Under Florida’s Dog Bite Statute, if you are bit by a dog, regardless of the dog’s viciousness, you likely have a dog bite case against the dog owner.
However, a dog owner is not liable if you were on the dog owner’s property, without permission. For example, if you were trespassing at the time you were bit, you might not have a dog bite case. Also, not all dog bite cases are the same. The more serious the injuries the more the case is worth. Generally, bite wounds to the face are worth the most.
Homeowners Insurance Policy
You’ll want to get a copy of the dog owner’s homeowners insurance policy. You should request the policy in writing. Be sure to send the request certified mail – return receipt. The dog owner then has 30-days to respond with the insurance policy and forward a copy to the insurance company.
Once you receive a copy of the homeowners policy you’ll want to look for an “Animal Bite” exclusion. Some homeowners policies will not cover animal bites, including dog bites. Some policies may also exclude certain dog breeds, like pit bulls. This could present a serious problem if there is an exclusion. If you’d like a copy of the form letter requesting insurance policy information to send to a dog owner please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the property owner is someone other than the dog owner, you should also pursue the property owner. You’d make a claim against the dog owner AND the property owner. Often they’re not the same.
Common Dog Bite Defenses
There are common dog bite defenses in Florida. First, if the dog owner displayed a sign that reads “Bad Dog” the owner may not be liable. The exception to this rule is children under the age of 6, or unless the dog owner was careless in causing the bite.
Another common defense is negligence on the part of the person bitten. For example, if the dog was provoked, this would be an affirmative defense for the dog owner. Also, if victim ignored warnings not to go near the dog, this could also be a defense. Negligence on the part of the person bitten does not mean there isn’t a case, it simply means that the recovery is reduced by the percentage of fault.
If the dog bite victim was not legally allowed to be on the property, this is an affirmative defense for the dog owner. For example if the victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s land. A dog bite victim will always have a case if they were bit in public, like on the sidewalk.
Dog Bite Settlement Amounts
Here, are some dog bite settlement amounts for dog bite cases in South Florida. (Disclaimer: Not the results of The Longo Firm or it’s attorneys).
$12,300 Verdict ($2,500 for past medical expenses; $7,500 for future medical expenses; $800 for lost wages; $1,500 for past and future pain and suffering). Plaintiff was walking on her property when a pit bull lunged at her, biting her leg. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the dog owner and the owner of the property the dog owner was renting.
$13,500 Verdict Plaintiff, a female in her 30s, was bitten by a pit bull. The owner of the property were the incident occurred was also names as a Defendant. Dog owner kept a pit bull tied on a 10 to 13 foot leash. Dog lunched at her as she was passing by and bit her on the calf. Plaintiff argued that the dog owner should not have kept the dog tied on the property. She also argued that the property owner was negligent for allowing the dog owner to do so. Plaintiff suffered woulds and extensive scarring to the calf. Plastic surgeon indicated she would required reconstructive surgery.
$200,000 Verdict Plaintiff was walking on public sidewalk in front of the Defendant’s home, when she was attacked and bitten by the Defendant’s dog. She raised her hands in a protective measure and the dog leaped up and bit her in the hand. The dog gripped and shook the plaintiff’s hand and, when she managed to pull her hand free, it bit her in the thigh and buttock area. Plaintiff was treated at the hospital for many bite wounds. Also, at the time of the attack, the dog did not have it’s shots.
$7.7 Million Dollar Verdict Plaintiff was on his property when four (4) dogs escaped and rushed at him barking, growling, and snarling. He claimed he did not provoke the dogs. Plaintiff suffered many wounds which were severe.
Micah J. Longo, Managing Attorney of The Longo Firm (Davie, FL)