Dogs are the most common pets in the U.S., and they usually don’t pose a threat to people. But like any other animal, dogs have the potential to be dangerous. In addition to the risk of serious injury, getting bit or attacked by a dog can be very frightening and upsetting. If you’re in Jacksonville and find yourself in such a situation, consulting a dog bite lawyer can be crucial. The most important thing to do is seek medical attention right away to help prevent infection and lessen the chance of scarring.
But did you know dog owners who don’t properly restrain their dogs can be held liable for your injuries? Dog owners who fail to restrain their dogs may be sufficiently negligent, and you have a right to pursue fair compensation for present and future damages.
Dog bites can cause serious bodily harm, including permanent scarring, disfigurement, serious infection or disease, and psychological trauma. For these reasons, it is the responsibility of the dog owner to protect other people from their dog. Dog owners who know their pet is prone to attack have an added responsibility to properly restrain their dog. But mistakes by negligent dog owners can quickly cause even non-aggressive dogs to become dangerous.
The Prevalence of Dog Bites in Jacksonville
Bites by dogs account for up to 90 percent of all animal bites, according to experts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are approximately 4.7 million dog bites every year in the United States, although this number may be higher because many victims don’t seek medical care or report the attack.
Over one million people seek emergency care for dog bites every year in the U.S. Severe bites can damage muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels and can require reconstructive surgery. Dog bites also pose a very high risk of infections, including Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and Pasteurella.
A bite isn’t the only way a dog can injure a person. Dogs can knock people down, causing head injuries and other injuries in addition to bites. Sometimes, dog bites can cause long-term disability or even death.
Florida has the seventh-highest incidence of dog attacks in the U.S. On the list of cities with the most dog attacks, Miami ranks 15th and Jacksonville ranks 20th.
Animal Bite Law
Animal bite law is a niche type of personal injury law, one where an animal harms a person. It is considered a kind of tort law because an injury takes place for which the victim may be able to receive compensation. The animal involved is usually a dog, but this is not always the case. Owner liability after a bite is not limited to ones inflicted by a dog.
Dog bite law is a blend of:
- Common law principles that are recognized in the U.S.
- State-level laws, which may include:
- Explicitly stated statutory laws
- State case law, which refers to legal principles that are developed based on specific cases tried in that particular state
- County ordinances
- City ordinances
Understanding Dog Bite Laws in Florida
Florida Dog Bite Laws
Florida has a specific statute pertaining to dog bites: Section 767.04 of the 2018 Florida Statutes. It states that the owner of a dog is liable for another person’s injuries if the dog bites the person when they are in a public place or lawfully in a private place. If you are injured by a dog bite in Jacksonville, you should seek advice from a lawyer promptly because Florida has a statute of limitations, which limits the time frame in which you can file a lawsuit to recover damages.
Florida is a strict liability state when it comes to dog bite law, meaning that the owner could be held liable for injuries even if they had no reason to believe the dog might bite. However, there is also the concept of comparative negligence, which means that the dog owner can claim the victim was partially to blame for the bite. If the legal system finds you to be negligent, the damages paid to you would be reduced by the percentage of blame assigned to you.
Even though dog owners are strictly liable for injuries their dog causes, that does not necessarily mean the owner will voluntarily pay the compensation you are entitled to. In most cases, the dog owner does not ever pay damages out of their own pocket because they have insurance to protect themselves from these kinds of losses.
Some states ban specific breeds of dogs, but Florida does not. Florida distinguishes between dangerous and non-dangerous dogs based on each animal’s behavior. You should note that Florida law requires pet owners to keep their dogs up to date on rabies vaccinations.
Because dog bite cases can be complicated, you should seek legal counsel as soon as you can after the incident occurs.
Florida Dangerous Dog Laws
Florida law defines a “dangerous dog” as one that has “severely injured or killed a domestic animal (dog, cat, ferret, rabbit, bird) while off the owner’s property.” However, in most cases, if you or a loved one is attacked by a dog, it doesn’t matter if the dog has previously bitten someone or whether the animal is on or off the dog owner’s property.
What to Do After a Dog Bite Incident
There are steps you can take after a dog attack to protect your health and preserve your right to file a claim. We recommend that you:
- Seek immediate medical attention if necessary
- Get the names and contact information of any witnesses
- Get the name and contact information of the dog owner, as well as the dog’s name. If someone other than the owner was with the dog at the time, get that person’s name and contact information.
- Ask for copies of the dog’s rabies vaccination records
- Ask for a copy of the owner’s homeowners or renters insurance policy
- Ask a friend or family member to take pictures of your injuries
- Take thorough notes about what happened, where it happened, and when it happened
- Report the attack to the appropriate agency in your area (e.g. police, county health department)
- Contact an experienced dog bite lawyer as soon as possible
A Jacksonville dog bite lawyer can help you understand how to maintain documentation and a photograph timeline of your injuries throughout the claims or litigation process.
If the dog owner’s insurance company calls you, get the full name of the person on the policy and the full contact information of the insurance adjuster. You should also get the claim number associated with your injury report and ask about liability coverage limits and medical expense coverage limits.
Do not discuss a settlement with the insurance company. Do not make an appointment with the insurance company or put any information in writing to them or to the animal owner.
How Our Jacksonville Dog Bite Lawyers Can Help
Issues resulting from a dog bite can go far beyond the initial injury, which is why promptly contacting a lawyer puts you in a better position to get the compensation you deserve.
For example, negotiations with the dog owner’s insurance should be about more than a settlement. You may incur future medical costs, and lose wages during your recovery. You should be compensated for pain and suffering as well.
Injuries from a dog bite can be more than physical. The victim can develop trauma or PTSD from the attack. Both physical and emotional injuries deserve compensation.
All of these reasons are why you should seek legal counsel before you discuss a settlement with the dog owner’s insurance company.
Get Your Free Case Evaluation Today
After a dog bite, you may feel that your injuries are minor. But the extent of an injury isn’t always apparent right away. A personal injury lawyer who specializes in dog attacks can help you collect and preserve evidence to give you the strongest case possible.
The expert lawyers at Steinger, Greene, & Feiner can help you navigate this complicated process involving laws and insurance claims, and get you the compensation you deserve. We work on a contingency fee basis so you don’t have to pay until we win your case.
Contact us for your free, no-obligation consultation. During this time, you will discuss your case with a lawyer experienced in animal bite law and make a plan for the next steps.