Tampa Dog Bite Lawyers

According to the Humane Society, there and estimated 4.7 million dog bites each year, with nearly 800,000 of those bites requiring medical care. Last year in Florida, there we 32 fatalities from dog bites.

If you have been bitten by a dog, you should seek medical attention and talk to your physician about the warning signs of rabies. If you know the owner, you should obtain a copy of the dog's vaccination records. If you don't know the owner, then you should contact animal control about recovering the dog and testing the animal for rabies.

While the laws regarding dog bites vary from state to state, in Florida is a strict liability state. The owner is responsible for any injuries caused by the bite, unless the person bitten was comparatively negligent, in which case damages are reduced accordingly. In determining comparative negligence, many factors are considered including the dog's previous behavior, the use of warning signs, like a Beware of Dog sign, the location of the attack, whether the dog was on a leash and whether the dog was provoked.

Florida Statute 767.04 covers dog bites and reads as follows:

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. However, any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person's negligence contributed to the biting incident. A person is lawfully upon private property of such owner within the meaning of this act when the person is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when the person is on such property upon invitation, expressed or implied, of the owner. However, the owner is not liable, except as to a person under the age of 6, or unless the damages are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner, 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." The remedy provided by this section is in addition to and cumulative with any other remedy provided by statute or common law.

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Florida makes an exception for children under the age of six. They are deemed too young to be comparatively negligent. Whether a child under six provoked the dog, cannot be used as a defense. If the child is older than 6, whether the child aggravated the dog and caused the attack, is a question for the jury to determine. In addition, a parent's failure to supervise the child can serve to reduce the child's recovery.

The strict liability of section 767.04 is waived if a child is over the age of 6, is bitten on the owner's property and the owner has prominently displayed a Bad Dog, or Beware of Dog sign. If bitten under such circumstances, recovery would be difficult.

In Florida, if a dog is known to have bitten previously or has a reputation for wanting to bite, a person in control of the dog, other than an owner, can be held liable for injuries inflicted by the dog. So for instance, if you advise a kennel owner or dog groomer that the dog is known to bite and the dog bites someone while in their custody, the custodian may be held liable for damages.

Likewise, a landlord has a duty to protect its tenants in connection with a vicious dog of which the landlord has knowledge. This rule only applies to injuries which occur on the landlord's premises, or an amenity of those premises, like a community park or pool.

If you or your child has been bitten by a dog and suffered damage, such as lost wages, medical bills, emotional trauma or physical scarring, you may be entitled to a recovery. Most dog bite claims are covered by homeowners or premises liability insurance and are not paid by the dog owners directly. Take all reasonable steps to photograph your injuries and the location where the incident where took place. Gather the names of any witness and contact an attorney with experience handling dog bites.

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Call the law office of Harris & Riviere in Tampa at (813) 669-2080 to speak with an attorney or complete one of our free case evaluation forms. Serving all of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Manatee and Sarasota counties.

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