Know Your Rights if You Have Been Bitten by a Dog

An infant in Miramar, Florida died after being attacked by a family dog while she was in the care of her grandmother. The 9-month-old was dropped off by her mother in the morning and was sitting in a bouncy chair in one of the bedrooms when she was attacked.

The dog that attacked was a three or four-year-old pit bull who had been raised by the family since it was a puppy. The dog was taken in to custody for evaluation by animal control experts, but Broward County officials have reported that it will likely be put down.

Although these types of attacks are unusual, they are not necessary rare in South Florida. At least two other children have died in recent years, and an average of 33 people die each year due to dog attacks in the United States.

Florida Dog Bite Statutes

Just like many other states, Florida has a dog bite statute that says that the owner of a dog can be held liable if the dog bites someone and the bite results in an injury. The statute provides for monetary recovery by the victim without regard to fault by the owner. This means that the owner of the dog can still be held liable for the bite injuries even if the dog has not bitten anyone before. However, there are a few situations in which this liability does not apply. Those include the following:

  • Military or police dogs performing their work duties
  • People who are trespassing on land
  • Property that has been damaged by a vicious dog

There are a few other situations in which a dog owner may be liable for dog bite injuries in addition to the liability statute. Those include the following:

  • Negligence: If the owner of the dog has done something that a typical dog owner would not have done or failed to do something that most dog owners would do, the owner could be found negligent.
  • Negligence Per Se: In Florida, if a dog owner is presumed to have been negligent if he or she violates a law that is already in the books. This rule applies if, for example, a dog owner takes the dog for a walk without a leash and the dog bites someone.
  • Intentional Torts: This requires that the dog owner had specific intent to cause the dog to bite another person. This usually results when the dog has been provoked by the owner to bite someone.

Statute of Limitations

Dog bite cases in Florida must typically be filed in the court system within four years of the date of the attack. This is the same deadline for almost all other personal injury cases in Florida. If the attack resulted in the death of the victim, the statute of limitations changes to the time limit for a wrongful death claim and decreases to two years from the date of the death of the victim.

Common Injuries and Damages Resulting From Dog Bites

Damages and injuries resulting from dog bites can result in long-term conditions and even death. Some of the more commonly seen damages and injuries include the following:

  • Bruises, abrasions, and cuts
  • Bite marks and broken bones
  • Permanent scarring
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries

Comparative Negligence

In some situations, a dog bite victim may have contributed to the incident. This means that the compensation they receive for their damages and injuries could be reduced by a percentage. This percentage is determined by the judge after reviewing the case.

Compensation for Damages

As long as a judge does not determine that the victim is partially responsible for the injuries, he or she will be eligible for compensation for the following items:

  • Medical bills including surgical treatments, corrective surgeries for scarring, or other permanent injuries
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish and emotional distress

Depending on the situation, the compensation could include other items, as well, which is why it is important to talk to an experienced personal injury attorney who is familiar with cases like this. They can be sure that you get all the compensation that you are entitled to under the law.

What to do if You or Your Loved One has Been Bitten by a Dog

If you or your loved one has been bitten by a dog, there are certain steps you should take to make sure that your claim will be valid, and you can receive the damages to which the law says you are entitled. The steps recommended include the following:

  • Seek medical attention immediately. It is important that you report the incident to your doctor and that he or she documents what happened in your file. All your treatments will need to be thoroughly documented, as well.
  • Report the dog bite to the local police and animal control departments. Make sure the animal control department examines the dog for rabies if there is no proof of vaccination.
  • Take photographs of your injuries, the area where you were attacked, and the dog. Even if you are not certain if you want to pursue a personal injury claim, the photos will help you if you decide to do so later.
  • Obtain the names and contact information for everyone who witnessed the incident.
  • Identify the owner of the dog that attacked.
  • Do not make statements to the insurance company or the owner of the dog without speaking to an attorney first. Also, do not sign insurance papers without discussing your situation with an experienced attorney. Never admit fault, even if you think you might be partially at fault for the incident.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Attorney

If you or your loved one has suffered a personal injury or even death due to a dog bite, you should consult with an attorney who will evaluate your claim and negotiate with the insurance company for you to get the compensation that you deserve. Victims who suffer from dog bites may experience anxiety, fear, and loss of sleep, and the last thing you need is the stress of attempting to handle your case on your own. The attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi, The Law Firm, are experienced in both personal injury and wrongful death cases and can help protect your interests and recover damages for you to the fullest extent of the law. Contact them today for a consultation.