Owning a dog comes with great responsibilities. As a dog owner, you are responsible for feeding the dog, keeping their water bowl full, properly exercising the dog, and giving it baths. Dog owners are also responsible for how their dogs behave. That is why many people take their dogs through training so that the animal learns the basics like “sit,” “stay,” and “come.” If, despite the owner efforts to control their pet, the dog misbehaves and injures another, the owner may be responsible.
Florida is a strict liability state when it comes to dog bites. This means you can be held responsible if your dog were to bite someone while that person was in a public area or lawfully on your premises.
The strict liability is for dog bites only, so if your dog were to knock someone over and cause an injury, then different liability rules apply.
Types of Dog Bite Claims
- Negligence – A dog owner can be held responsible for the dog bite if the owner failed to take the care a reasonable person would have taken to avoid the incident. Some examples of a negligent dog bite case are:
- Not putting a dog up when guests are over and the dog is notorious for nipping or biting when nervous, or
- Leaving a guard dog alone with a young child.
- Negligence Per Se – This occurs when a dog owner violates an ordinance designed for public safety. An example of this would be letting go of your dog’s leash in a public park because he wants to “play” with another dog. The dog owner may be held liable if a fight erupts between the dogs which results in the other dog owner (or someone else) being bitten. The dog owner may be found negligent per se for releasing his or her animal in violation of a local “leash law.”
- Scienter – This type of dog bite claim is used when the dog has a known history of biting. In addition to the owner, anyone else aware of the dog’s history that failed to prevent another dog bite can be held responsible. “Scienter” refers to the dog owners knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities.
- Intentional Tort – Intention tort claim is exactly what is sounds like – the dog bite was intentional. If an owner intentionally sets their dog upon another person with the purpose of causing the dog to bite them, then the injury claim would be an intentional tort.
Dog owners do have some reprieve in all of this as they are able to defend their dog’s actions in order to mitigate their liability. There are two types of defenses most commonly used in dog bite claims: comparative negligence and the “bad dog” defense.
- Comparative Negligence – With this defense, the dog owner can show that the dog bite victim had done something to provoke the dog or cause the dog bite. An example of this is if a house guest were to step on your dog’s tail and be bitten in response or a young child (this defense can only be used if the child is over the age of 6) hits the dog for not doing a trick and is bitten in return. Should the bite victim be under the age of 6 then you could argue that the lack of parental supervision was the comparative negligence in your situation.
- “Bad Dog” Defense –The “bad dog” defense is available to a defendant if they had clear and obvious signage that says, “bad dog” or “beware of dog.” If such signage was clearly visible in the area where the dog was contained, then the owner may not be responsible for the injuries sustained by a person who approached the dog despite the warning.
If you are the victim of a dog bite, you may be entitled to compensation from the dog’s owner. If you have a dog bite claim, contact our office today.