Dog bites can be potentially catastrophic situations, depending on the age of the victim and the size/temperament of the dog. In some situations, dog owners may have been aware of their dog’s aggressive tendencies and thus should have taken proper actions to control or contain the animal in a way to prevent a dog bite from happening. In other situations, owners may be taken aback by unexpected aggressive behavior from a dog they thought was safe. But what happens when the victim of the dog bite is partially to blame for being bitten? Our Miami personal injury and dog bite attorneys provide an overall explanation of Florida dog bite and negligence laws work and what you can expect in terms of getting compensation.

Which Florida Laws Help Determine Liability in Dog Bite Cases?

FLSA 767.04 makes determinations about damages caused by dangerous dogs and defines when a dog owner is responsible for a bite incident. It specifies that the owner of any dog that bites any person while this 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 resulting from the dog bite. This rule applies regardless of whether the dog owner had any previous knowledge about the dog’s viciousness or not.

In other words, if an individual was in a public place or within the dog owner’s private property with a lawful purpose (by invitation or as part of their job duty as a postal worker, law enforcement or first-responder personnel, utility worker, and the like) and was bitten by a dog, the owner will be held responsible. The exception to this rule is when the owner had posted signs such as “beware of the dog” on their property and the victim ignored it.

How Can I Prove My Case After Being Victim of a Dog Bite in Florida?

A dog bite is considered a type of personal injury. Just like in any personal injury claim, certain pieces of evidence may help support your case. When it comes to dog bites, the victim must first show enough evidence that he or she was in a public place or lawfully present in a private property, as described above. A person who entered private property without the property owner’s knowledge and/or consent (trespassing) is not considered to be lawfully present and thus may not have a claim.

The second aspect is to show proof of the dog bite. This is done through both witnesses’ accounts and medical records that can document the extent and severity of the wounds resulting from the dog bite, as well as present and future consequences or limitations the dog bite wound may cause to the victim. Unlike in other states such as Georgia, Florida laws do not require a victim to show proof that the dog’s owner knew about the dog’s aggressive tendencies – whether they knew about it or not is irrelevant, as the owner will likely be liable if the conditions explained above were met.

Can I Sue for a Dog Bite Even if I Am Partially at Fault?

Florida law operates under the doctrine of comparative negligence, which applies to any personal injury cases, including dog bites. This means that a personal injury victim may still receive compensation for an accident or injury that they may have partially contributed to.

The difference is the monetary amount the victim will receive will be reduced according to the percentage of blame attributed to him or her. In other words, if it is determined that you are 40% at fault for the dog bite, you will still be able to seek compensation for damages, but your final settlement will be discounted by 40%.

How Much Money May I Be Entitled to Receive After a Dog Bite?

The state of Florida is third in the nation for the highest average dog bite claim, only trailing behind New York and New Hampshire. The average payout for a dog bite claim in Florida in 2019 was $53, 603.49, according to the 2019 State Farm dog bite claim data. However, every case is different and there is not a guaranteed amount a dog bite victim may receive. The most common route for someone to recover compensation is through the homeowner’s insurance of the person who owns the dog.

Some cases may allow for a dog bite victim to seek additional compensation through a civil lawsuit for personal injury. This may help cover other damages that an insurance claim may not cover, such as compensation for non-economic damages including pain, suffering, and psychological distress caused by the traumatic event of a dog bite, especially when the victim can prove the dog owner acted with extreme negligence.

If you or a loved one have been bitten by a vicious dog, it may be in your best interest to seek the advice of a seasoned personal injury and dog bite attorney to fully understand what your options are for holding a dog owner liable and seeking compensation. At Lipcon & Lipcon, P.A., we have helped many clients in Miami and surrounding areas to hold dog owners liable and receive the compensation they deserve. Contact us for a free consultation to see how we can help.