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Florida’s Dog Bite Statutes

The CDC reports that more than 4.7 million dog bite incidents happen every year in the United States, and of those 386,000 result in people seeking emergency medical attention, about half of which are children.  American insurance companies pay out over a billion dollars in dog bite claims each year because of this.  As of last year Pit Bulls, were the leading cause of dog bite-related fatalities, but just because they are so imposing looking does not correlate to them being “bad”: the second most dangerous breed, based on fatalities last year, had only seven less deaths attributed to it—the Cocker Spaniel.  Danger more often than not is because of the owner, not the dog.


Dog Bite Liability In Florida


Florida statutes have established that dog owners are held to strict liability if their dog bites somebody, and that contributory negligence will be factored when determining the damages.  This means that if your dog bites somebody you will be financially responsible, but if they are partially at fault for being bitten the amount they may recover will be reduced by the amount of fault they retain.  The person who was bitten may be found entirely at fault for the bite; here, the person bitten would be unable to recover.


Children Under Six Years Old


Florida dog bite law has certain exceptions for children under six years old.  First, they are statutorily incapable of conduct that would provoke a dog such that they would be contributorily negligent.  The difference between “capable under the law” and “factually capable” is a relevant distinction here: children under six can obviously provoke a dog into a violent response, yet Florida law has deemed that it may not be a consideration in legal proceedings.


Second, in Florida a child’s recovery can be reduced due to contributory negligence on the part of the parents for improperly supervising the child.  In fact, juries are allowed to consider the fault of the parents in dog bite cases even if the parents are not a party to the lawsuit.


Finally, there are certain arguably unfair caveats that come into play if the injured child’s parents do not have liability insurance.  In these cases the dog owner cannot make a claim against the negligent parent to recover some portion of the damages awarded to the child.  The child is also not allowed to sue the parent for negligence in this situation.


“Beware of Dog” Sign Exemptions


Except in the case where the person bitten is under six years of age, if a person is bitten by a dog on the dog owner’s property when a prominently placed “Beware of Dog” sign exists they are considered to have actual notice of the bite risk, and thus the dog owner has no liability under Florida law.


Consult A Florida Dog Bite Attorney


If you or your child has been bitten by a dog and you feel it was due to the negligence of the dog’s owner or handler, or your child under six years of age has been bitten by a dog, you may be able to seek restitution under Florida law.  Contact a local personal injury attorney to discuss your situation: quickly seeking legal advice will likely result in a more favorable potential outcome in your matter.

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