What Are Dog Bite Laws in Florida?

Floridians are at greater risk of dog bite injuries than those across the country, and animal attacks are a significant cause of nonfatal injuries in the state. The Insurance Information Institute revealed Florida ranked second for dog bites and other related injuries among national statistics. 

Although most dog bite injuries are non-life-threatening, they are particularly traumatic because children are often the victim. Despite breed-specific legislation in many states, the Tampa Bay area, including Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, and Pasco County, do not currently have laws restricting commonly known dangerous breeds. 

If you were injured from an animal attack, you can hold dog owners responsible by consulting a dog bite lawyer who can explain your legal rights and options. 

Who is Liable for Dog Bite Injuries in Tampa Bay? 

Under Florida law, the state follows “strict liability” in regards to dog bites. This legal doctrine means an owner can be held liable for a dog bite even if they were unaware the animal had any aggressive tendencies before the incident. 

This rule distinguishes Florida’s dog bite statute from similar statutes in other states. For example, the “one bite rule” in many states provides dog owners with liability protection in the first incident of a dog bite or attack. 

Dog bite victims in Florida do not need to show that the owner was negligent, regardless of whether the attack occurred in public or private spaces, as long as the victim was lawfully present on the property.  

However, dog owners may be found negligent if they violate any of the dog-related statutes under Florida law. These violations include letting a dog roam freely and unsupervised in a neighborhood or walking a dog without a leash. 

What Are Exceptions to Florida’s Strict Liability Statute? 

While Florida’s statute for dog bites does exercise strict liability, there are several circumstances in which a dog owner may not be held liable if their dog bites another person:

  • The bitten victim was on the owner’s private property unlawfully without an imposed duty or state law to uphold
  • A “Beware of Dog” or “Bad Dog” sign was readily visible and readable for those entering the property. However, if the victim is under six years old, strict liability is still upheld.
  • Police or military dogs were performing their duties
  • Property damages were caused by a vicious dog

In some circumstances, a dog owner may dispute that a bitten person was partially responsible for the incident under Florida’s comparative negligence rules. If a victim’s negligence or provocation may have led to a dog bite or attack, a judge may rule that compensation should be adjusted by the percentage that a victim was responsible. 

What Are Intentional Torts in Dog Bite Cases? 

An intentional tort, such as an assault, requires a dog owner’s specific intent to cause the dog to bite another person. In the context of a dog bite, intentional torts usually arise in cases of provocation, where the dog owner provokes, incites, or encourages the dog to bite someone. 

In these situations, the dog bite victim may be entitled to compensation for injuries and damages they sustain from the incident. 

What to Do After a Dog Bite to Protect Your Legal Rights

If you were attacked by a dog without provocation while lawfully on public or private property, here are a few steps to strengthen your dog bite claim:

  1. Document your injuries by taking pictures throughout your recovery period, particularly if you find them progressing in severity. 
  1. Seek immediate medical attention. Medical records and paperwork from consistent monitoring from your doctor will strengthen your animal attack case. 
  1. Reach out to witnesses that may have seen the attack and record their statements. 
  1. Save clothing worn during the attack or any other physical evidence that could corroborate your claim. 
  1. Contact a dog bite lawyer who can begin gathering evidence as soon as possible. 

Contact a Dog Bite Lawyer at The Fran Haasch Law Group

If you have sustained injuries resulting from a dog bite incident, you should contact an experienced Tampa Bay dog bite lawyer as soon as possible. The personal injury attorneys at The Fran Haasch Law Group can help you recover monetary compensation for your injuries and damages. Contact us today at (727) 784-8191 for a free, no-risk consultation. 

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