The Truth About Dog Bites

There are some legal fictions that seem to exist no matter how true or untrue they are. One such fiction is the so-called “one free bite rule.” This is the belief that a dog can bite someone the first time without the owner being liable, but the second time there’s liability. This is actually not true in Florida, though.

Dog Bite Laws

The law is clear that if a dog bites you, the owner is responsible for your injuries, regardless of whether Fido has ever bitten someone in the past, and regardless of the dog’s propensities for being a sweetheart or a killer in the past. There are some exceptions to this law:

  1. The person bitten must be lawfully on the property. In other words, a trespasser cannot sue for suffering a dog bite on another’s property. People who are in public places, or on property with permission, are entitled to sue, as are people who have a legal right to be on your property without express permission, such as utility meter readers, municipal officials doing inspections, or of course emergency workers.
  2. If the owner has a “dangerous dog” sign up, they are generally protected from liability if the dog bites someone while on their property.

The laws do allow a court to consider how a victim may have provoked a dog, or who may have otherwise acted in a way that contributed to the possibilities of being bitten. In some situations, this makes sense. Someone should not be able to tease a dog, waive food in front of it, or run aggressively towards it, and then complain about damages suffered when they are bitten by the dog.

But often, this calls for tricky evaluation of dog psychology. How does a court actually determine what kind of activity provokes a dog, or measure how much the dog considered a particular event when deciding to bite?

Non-Human Bites or Non-Bite Injuries

Dog suits are not just limited to human bites, however. Dogs can often cause injury even without biting, or else, by biting non-humans (other animals). The liability is much broader in these cases.

A dog simply needs to cause damage for the owner to be liable, without concern of provocation or whether there was a dangerous dog sign up. Literally, any action a dog takes, directly or indirectly, will give rise to liability. There are even cases where a dog stepped on a loaded gun, shooting another person, and the dog owner was liable.

But in most cases, non-human or non-bite injuries will be simply property damage claims. Although your cat is a valued member of the family, the law sadly treats it as only property. Thus, your damages when a dog kills your cat is the value of the cat as property (or else the value of medical treatment). If a dog damages your fence, you surely can recover the value of the fence repair, but not much else.

If you are injured by a dog bite or other domestic animal, facts are important, and there are steps to be taken to make sure that you get fair recovery. Talk to the Miami personal injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today for a free consultation about your case.


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