Dog Bite Laws Florida

Dog bite laws as they apply to the state of Florida

Florida dog bite laws hold the owner of a canine that bites someone liable to pay if the bite occurs in a public place or while the victim is legally on private property.

However, if the dog injures you in any other way besides biting, say, knocks you over, and you break a bone or two.  You may argue that the owner’s negligence was the cause of the injury, thus file a negligence claim to recover economic and non-economic damages.  The logic is, the dog owner failed to control his/her animal resulting in your injury.  Remember, state law says failure to use reasonable care is negligence.

Primarily, what you must remember is that Florida is a strict liability state.  That means.  You, the owner of a dog, is liable for any action the dog commits regardless of the dog’s biting history.  Thus, the victim does not have to prove that you knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous nature to recover compensation.

Florida Dog Bite Liability Laws

Florida Title XLV (torts) 767.01 contains a mitigation provision that says:

Owners of dogs shall be liable for any damage done by their dogs to a person or to any animal included in the definitions of “domestic animal” and “livestock” as provided by s. 585.01.”

State law will not hold the owner liable if he or she displayed an easily readable sign, in a prominent place on the property that says “dangerous dog” or “bad dog”(keep reading).  It is also advisable to put up a no-trespass sign because ignoring that sign makes the victim a criminal.

What to remember:

  • The victim may file a case under negligence torts, intentional torts, or strict liability torts.
  • State law may hold a property owner liable for dog-related injuries that occur if he or she fails to take reasonable measures to keep the animal in check.
  • “exceeding your invitation” may free the dog owner from liability, for example, entering someone’s fenced yard without consent.
  • Victims have four years to file a claim starting from the date of the bite.

What Remedies Can Grounds Victims Use To Recover Compensation After A Dog Bite In Florida

Florida Dog Bite Negligence laws

State law defines negligence as, quote, “one’s failure to exercise the degree of reasonable care expected of someone to minimize the risk of harm to others”.

This means the victim of a dog bite may bring legal action against a dog owner-if the victim can prove that the owner acted negligently.

According to Florida Statute 768.81 (2), quote,

“In a negligence action, contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and non-economic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery”.

What that means is if the victim is partially responsible for a bite or accident, then that person will not recover full compensation.  On top of that, if the victim’s actions say provocation or torment, resulted in the dog biting the victim, then the owner is not liable to pay.

What to remember:

  • Intentional torts refer to actions committed with the intent of causing harm, for example, using your dog as a weapon against your neighbor.
  • If the victim signs a liability waiver, it means that he or she has agreed not to bring a personal injury claim against the dog owner.
  • If you choose to settle matters out of court, make sure that the victim signs the linked form.
  • The damages the victim may recover depends on who is at fault, the injury suffered, and the identity of the defendant, Meaning, if a service/police dog attacks you while performing its duty, you cannot bring legal action against the owner.
  • Florida is a comparative negligence state.

Generally, to prove negligence in Florida, the victim must show that the accused owed him/her duty of care, that the dog owner breached that duty of care, and that breach of duty resulted in the victim’s injuries.

The dog owner may argue that the injuries were the fault of the victim (comparative negligence), the victim voluntarily put himself at risk (assumption of risk), or use Comparative Negligence Laws as defense.  Also, if you prove that the victim was trespassing at the time of the bite, then you are not liable to pay anything to the victim.

Florida Scienter Doctrine and Negligence Per Se

Scienter is a legal term that refers to intent/knowledge of wrongdoing.  In Florida, this law dictates that “the victim can recover compensation from the owner of a dog or domestic animal if (1) the dog has exhibited vicious propensities in the past.  (2) the owner was aware of the dog’s vicious nature”.

It is thus a ground for liability that exists in all states.

However, the burden of proof is on the victim, so we discourage dog owners from doing anything that might make the dog seem dangerous.  For example, some people may see a Dangerous Dog sign as an admission of the dog’s vicious nature.  To be safe, put up a no-trespass sign. But the good news is, putting up a “bad dog” sign in Florida is enough to free you from liability unless if the victim is a child below 6.

Negligence per se

Negligence per se refers to a situation where the victim accuses the dog owner of failing to respect or obey a law or statute that is in place for public protection.  For example, failure to obey leash laws at the park may be used as evidence of negligence if the dog bites or injures someone.

Under negligence per se laws, the accused is guilty if the victim can prove:

  • The dog owner violated a public safety statute, state code, or guidelines.
  • The victim is a member of the class that the statute protects.
  • Injuries suffered by the victims are like the ones the statute or law aims to prevent.
  • The dog owner’s failure to obey the statute resulted in the victim’s injuries.

What type of lawsuit should I bring to court?

It depends on the nature of your case; so, the best advice we can give you is to present your facts to a civil defense attorney near you.

Florida dangerous dog laws: What is a dangerous dog in Florida?

Florida Title XLV (Torts) 767.11 defines a dangerous dog as; “any dog that according to the records of appropriate authority has (1) aggressively bitten, attacked, or endangered or has inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property.  (2) Has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s property.  (3) Has, when unprovoked, chased or approached a person upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, provided that such actions are attested to in a sworn state by one or more persons and dutifully investigated by the appropriate authority?”

However, the state of Florida will not declare a dog dangerous if it bites someone, who, at the time of the bite was abusing, or assaulting the dog.  The same is true if your dog bites a trespasser or someone on your property intending or with the intent to commit a crime.

What to remember:

  • Florida does not have breed-specific laws, so you may keep pit bulls or other dangerous dog breeds, but there are conditions listed below.
  • Violating Florida’s dangerous dog statute carries a civil penalty of up to $500.
  • If a dangerous dog attacks another dog, domestic animal, or human in Florida, the owner may face a $1000 fine and or up to one year in prison. 
  • If the injuries are severe such as disfigurement, Broken bones, severe scarring, death, and so on… the punishment is up to five years in prison and or a maximum $5000 fine.
  • Animal control may impound and put down a dog if the pooch poses a threat to the public.

Pitbull or large dog breed owners in Florida must:

  1. Register the dog with animal control.
  2. Make sure that the dog’s enclosure prevents the dog from getting out and kids from getting in.
  3. When not confined or leashed, the owner must keep the dog under control.
  4. You must put up a dangerous dog sign that is visible on your yard or property.
  5. You must immediately contact and notify animal control if you move to another address, gift/sell the dog, or if the dog breaks out of its confinement.

Can A Dog Sign Protect Dog Owners From Liability?

Florida Title XLV (Torts) 767.04, reads in part, “the owner is not liable, except as to a person under the age of 6, or unless the damages are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner, if at the time of any such injury the owner had displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words “Bad Dog”.  The remedy provided by this section is in addition to and cumulative with any other remedy provided by statute or common law”.

Primarily what the statute addresses are:

  • The owner faces no liability for any injuries that occur if he or she puts up a sign with the words “Beware of Dog” or “Dangerous Dog”.
  • If the victim is too young to read (below 6) then the dog owner is liable.
  • The sign must be easily readable.

How to file a claim in Florida

After a dog bite, the victim may file a “Statement of Claim” form at the local Clerk of Court office. Here, you may choose to represent yourself or hire an attorney, we encourage the latter because seasoned lawyers know how the courts work, thus there is less chance of your case getting dismissed over a technicality.

Overall, navigating Florida dog bite laws on your own can be tedious, So, consult with a dog bite attorney in your area today.

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