Dog Bites & Dog Owner Liability
March 17, 2014 Posted By Vanguard Attorneys
In the state of Florida, dog owners are responsible for their dogs’ behavior and can be held liable if their dog injures another person. With respect to personal injury lawsuits, dog bite accidents sometimes occur within the home or on the owner’s property. However, owners can also be held responsible for dog bites that occur in public areas.
Dog Bites and Dog Owner Liability – Florida Law
In Florida, the current dog bite statute places direct liability on dog owners for any bite resulting in injury to another human being. Section 767.07 of this statute includes the following language:
“The owner of any dog that bites any person while such 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 suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.”
Dog owners are responsible for their dog’s behavior no matter the location. The majority of dog bite cases occur in the owner’s home or in the home of a neighbor or friend. However, if a dog is frightened or acts aggressively and bites out in public, either on the street or at a park, the owner can still be held liable for any injuries that result. Section 767.04 of Florida statutes governs dog owner’s liability for anyone who is bitten in public, away from the owner’s property:
“The owner of any dog that bites any person while such 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 suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness. However, any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident.”
If a dog is antagonized or the person bitten acts inappropriately, the law will take the person’s behavior into account and the dog owner might not be held responsible in such cases.
Common Dog Bite Cases
With regard to personal injury claims, dog bites involve any perceived attack or aggressive behavior exhibited by a dog resulting in physical injury to any adult or child. The vast majority of dog attacks consist of small bites or nips and are non-vicious. In these cases, a dog may be at play or becomes momentarily startled, but the dog does not intend to cause any harm by mouthing or nipping. However, intentional bites may occur if a dog feels truly threatened, is protecting its puppies, or is intentionally provoked or agitated.
Extensive animal behavior studies have shown that keeping a dog chained up or confined for long periods of time produces stress and anxiety and can lead to a much higher probability of agitation – which results in biting and other aggressive behavior. Such cases of dog attacks and bites also involve dogs who are not spayed or neutered. More commonly, less serious dog bite cases involve a child and a neighborhood dog. A child may play too roughly or startle the dog and get bitten as a result. Most cases are not severe, but some larger breeds can cause considerable physical damage with just one reactive bite or nip.
American Humane Society