Which Defenses Have the Best Potential in Florida Dog Bite Cases?
If you were recently injured by a dog in the state of Florida and you plan to file a personal injury lawsuit against the owner, you should first make sure that you are aware of some potential defenses that the owner may choose to bring up in court.
Florida’s dog bite liability statute
Florida Statute § 767.04 outlines the state’s law on dog bite liability. This statute is based on the concept of strict liability. Strict liability holds a defendant liable for committing specific actions, regardless of what his intent or mental state was when he committed the action. Furthermore, this statute holds that a dog owner is strictly liable for injuries his dog causes regardless of whether the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous propensities (for example, if the owner witnessed the dog growling at passersby right before the dog attacked).
What are some possible defenses to a Florida dog bite claim?
In states with dog bite statutes that are based on strict liability principles (such as Florida), there are not many defenses available to the defendant (dog owner). However, there are three main potential defenses that a defendant may raise in a dog bite case, which are the defenses of provocation and trespassing.
- Provocation: The aforementioned Florida statute on dog bites possesses a comparative negligence element. This means that a dog owner will only be held strictly liable for all of the injuries suffered by the plaintiff if the evidence supports the fact that the plaintiff did not incite his own injuries. As such, if the dog owner can show that the plaintiff engaged in behavior (for example, petting the dog, teasing the dog, etc.) that contributed to the injuries he sustained, the plaintiff will only be able to recover from the dog owner to the extent that the court finds the dog owner was actually at fault in light of the plaintiff’s own actions. For example, if the court finds, based on the evidence presented, that the plaintiff was 40% at fault in contributing to his own injuries, he is only entitled to 60% of any damage award from the dog owner, as the dog owner is only 60% at fault.
- Trespassing: Generally speaking, if the plaintiff was illegally on your property at the time of the incident, he will not likely be successful in his claim against the dog owner. This is true even if the dog owner knew (or had reason to know) of the dog’s dangerous or vicious propensities. However, it should be noted that if the dog owner specifically instructed his dog to attack the trespasser, the owner may still be held liable for any injuries sustained by the plaintiff because the dog owner cannot intentionally endanger others on his property, regardless of whether or not they were legally there.
- Proper posting of a “Bad Dog” sign: The owner is not liable, except as to a person under the age of 6, or unless the damages are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner, if at the time of any such injury the owner had displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words “Bad Dog.”
Were You Recently Bitten by a Dog? Contact a Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Attorney
If you were recently injured as a result of being bitten by a dog, our firm wants to help. Rosen Injury Law can help you obtain compensation for any damages that you are entitled to. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys.