What liabilities does a dog owner have when a dog bites?

Some Florida residents may be curious to know when a dog’s owner is responsible for damage caused by the dog, especially dog bites. Florida law provides that a dog’s owner is strictly liable for any injuries to a person, livestock or another domestic animal that occur in public or if the injured party is legally in a private place. The owner may not defend the suit by stating that the dog had not previously displayed a propensity toward violence. Strict liability means that the owner is liable even if the dog has never bitten anyone or behaved aggressively.

Being lawfully on private premises means that the person who suffered the dog bite entered the property due to some legal obligation, such as the duty to employ mail, or that the person was invited onto the property. Permission may be express, meaning an actual invitation, or implied by the circumstances. Dog owner liability applies, even if the dog bites someone on the owner’s property, as long as the victim was there lawfully.

Following a bite, the victim may file a report with animal control to determine whether the animal is dangerous. Dangerous animals may be taken away from the owner or returned. If a dog bites again after being determined a dangerous animal, the owner could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Any person injured by a dog bite has a legal right to seek damages from the animal’s owner. A personal injury attorney may be able to help dog bite victims seek compensation for their medical bills, out-of-pocked expenses such as co-pays or prescription costs, lost wages and pain and suffering. When a dog attacks another animal, the owner may instead be entitled to claim veterinary bills or funeral costs for the pet.

Source: The Florida Legislature , “The 2014 Florida Statutes Chapter 767 Damage by Dogs“, September 09, 2014