
Florida Dog Bite Laws
Florida Statutes §767.04 sets forth a dog owner’s liability. The statute states that the owner of a dog that bites a person who is in a public place or lawfully in a private place is liable for damages suffered from the bite, regardless of the viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s viciousness. However, the dog owner is not liable for a bite in the owner’s premises, except for a victim under six years old or if the bite is proximately caused by the owner’s negligence, if the owner posts a sign that includes the words “Bad Dog.”
Florida Statutes §767.11 defines a dog as a “dangerous dog” if it has bitten, attacked, endangered, or severely injured a person, has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal off the owner’s property, or has, when unprovoked, chased or approached a person in a menacing fashion or as an apparent prelude to an attack.
Under Florida Statutes §767.13, if a dog bite is caused by a previously designated dangerous dog, its owner is also subject to being charged with a first-degree criminal misdemeanor along with quarantine or destruction of the dog by animal control. If the dog bite results in severe injury or death, the crime is upgraded to a third-degree felony.
In addition to state law regarding liability for dog bites, various municipalities throughout Florida have various laws regarding dogs. For example, Winter Haven has enacted an ordinance requiring owners to properly exercise care and control over their dogs such that the animals don’t become a public nuisance.
Polk County, which includes municipalities such as Winter Haven and Lakeland, prohibits dog owners from allowing their dogs to be unleashed on a public street, sidewalk, park, or other public property. Tampa similarly has a leash ordinance requiring owners to directly control their dogs on city-managed lands. By ordinance, Tampa also prohibits dangerous dogs on city-managed lands.
How Long Do You Have to File a Dog Bite Claim in Florida?
Florida law imposes a time limit on filing a lawsuit for a dog bite injury. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. In Florida, you have four years from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit for a dog bite injury. If you fail to file your case in court before the deadline, you almost certainly will be permanently barred from pursuing your dog bite lawsuit.
There are a few exceptions that can pause or “toll” the statute of limitations. The most common basis for tolling the statute of limitations is known as the discovery rule. Under this rule, the statute of limitations does not begin running on a claim until the claimant knows (or should know through reasonable investigation) about the facts giving rise to his or her claim.
Under special limited exceptions, Florida law may also extend the statute of limitations for minors for up to seven years from the date of injury.
How Our Florida Dog Bite Attorneys Can Help
If you’ve been the victim of a dog bite in central Florida, the dedicated, caring, and experienced dog bite attorneys at Brooks Law Group want to help you pursue the compensation you deserve.
While you focus on getting back on your feet, our attorneys can begin the process of collecting the evidence in your case, including the circumstances of the attack and other records to back up your claims for compensation. Our team can negotiate with the dog owner’s insurance company to try and provide you with a fair and full settlement of your claims for compensation.
If a settlement cannot be achieved, our attorneys stand ready to argue your claim to a judge or a jury and fight to seek a favorable verdict.
Don’t wait another day to speak with a Florida dog bite attorney who can help you pursue the compensation you deserve. Contact Brooks Law Group today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and to learn more about your legal rights and options.
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