Dog Bites and harm caused by dogs is a specialized area of Personal Injury Law codified by Florida Statute Chapter 767. The law in Florida is very strict on dog owners holding them strictly liable for the harm their dogs caused. This means that even if a person incites a dog, or is negligently taunting the dog, if the dog causes harm to the person, then the owner of the dog is liable for the full damages caused by the dog.
Usually, only the owner of the dog is strictly liable for the damages caused by his or her dog. However, a harbored or keeper of the dog may also be responsible for the damages caused by the dog.
The damages that can be recovered are all the medical costs and expenses, compensatory damages for the physical damages caused by the dog, and mental anguish as determined by a Judge or Jury.
Although the cause of action would be filed against the dog owner, a majority of home owner’s insurance policies cover dog bites and dog attacks with policy limits up to one hundred thousand dollars. Additionally, certain kinds of umbrella insurance policies may also cover dog bite cases.
If there is no insurance available, the injured plaintiff who has been bitten by a dog or animal, may seek remuneration from the assets of the individual. However, oftentimes, when there is no insurance, receiving payment from an individual plaintiff is difficult because the individual defendant may discharge the judgment through a bankruptcy proceeding.
Most of these dog bites cases, because of the strict liability laws, are able to be resolved either at the pre-litigation stage or early on in the mediation stage of a formal legal proceeding. Oftentimes, what takes the longest to resolve in litigation is ascertaining the extent of the damages incurred. Oftentimes, it takes months or years for a doctor to properly ascertain what the extent of the injuries are, and whether the injuries are permanent. Additionally, doctors need to ascertain how much longer medical treatment is necessary or whether the injured plaintiff has reached what is known as maximum medical improvement (MMI).
In addition to dog owners being liable for dog bites and dog bite attacks under civil law to the injured plaintiff or plaintiffs, dog owners, who have a second incident of a dog attack may be personally prosecuted under criminal law. Indeed, Florida Statue section 767.13 makes it a misdemeanor of the first degree when a dog attacks a second time. Additionally, under Florida Statute Section 767.13, the dog may be given the death penalty for a second attack.
Because of the particular legal issues associated with prosecuting these cases, and dealing with the insurance companies and doctors, it is very important that individuals who have been harmed by dogs to seek the consult of an experienced lawyers or attorneys. Normally, personal injury lawyers are the specialized attorneys that handle these matters. Since Dog Bite cases fall under personal injury, this cases are normally handled on a contingency fee basis which means that the attorney will forward the costs and attorney time to prosecute the case. In addition to covering the expenses for you, your attorney may also work with doctors that will treat the medical injuries without having to pay for the treatment until after the litigation. This is done through your attorney having a working relationship with the medical community and offering the doctor a letter of protection which basically liens any recovery on your case. This is particularly helpful when an individual who has been harmed and doesn’t have medical insurance or the means to pay for the medical treatment.
Additionally, although Chapter 767 of the Florida Statutes protects all persons harmed by dogs in the State of Florida, each County or City in Florida may enact additional protections or laws associated with dog bite cases. For instance, Brevard County has passed additional animal laws applicable to dogs the mandate additional leash and control responsibilities, including holding the owner responsible for his or her animal’s defecation in public. Therefore, when consulting with an attorney, make sure your attorney is familiar with the local laws in the jurisdiction where the dog bite occurred.
The law firm of Arcadier, Biggie & Wood, PLLC has lawyers and attorneys who represent and have successfully represented many clients who have been attacked and injured by dogs in Melbourne, Palm Bay, Brevard County, and surrounding areas.