Dog Bite Lawyer in Fort Lauderdale
Dogs are considered man’s best friend for a reason. With over 90 million pet dogs in the United States, over 63 million households have a canine pet. Pet ownership, in general, has increased by over 56% since 1988 and shows no sign of slowing down.
Unfortunately, not all canines coexist with humans as well as they could. There are over 4 million dog bite incidents each year and over 5 million incidents that resulted in emergency medical care between 2001 and 2006. This reflects an increase of 139% for hospitalizations due to dog bites.
When animals bite humans, injuries can range from minor to severe, and often require medical assistance. When medical bills add up, the animal’s owner should be held responsible. Following a dog bite incident, a dog bite lawyer in Fort Lauderdale can help you recover compensation. With experience assisting with animal attacks, Schlacter Law can help get you the money you deserve.
To help protect an animal bite victim, Florida has enacted a statute to help hold a dog owner liable when a canine bites or attacks someone. Florida Statute, §767.04, states that “The owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.”
This places liability on the owner not only when their dog bites someone, but liability still exists even if the owner had no knowledge that their pet exhibited prior vicious behavior.
The statute, however, does include provisions that would reduce an owner’s liability in certain cases following an animal bite. In cases where the bite victim was the proximate cause of the incident, this “reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident.” This is known as comparative negligence and reduces negligence on the part of the pet owner and could result in a reduced award for compensation in a lawsuit.
Additionally, an animal’s owner may not be liable for injuries following an incident where someone was bitten on their property “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’.” However, even with the presence of a ‘Bad Dog’ sign, this does not excuse liability in cases where the victim is 6 years old or younger.
Florida’s dog bite statute can be used as a guide in determining liability following an animal bite. To help in determining this liability, a consultation with a dog bite lawyer would be beneficial. With experience litigating dog bite cases, Schlacter Law understands how the law is applied and can assist in getting the compensation you’re entitled to. Speak to a dog attack lawyer in Fort Lauderdale today.
Strict liability is a legal standard that can hold an animal owner automatically liable for any injuries that result from an animal bite, without regard to any fault on the part of the owner. Under this standard, a dog owner may still be liable in instances where their pet had never previously exhibited aggressive or vicious behavior, or bitten anyone else in the past.
There are some exceptions to this rule that would hold an owner liable. Strict liability would not apply in cases where:
- The victim was a trespasser on the owner’s land
- A military or police animal was following their duties
- The dog was provoked
- There was property damage, as opposed to an actual injury
Florida’s strict liability standard differs from states that have a ‘one bite’ rule. The ‘one bite’ rule only applies liability after an owner knows their pet has bitten someone before. This would mean an owner is not liable for injuries following the first person they bite but would be liable for any other bites that occur. Again, Florida does not follow the ‘one bite’ standard and instead follows a strict liability standard where a pet owner may be liable regardless if they were aware of a prior bite or not.
Strict liability is just one avenue for recovering compensation following a dog bite. Speaking with a dog bite lawyer in Fort Lauderdale is the first step in evaluating if the strict liability standard would apply under your circumstances. Call today for a consultation.
Negligence Per Se
Negligence per se is another doctrine that may provide compensation following an animal bite incident. Negligence per se would hold a pet owner liable if they violated a statute, regulation or ordinance that was designed to protect the very class of people who were injured by violating the law.
For example, if a local ordinance requires that all dogs be leashed while in public, and a dog owner fails to leash their pet, the owner could be found liable simply by the fact that they failed to obey the ordinance and someone who the ordinance was designed to protect was injured as a result. This type of liability is not absolute and is more likely to apply in cases where the violation is considered more serious.
Negligence per se is another avenue for a lawyer to seek compensation following an animal bite incident. Talking with a Fort Lauderdale dog bite lawyer following an attack is important to help evaluate if negligence per se might apply.
Statute of Limitations
As with any case for an injury in Florida, there is a limited amount of time available to a plaintiff to file a lawsuit for compensation following an injury. Animal bite victims are also subject to this time limitation, known as the statute of limitations.
In Florida, the statute of limitations for a negligence lawsuit is four years from the time the incident occurred. This would give an animal bite victim four years from the day the bite occurred to file a lawsuit in court for compensation.
Due to the time-sensitive nature of negligence lawsuits, it is imperative to contact a lawyer and evaluate the time left to file a lawsuit. Failing to file within the statute of limitations could result in a dismissal of a case, and therefore a plaintiff could lose out on any possible compensation through that lawsuit.
If you were bitten by a dog, be sure to speak with a dog bite victim lawyer in Fort Lauderdale today. A dog bite lawyer understands the time constraints placed on filing a lawsuit and will ensure that no deadlines pass without filing the proper paperwork. Call today to ensure that you don’t lose an opportunity to seek compensation through the court system.
Homeowners Insurance Coverage
Most claims in Fort Lauderdale for compensation following an animal bite incident are made through the pet owner’s homeowner’s insurance coverage. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that more than 1/3rd of homeowner’s insurance claims can be attributed to dog bites and that these claims cost the industry over $675 million in 2018, with an average claim of almost $40,000 nationwide. The nationwide average claim for animal bite compensation is an increase of over 100% since 2003, reflecting increased settlements and medical costs associated with dog bites.
Prior to filing a lawsuit against a pet owner, it is important to check first to see if the owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy covers the cost of any injuries resulting from an attack. Some policies will exclude coverage when a dog bites someone, but in some cases, the owner is able to purchase additional homeowner’s coverage to protect them in cases where their policy doesn’t provide adequate coverage. If the homeowner failed to purchase additional coverage and their policy will not cover the costs of any injuries then a personal injury lawsuit would need to be filed in court.
Even in cases where a policy would cover the costs for an animal bite, there are often limits to the dollar amount the insurance company will payout. A typical policy will max out liability between $100,000 and $300,000. When the costs associated with an injury surpass the limits of the insurance policy, the owner may still be liable for the difference, and a lawsuit would seek additional money directly from the homeowner.
Some insurance companies have exclusions based on the breed of the dog. Some dogs are considered inherently dangerous, and therefore coverage would be denied if the owner has one of these breeds and they bite someone.
Dealing with the intricacies of insurance policies is complex. Understanding when a policy does and does not cover the injuries sustained when a homeowner’s dog bites someone takes experience, and Schlacter Law a Fort Lauderdale dog bite lawyer has this experience. If you were bitten by a dog and have questions as to whether or not the homeowner’s insurance company is liable, we can help. Call today for a consultation.
How We Handle Cases
- Your attorney will aggressively investigate your case. Schlacter Law will compile all necessary evidence needed to maximize the value of your case. Which includes but is not limited to photographs, police reports, security camera footage, witness statements, medical bills and medical records.
- You will remain in constant contact with Schlacter Law about the progression of your case.
- Your attorney will present your case to the insurance company and will attempt to resolve your case before the case goes to court for maximum compensation.
- Your attorney will make every effort possible to resolve the case as quickly as possible for the most amount of money you may be entitled to. You will be actively involved in the negotiation process with your attorney. Schlacter Law understands that this is your one opportunity to get justice for your loss.
- If settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, Schlacter Law will be fully prepared to bring your case to court to fight for the justice you deserve.
- At no cost to you, Schlacter Law will hire any experts and professionals needed to maximize your recovery and present your case in the strongest form possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much compensation can I expect to receive following an animal attack?
The amount of compensation a victim can expect to receive would vary greatly depending on the circumstances that led to the injury and the severity of the injury. Compensation might include all medical bills and medical care, as well as mental anguish and pain and suffering. To help come up with an estimate, be sure to contact a Fort Lauderdale animal attack lawyer today for a consultation.
What if I provoked a dog?
The amount of compensation available to an injury victim may be reduced when the victim was partly to blame for the attack. This is known as comparative negligence, and courts will reduce compensation by the percentage the victim was responsible for their injuries. Therefore, in cases where the victim provoked a dog, a court may find them comparatively negligent and reduce their overall compensation. If you have further questions don’t hesitate to contact a Fort Lauderdale dog bite injury lawyer today.