Americans love dogs, and most pets are wonderful additions to the family. But some dogs, especially watchdogs, attack innocent people and inflict a great deal of harm. An estimated 800,000 Americans are bitten or mauled by dogs every year, and many of them are children. Dog attacks can cause serious injury, disfigurement, long-term medical and psychological problems, or even death. Florida law holds dog owners responsible for attacks, so victims can and should pursue compensation for their damages and losses. If you or a loved one has experienced a dog attack, it is important to contact a dog bite attorney. The Daytona Beach-area lawyers at Chanfrau & Chanfrau have years of experience pursuing compensation in these and other personal injury cases. We can help recover damages in a range of areas, including pain and suffering and mental anguish. Contact our firm today to schedule a free consultation.
Dog Bites and the Law
In Florida, dog bites are addressed by two areas of civil law. Florida has a specific legal statute that makes dog owners virtual insurers of their dog's conduct, imposing "strict liability." This means that if a dog bites or attacks someone, the dog's owner is automatically liable for any damages. It is not necessary to prove negligence or that the dog was previously known to be aggressive.
In order to be eligible for compensation under premises liability law, the victim must prove a dog owner's negligence. Property owners are responsible for keeping their premises safe and free of hazards for visitors, and dog owners are expected to exercise a "duty of care." The animal should be securely fenced, and if a dog is known to bite, it should be kept away from any visitors to the home. In the case of a dangerous dog, clear warnings must be posted. If these steps are not taken and a dog attacks, the owner can be found negligent.
Children who are attacked by dogs can be left with lifelong emotional trauma. Dog attacks that leave severe, disfiguring injuries are devastating to the child and the whole family. A client describes her experience when her young daughter was bitten by a relative's dog. After trying unsuccessfully to obtain just compensation from an insurance company, she called Chanfrau & Chanfrau for help.
Dog bites can have severe physical and emotional ramifications for victims, and pet owners need to be held responsible for the behavior of their animals. A severe injury impacts a family in many ways, and financial compensation is meant to help. Financial damages from responsible parties can be pursued for:
- Medical bills (past and future)
- Lost wages (past and future)
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Lost capacity for the enjoyment of life
At Chanfrau & Chanfrau, we represent plaintiffs in dog bite and other personal injury lawsuits. Our attorneys are dedicated to helping victims find justice and compensation for their injuries. We represent clients on a contingency fee basis, meaning it costs you nothing unless we obtain a settlement or jury award.
What Dog Bite Victims Should Do Following an Attack
If you or someone you love has suffered an injury due to a dog attack:
- Seek medical treatment – Dog bites can lead to serious infections, so it is important to contact a physician for treatment. If the bite is serious and you are badly hurt, call an ambulance or visit an urgent care facility immediately.
- Identify the dog that bit you – Try and identify the dog that bit you so that the dog’s owner can be located. The dog’s owner is the responsible party and, most often, their home insurance company will be responsible for paying for your losses.
- Report the attack – Be sure to report the attack to the local sheriff’s agency or county animal control agency and provide them with information about the dog and the owner.
- Take photos of the injury – Have photographs taken of the wound, lacerations, bloody clothing, and (if possible) the dog itself, so that the injury can be clearly seen and documented.
- Contact a dog bite attorney – Unfortunately, in addition to severe pain and shock after an injury, dog bite attack victims must endure significant medical expenses and pressure from the insurance company to settle for less than they deserve. Contact a dog bite attorney as quickly as possible to preserve evidence, identify the responsible parties, locate witnesses, and more.
Remember, the insurance companies are concerned with one thing and one thing only: protecting themselves from claims. Do not give out any information or discuss your injury without first speaking with a dog bite attorney at Chanfrau & Chanfrau.
Negligence in Dog Bite Cases
Dog owners may be considered negligent for failing to do something that a reasonable dog owner would have done that could have prevented an attack from happening. The victim in the attack must demonstrate that the dog owner’s negligence resulted in the attack and that the attack led directly to the victim’s injury.
Negligence Per Se
Under the doctrine of negligence per se, Florida dog owners who violate existing laws geared toward protecting against dog bite attacks may be presumed negligent. If, for example, a dog owner allows his or her dog to roam a housing development without a leash, he or she may be found negligent and face repercussions for each dog bite injury that ensues.
Exceptions to Dog Bite Liability Laws in Florida
Dog bite liability may not apply to the dog owner:
- If the victim was on private property or trespassing at the time of the attack
- If the victim was committing or trying to carry out a criminal act against the owner of the dog
- If the victim had been previously and appropriately warned of the danger of a dog bite attack
- If the victim was an animal professional such as a veterinarian or dog trainer who, at the time of the attack, was working with the dog
- If the victim provoked the dog
- If the dog was helping the police or military
Contact Our Attorneys
Our premises liability and personal injury lawyers serve clients with the support of a professional legal staff and decades of experience. If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite, contact us for a free consultation today.