You’re walking in your neighborhood in Cape Coral, and suddenly, a large, unfamiliar dog comes barreling out of a neighbor’s house—straight toward you. Before you know it, the dog’s teeth are clamped around your ankle. The owner detaches the dog, and offers apologies, but how do you proceed? Let’s discuss the legal ins and outs associated with dog bites in the state of Florida.
Who’s At Fault?
As you might guess, the dog’s owner is at fault. The dog bite statute in Florida is very simple: pet owners are liable for their pets, and if a dog bites a person, the dog’s owner is responsible for the medical bills and associated costs.
This portion of Florida’s law is called Strict Liability; in other words, a dog only has to bite one person before the owner’s held 100% responsible for any costs that are associated with the injury. In states other than Florida, a dog must bite more than one person before the owner’s held responsible for costs, but here, if a dog attacks you, the dog’s owner will be paying the bills. This makes it pretty easy to prosecute a dog bite case. However, there’s still the question of negligence.
Negligence and Dog Bites
Here’s where suits tend to get sticky. Generally, dogs bite people when they’re not properly contained, either by a leash or a fence. And, of course, a responsible dog owner ensures that their dog is contained in a way that will keep the people around it safe and secure. The simple fact that the dog was not restrained or contained could be introduced to the court as proof of negligence. Or, in the example we started with, the owner’s failure to keep the dog in the house, or to grab the dog before the dog got to you, could be considered negligent.
Dog Owner’s Defense
Of course, the dog’s owner might not take the negligence suit lying down. There are factors that could prove that you played a part in the dog’s attack. For example, perhaps the owner might argue that the dog was provoked. Provocation can vary; there’s overt provocation, such as hitting or teasing the animal, which would obviously put you at fault. Or, there’s less obvious, accidental provocation. If you step on the dog’s paw, that’s considered provocation. If a small child tries to cuddle a strange dog, and the dog should bite the child, it’s unlikely that the dog’s owner would be considered negligent. However, if the dog has a pattern of certain behavior, such as impatience around small children, and the owner didn’t warn you about this, that could be considered negligent.
How to Proceed
Your best bet is to contact a lawyer— preferably, a lawyer with experience in personal injury cases. Your attorney can help guide you through the maze-like process of the law, advising you on the proper paperwork as well as the proper method of recording your evidence. They’ll assist you in preparing your case, making sure that you’ve got all of the information you need, from the witness contact information as well as the owner’s contact information, so that when the time comes, you can lay out your suit seamlessly.
Call us today to get the help you need with a dog bite in Southwest Florida.