Dog Bites

Every year, thousands of Americans are bitten by animals. In many cases, a person bitten by an animal may have a legal right to recover damages from the animal's owner or another responsible party. Animal bite victims should seek immediate medical attention . If not treated, an animal bite can cause serious injury, infection, and even death.

Liability for Dog/Animal Bites

The first step in an animal bite case is determining who owns the animal. Florida law imposes "strict liability" upon the owner of a dog that bites or attacks others. Strict liability means that the owner is legally responsible for a dog bite, regardless of whether the owner did anything wrong. The victim does not have to prove that the owner knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous.

There are some exceptions where an owner of a dog might not be held liable for a bite. For example, a dog owner may not be liable if the owner adequately warned other people by prominently displaying a 'Warning Bad Dog' sign, and took measures to keep the animal away from people. A dog owner can also avoid some or all of the liability when the injured person provoked the animal to attack.

Animal owners are not the only people who can be held responsible for animal bites. Animal custodians, property owners, landlords and others may be held liable for an animal bite in certain circumstances. This typically involves proving that the party knew (or should have known) that the animal had "vicious propensities" and yet failed to warn or otherwise safeguard the victim. Determining whether someone knew or should have known of an animal's "vicious propensities" can be very difficult. Some factors that will likely be considered are:
  • Breed and Size of Animal
  • Purpose for Which the Animal is Kept
  • Prior History of Snapping and/or Biting
  • Prior Complaints to Owner
  • Prior Fights with Other Animals
  • Frequent Confinement of the Animal
  • Prior Muzzling of the Animal
  • Statements or Warnings made by Owner
Getting Help

Once a bite has been treated, the victim should consider consulting with an attorney experienced in animal bite cases to determine whether a legal claim exists and what damages may be recovered. Owners of animals that have bitten others should also seek advice from an experienced attorney in order to protect their rights under Florida law.