Those of us who own dogs know what wonderful pets they can be and how much happiness a dog can bring to a family. Sometimes, however, a dog can cause injury to another person and the owner is left wondering whether they will be held responsible for the damages caused. Being a responsible dog owner does not only mean taking care of your dog, or cleaning up after your dog, or keeping your dog on a leash; it includes knowing what your responsibilities are if your dog causes injury to someone else.
Florida has a special statute (Florida Statute Section 767.04) which provides that the owner of a dog is strictly liable for any damages (not just from a bite) caused by his/her dog, where the victim is not trespassing and did not antagonize or purposely invite the dog to attack. This means that the owner of the dog is considered automatically to be responsible and must pay for damages caused by their dog.
There is an exception, however. The law provides that if the dog bite victim is a child 6 years old or older, if they were bitten while they were at the dog owner’s home, and if there was a sign posted in a conspicuous location and easy to see that stated “Bad Dog” or “Beware of Dog”, then there is no liability under the statute for the dog owner. As a dog owner, you also want to make sure that your homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance covers incidents involving your dog so that you can ensure there is insurance coverage in the event your dog causes injury to someone else.
If you have been attacked and/or bitten by a dog, you should ALWAYS take pictures of where the accident happened (it can help to prove there weren’t any warning signs on the property), as well as of the injury. Pictures are a great way to document how an injury looked at the time it happened. Also, if there were any witnesses to the attack or bite, make sure to get their names and contact information.
Witnesses are important in all cases, including dog bite cases. A witness to a dog bite can describe how the injury occurred and all events leading up to that injury and can corroborate your description of how the incident occurred. Lastly, you should always contact a personal injury attorney to make sure all of your rights are preserved and that you get the compensation you deserve.