Florida Dog Bite Laws: A Quick Guide for Personal Injury Concerns
Previously on the Jiles Law blog, we answered the question, “What happens if a dog bites another dog?” In that post, we briefly introduced the topic of personal injury claims if a person is injured by a dog.
In the guide below, we’ll look more closely at Florida law and what it says about dog bites when a human is the victim. We’ll also discuss the implications of a dog bite on a personal injury claim.
What Does Florida Law Say About Dog Bites?
Dog bites and some other related incidents are covered under Chapter 767 of the Florida statutes on torts. Torts occur when someone’s wrong or negligent action infringes upon the rights of another person. Personal injury falls under tort law because it involves someone’s liable actions or lack of actions causing injury to another person.
Chapter 767 is broken into two parts. Part 1 covers damage done by dogs, including:
- The potential liability of a dog owner if their dog causes damage to livestock, other domestic animals, or people
- Specific rules about sheep-killing dogs
- What defense there might be for killing a dog
- The liability of a dog owner for damage to persons bitten by their dog
- The liability of a dog owner for damage to dairy cattle caused by their dog
Part 2 covers the rules for the identification and management of dangerous dogs. We covered those rules in our post about dogs biting other dogs, so this guide will concentrate mostly on Part 1 — and specifically on the laws surrounding dogs biting a person.
Brief Overview of Florida Damage by Dogs Laws
In Florida, if a dog damages animals covered under the law, the owner may be held liable. That can include if a dog causes injury to livestock such as cows or pigs or a domestic animal such as a cat. The law doesn’t say that the dog has to bite these animals or even attack them. Potentially, the dog might cause injury without meaning to because it is a large dog playing too excitedly with an animal.
Digging Deeper Into the Law About Persons Bitten
The longest section of Part 1 of the Florida dog damage laws is the section addressing attacks on humans. Here’s a summary, in layman’s terms, of what that section says:
- A dog owner is liable for damage to other people inflicted by their dog if the incident in question occurred in a public place.
- A dog owner is liable for damage to other people inflicted by their dog if the incident in question occurred on private property and the other party was there legally — and that includes the dog owner’s property.
- If the person bitten was in any way at-fault for the situation, they may hold some liability for the incident. This can potentially reduce the liability of the dog owner.
What Does It Mean to Be Lawfully on a Property?
For the purpose of this law, Florida considers a person to be on another person or entity’s property lawfully if they are:
- Completing duties required by the state or postal code — such as delivering the mail
- Invited to be on the property by the owner — the invitation can be implied
The Impact of Florida Comparative Negligence
Florida is a comparative negligence state, which means that liability can be split between the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) and the defendant (in this case, probably the owner of the dog).
The state actually uses a modified comparative negligence concept. That means someone can only collect compensation if they are found to be 50% or less liable for the incident that caused their damages. How much they can collect is also determined by what percent of the liability they carry.
For example, imagine that someone is invited to a backyard cookout, and the property owner has a large dog. That person annoys the dog, even though the owner states that the dog doesn’t like to be played with in a specific way. If the person continues to annoy the dog in that manner even after the warning and the dog bites them, they might be considered partially liable for their injuries.
If the person is found to be 30% liable for their own injuries, they would only be able to receive 70% compensation. So if the award or settlement in the case was $100,000, the compensation would be $70,000. Attorney’s fees and other expenses might also have to come out of that amount.
Bad Dog Signs
You may not be able to seek compensation if you ignore a “bad dog” sign on a property and enter the property or otherwise put yourself in harm’s way.
So, Do You Have a Valid Dog Bite Personal Injury Case?
If you or someone you love is attacked or bitten by a dog, you might think it’s obvious that the owner of the dog should make good on those damages. You can see above, however, that Florida dog bite laws are a bit more complex than that.
The best way to understand whether you have a valid case for a personal injury claim — and what you should do about it — is to reach out to an experienced lawyer. At Jiles Law, P.A., we have handled a variety of dog bite cases in Florida. Give us a call at 863-356-0941 to make an appointment to find out more.