You have a dog, maybe he is a 25 pound beagle name Rex. Your dog is extremely friendly and perhaps is afraid of his own shadow. One day, you are walking him around your neighborhood, he is not on a leash because you know he would never bite, or hurt anybody. You see little Johnny, your neighbor’s son. He’s played with Rex before, and Rex does not seem to mind him. Little Johnny goes to pet Rex, and for the first time in his life, Rex bites little Johnny’s hand. Little Johnny is crying, there’s blood everywhere…are you liable?
Under Florida Law, dog owners are strictly liable if their dogs bite or attack somebody. Dog owners are also liable if their dogs kill farm animals. In order to recover damages, a dog bite victim would have to prove that he or she was in a public place, or lawfully on private property, and at the time of the bite the dog owner had not displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words “Bad Dog”. If the dog owner was negligent, the attack victim may also be able to recover damages.
Whether you knew or did not know that Rex was vicious will not matter. In our scenario, you will likely be liable for any injuries suffered by little Johnny.
The dog owner may have certain defenses available, in the eventuality they were sued as a result of their dog biting or attacking somebody. For example, if the attack victim cannot prove all elements required by Florida Law, the attack victim will be unable to prevail in a suit against the dog owner. If the attack victim waits more than 4 years to sue the dog owner, he or she will not be able to recover any damages from the dog owner. Any negligence on the part of the attack victim that is a proximate cause of the attack reduces the liability of the dog owner by the percentage that the attack victim’s negligence contributed to the attack. For example, if little Johnny hit your beagle with a stick, prior to being bitten, your liability will be reduced by little Johnny’s provocation.
If your or anybody you know was bitten or attacked by a dog, you should contact The Ticktin Law Group to find out about your rights.