Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Bites in Florida

Last year, Florida had the highest average amount per dog bite insurance claim in the country at $38,400. There were 146 payments amounting to roughly $5.6 million for dog bites last year. Experts estimate that dogs bite roughly 4.7 million people in the United States every year. Most of the victims are children, while the elderly are a close second.

States have created their own unique versions of dog bite statutes to address the civil and criminal liability of having a dog that causes injuries or damage. Here, we will go through some of the most common questions that our clients ask us about Florida dog bite law.

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What Does Florida Law Say About Dog Bites?

Florida, like many other states, has a specific statute that addresses dog bites and dangerous dogs. A dog owner can be liable if the dog bites another person. The person must either be in a public place or lawfully on the owner’s property.

Florida uses a strict liability standard for dog bites. That means that the victim does not have to prove fault or negligence to receive a settlement.

What If the Dog Was Provoked?

Even though Florida has strict liability, the statute states that the person bitten could have their compensation reduced by the amount that they were at fault or negligent. A judge or jury will assess the percentage of fault attributed to the victim to make this determination.

For example, if the person bitten was taunting the dog before the dog bit, then that reduces compensation.

What If the Dog Was Defending Me (or Another Person)?

A dog will not be declared dangerous if it was defending another human being when it bit someone. If the dog was being tortured or tormented, and was defending itself, then it will also not be declared a dangerous dog.

The dog can also protect you or your property from unlawful intruders without being declared a dangerous dog.

What is a Dangerous Dog?

The statute classifies some dogs as “dangerous dogs,” and the owner must take special precautions to keep the dog away from other people. A dog is considered dangerous only after it has been investigated by animal control (usually following a dog bite).

Dangerous dogs must be kept in a secured area with warning signs that state the dog is dangerous. Dangerous dogs must be muzzled and leashed if taken out of the secured location, and only those over 18 can handle the dog. If a dangerous dog causes damage, there could actually be criminal charges involved.

Is My Landlord Liable for Dog Attacks?

A landlord can be liable for dog bites if the landlord knows that the dog has vicious tendencies and the dog attacked someone on the leased premises. However, this may only apply if the dog attacks a co-tenant.

If the lease agreement specifically excludes certain breeds of dogs, but the landlord does not enforce this provision, then the landlord can be liable for the failure to enforce those rules. Like other dog bite liability, this likely does not apply to uninvited people or trespassers.

What is the “Bad Dog” Exception?

In Florida, you may be able to escape liability for a dog bite if you post a clearly visible and easily readable sign that says “Bad Dog” or “Beware of Dog.”

This exception only applies if the victim was over 6 years old and the incident occurred on the dog owner’s property. There may be other factors that the court will consider in this type of case, so it may not be a complete exception to liability.

What Should I Do If I Have Been Bitten by a Dog?

First, you should seek immediate medical attention. Your health should be your number one concern. Then, you need to report the incident to animal control or local law enforcement. They will then investigate the animal and provide a report on the incident.

You should also contact Glotzer & Kobren, your local Boca Raton, Florida personal injury attorneys. We can discuss your legal options with you and give you a full case evaluation for free. Call 561-361-8677 to get started.