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Dog bites and Florida’s strict liability policy

On Behalf of | Nov 27, 2023 | PERSONAL INJURY - Personal Injury

Dogs have a reputation for being loyal companions and fierce protectors. However, the same instincts and physical prowess that make them good guards also grant them the capacity to harm humans.

When dogs bite, they can do serious direct and indirect damage, resulting in pain and potentially crippling injuries. These can in turn lead to large medical bills. The liability for these costs falls to dog owners.

Strict liability and negligence

In Florida, dog owners are subject to strict liability for injuries caused by their dogs. They are responsible for damages whether their dogs showed aggression in the past or not. The key factor is the ownership of the dog at the time of the incident. If a biting dog has a history of aggression but the owner did not take appropriate measures (putting the dog on a leash), bitten individuals may be able to obtain additional damages because of the owner’s negligence. In this case, the owner may also face criminal liability. Some homeowner insurance policies include coverage for pet owners if their pets injure others.

Trespassers and provokers

The dog bite laws do provide some exceptions. If a person is trespassing on the owner’s property without lawful authorization at the time of the dog bite, the owner may not be liable. However, it’s important to note that other legal doctrines, such as negligence, could still apply in these situations. Similarly, if the dog attacked someone who provoked it through abuse, taunting or assaulting his or her owner, the owner may not bear legal responsibility.

According to Florida Health, an average of 600 Floridians end up in the hospital from dog bite injuries each year. The state places responsibility for any dog bite injuries on the owners, and, in some cases, the person who had responsibility for the dog at the time, with a couple of exceptions.