In Florida, if a dog bites a person, the owner is strictly liable for any damages caused by the bite. Florida Statute § 767.04 states:
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, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.
This means that the bitten person does not need to prove the owner was negligent. This is the essence of strict liability. The act itself establishes liability.
Florida Dog Owners Liability… Always An Exception Or Two
Despite the general rule, the legislature has continued to apply comparative negligence. Taken into account is any negligence on the part of the victim that can reduce potential recovery. The percentage of fault placed on the victim is ultimately decided by a jury.
For example, imagine the victim provoked or taunted the dog. A jury may find that he was therefore equally responsible for the attack as the dog owner. They would find 50% comparative negligence on his part, and allow him to recover only 50% percent of his damages.
Another exception totally exculpates the dog owner. A property featuring a sign with the words “bad dog” relieves liability from the property owner. This includes those who are lawfully on the property. Excluded are children under the age of six.
The Bottom Line
There are many nuanced rules that come into play when dealing with dog bites. If you are the victim of a dog bite, you should seek medical help and contact an attorney. Contact us today for a free consultation.