PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY – PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER
Dog bites should be treated very seriously. Although fatalities from dog bites are not common, thousands of people suffer serious personal injury from dog bites each year. In addition to significant physical harm, dog bites often cause substantial emotional trauma. While dog bites occur in many settings, most dog bites occur on the owner’s property, and most victims of dog bites are family or friends of the owner. Although all dogs have the potential to bite, dog bites occur most often in dogs that have the following traits:
- Has Puppies
- Pit Bull
Florida law is favorable to the victims of dog bites. The dog bite statute is a modified strict liability statute. If you are the victim of a dog bite, the owner of the dog is usually responsible for your injuries. As long as you are on either public property or legally on private property, the dog owner can potentially be held responsible. It doesn’t matter whether the dog has a history of biting. If you were bitten, you can still proceed with a claim even if you were the first person ever bitten by the dog. There is no “one free bite rule” in Florida. As long as you did not provoke the dog, you may be entitled to damages.
There are two exceptions to the strict liability provided by Florida’s statute. First, if the victim provoked the attack in some way, the dog owner may not be entirely responsible for the victim’s injuries. Rather, the victim’s recovery is reduced by the victim’s percentage of fault. Second, there may be no recovery for certain kinds of attacks if the owner displays a sign that says “Bad Dog.” Owners that prominently display a “Beware of Dog” sign are often not responsible for dog bites unless some other negligence on their part caused the dog to attack.
The major issue in dog bite cases generally comes down to what compensation is appropriate. If you have been bitten by a dog, the owner may be liable for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Damages for pain and suffering
- Plastic surgery
- Psychological counseling
- Property destruction
- Permanent disfigurement or scarring
If the dog owner has a homeowner’s insurance policy or renter’s policy, those types of insurance often protect against the injury unless the policy specifically states otherwise. If the dog bite occurred at work, the victim may be able to receive worker’s compensation for the injury.
If you are the victim of a dog bite, you should take certain steps to make sure that you will have a valid claim so that you can receive the damages to which you are entitled.
- Seek immediate medical attention. Injuries can often be minimized by seeking prompt medical care. It is important that you give a thorough history regarding the accident to your doctor and that you keep records of all medical treatment.
- Report the dog bite to the local animal control and police department.
- Take photographs of your injury, the dog, and the area where the attack occurred. Photographs are a good idea, even if you are uncertain if you want to pursue a dog bite claim. By taking photos at the time of the dog bite, you will have documentation of your injury and the attack, should you later decide to proceed with a claim.
- Obtain the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all potential witnesses.
- Identify the dog and its owner.
- Contact the health department and animal control so that the dog can be checked for rabies.
- Do not make any statements to the dog owner or the insurance company without first speaking to an attorney. Similarly, do not sign insurance papers without first consulting an experienced dog bite attorney.
Children are often at greater risk for dog bites. Teach your children dog safety tips at an early age to prevent them from experiencing a dog bite. Children and adults alike should heed the following recommendations of animal professionals to reduce the chances of a dog bite:
- Never approach or touch an unfamiliar dog.
- Remain still if approached by an unfamiliar dog.
- Do not scream or run from an aggressive dog
- Do not go near a dog that is eating.
- Do not put your face near a dog’s face.
- Do not wake or scare a sleeping dog.
- Do not go near an injured dog.
- Walk slowly and carefully when approaching a dog.
- Do not provoke dogs.
- Do not pet a dog until it has a chance to see and smell you.
- Do not disturb a mother dog with puppies.
- Avoid stray dogs and report them to animal control.
If you have suffered personal injury as the result of a dog bite, you should promptly contact the experienced attorneys at Rice to insure that your claim is handled properly from the beginning. Do not make any statements to the insurance company without speaking to an attorney. It is imperative that this initial contact with the insurance company be handled properly to protect your interests.
The skilled personal injury attorneys at Rice are knowledgeable about Florida’s dog bite laws. We will quickly gather and evaluate the relevant medical information and vigorously negotiate on your behalf with the dog owner and insurance companies. Injuries from dog bites can be extremely serious, and the medical bills that arise from such an injury can result in significant financial loss. In addition, dog bites may cause significant emotional trauma to young children and adults. Victims of dog bites may experience loss of sleep, fear of dogs, and anxiety. It is imperative to have a skilled personal injury attorney who can insure that you are fully compensated for all consequences of the attack. Our attorneys will work aggressively to obtain a higher financial judgment by drawing attention to all relevant issues, including emotional distress, scarring, disfigurement, loss of income, and overall economic damages. Contact us today for your free consultation.
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