Dog Bite Attack Lawyer Fort Lauderdale
The Broward, Fort Lauderdale, Miami-Dade & Palm Beach County Accident and Injury Law Firm of Berman & Tsombanakis LLC, is experienced in handling dog bite attack cases. Our firm will represent you in a civil action if you or a loved one is bitten by a dog in Florida. First it is important to know that Florida is a statutory strict liability state in regards to dog bite cases. This means that the Florida dog bite statute imposes strict liability upon dog owners for a bite that causes injury to a human being. In these cases, the courts in Florida strictly apply the statute that governs dog bite.
The Florida Dog Bite Statute, Section 767.04, is defined in part as follows:
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….. The statute goes on to discuss the liability of dog owners when very small children are bitten on their property as well.
PURPOSE OF THE STATUTE
The dog bite statute was designed to compensate victims after they have been attacked by a dog. It also protects the owner of the dog when they have done everything according to statute and the victim either ignored signs or was lawfully on the premises and the owner was negligent. Some examples of this would be a postman delivering mail inside of the gate of a homeowner and the dog not being tied up. In this particular scenario the postman is considered and invitee of the owner and therefore he has a lawful duty to deliver the mail to the home. In various parts of Florida, homeowners’ mailboxes are still affixed to the property adjacent to the front door.
HOW TO DETERMINE IF AN OWNER WAS NEGLIGENT OR NEGLIGENT PER SE
Negligence is defined as the lack of ordinary care, that is, the absence of the kind of care a reasonably prudent and careful person would exercise in similar circumstances. In Florida there is also Negligence Per Se. Negligence per se was established to help the victim recover compensation if the bite happened because the dog owner violated a statute, ordinance or regulation enacted for people’s safety.
STRICT LIABILITY, ONE BITE RULE & SCIENTER
Scienter is the traditional doctrine in common law that makes a person liable for the wrongful acts of a domestic animal. Scienter is referred to as strict liability in common law and also the One Bite Rule. In relation to dog bite cases, this rule means that victims can recover damages from the dog owner, harborer or keeper of a dog and (a) if the dog previously bit a person or acted like it wanted to, and (b) the defendant was aware of the dog’s previous conduct. The Scienter rule is applied all over America and in Florida it is also used to apply to someone other than the dog’s owner.
CHILDREN AND DOGS
There are rules designed to protect children from dogs. There are also laws that place some responsibility onto the parents of the young victims. In Florida, if a child is under the age of 6, then strict liability applies in relation to dog bites. This means that the laws will be strictly applied in relation to small children. Children cannot be expected, nor are they responsible for reading warning signs as they relate to “Bad Dogs”. If a child is on the property, whether invited or trespassing, the owner of the dog maybe held liable for damages if the child is bitten. However, if the child is over 6 years old and the owners had a beware of “Bad Dog” sign, then the owner more than likely will be protected from liability. Some responsibility may also be placed upon the parents. If this is the case a standard of comparative negligence will be applied. Comparative negligence is defined as negligence allocated between the plaintiff and the defendant with a corresponding reduction in damages paid to the plaintiff.
RESPONSIBILITY OF LANDLORD WHEN THE OWNER OF THE DOG IS A TENANT
If a dog bites another person on the Landlord’s property and the landlord knew about the tenant owning the dog, then the Landlord may be liable. The landlord has a duty to protect other tenants and guest from the gruesome attacks of dogs. The landlord is usually not responsible if the dog bites another person on an adjacent property not owned by the landlord or if the dog bite occurs down the street from their property. The landlord’s duty doesn’t include a duty to protect victims after the dog leaves his property.
There are some exceptions to this rule. One being, if the landlord owns property that is adjacent to the property they own and is often used by their tenants or is shared by other tenants. Then the landlord may be responsible for any dog bites that occur on that particular piece property. Additionally, tenants have a responsibility to abide by their leases and if dogs are prohibited then they should not bring a dog unto the property.
If the tenant violates the lease, the landlord may sue the tenant or the victim may sue the tenant. If this is the case, then they may assume some, if not all of the liability. The tenant also has a duty to keep their dog properly secured. They are responsible for warning their guest, invitees or children 6 and under who maybe trespassing, that they own a dog via proper signage and/or other lawful ways of informing visitors.
RECOVERY OF DAMAGES IN DOG BITE CASES
Damages may be recovered from lawsuits involving dog bite victims. In dog bit cases the owner of the dog may be sued. In some cases the owner of the property, landlords and dog owners are sued collectively. Some homeowners and renters insurance policies, preclude tenants and homeowners from having dogs. If the dog owner disobeys these rules, the dog owner may be held liable for all of the damages caused in the dog bite case. Depending on the injuries, some courts may award more than the homeowner’s policy limits and thus will hold the owner liable for payment of the rest of said damage awards. Some policies even prevent homeowners from having dogs or they charge very expensive premiums, especially for violent dogs.
A dog bite victim can recover damages pursuant to the dog bite statute and all of the causes of action discussed in Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA. This often referenced source lays out the basics of Dog Bite laws across the United States. These rules often mirror the Florida Statute that governs Dog Bites, as well as many other state statutes.