Car accidents can result in tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars in medical bills, lost wages, and car repairs. How is it decided who will have to pay for these damages and bills? In Florida, it usually starts with personal injury protection (PIP). If you experience damages that add up to less than [..]
Bitten by a Dog in Boca Raton Florida? Talk to a Florida Personal Injury Attorney
There’s no doubt about it: we live in a pet-loving society. With an estimated 83.3 million pet dogs and 36.5% of U.S. households owning a dog, it’s clear that man’s best friend is an important part of many people’s lives. Lots of you reading this probably have beloved dogs of your own. And even if we don’t own a four-legged companion, most of us see dogs on a daily basis, and for the most part, they don’t do us any harm. Responsible owners keep their dogs leashed when they’re in a public area, fence in their yard, and train their pets to behave around other people.
However, dogs do sometimes get loose, and whether they are motivated by fear, aggression, the desire to play, or the desire to protect their owners from what they perceive as a threat, they also sometimes bite. With their sharp teeth and strong jaws, even something that a dog perceives as a “playful” bite can do serious damage.
Powerful Jaws Lead to Serious Dog Bite Injuries
Dogs’ teeth and jaws are designed to help them devour meat and other tough foods that wild dogs historically scavenged, so it’s no surprise that dogs can easily break through a person’s skin—or do even worse—when they bite. The pressure that dogs exert when they bite has been known to damage bones, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves. Infection of the wound can also be an issue. Most pet dogs in the US are vaccinated against rabies, but if a biting dog’s status is unknown or the dog tests positive for rabies, the victim will need a series of antibiotics.
Of the estimated 4.5 million dog bites every year, 880,000 bites are so bad that victims have to be treated in the emergency room, 30,000 incidents require reconstructive surgery, and 15-20 bites result in the death of the victim. Common injuries include:
- Puncture wounds
- Infection (more likely the deeper the wound is)
- Nerve damage
- Fractured bones
- Emotional damage
Many physical injuries can have long-term effects, and people who have been bitten often develop a fear of dogs that impacts their everyday life.
Children Particularly at Risk
Dogs bite people of every age, but young children are particularly at risk. Children may provoke a dog without realizing it, simply because they don’t recognize that a particular dog doesn’t want to play, be touched, or have a person near their food dish while they’re eating. Because young children can be close to the height of certain dogs, bites often occur on the face or neck, which can lead to permanent disfigurement and scarring. Being bitten at a young age also puts children at a much higher risk of developing a lifelong phobia of dogs.
Parents should always supervise their young children around dogs, but even if they are being safe, there may be some situations that result in a bite. An unknown dog might get loose and run at a child, a family friend may have assured parents that their dog is “great with kids,” or a curious child might reach out to touch a dog in the park. No matter what the reason, the results can be traumatizing for children and families.
Dog Owners Have Responsibility to Keep Pets from Biting
As animals, dogs obviously can’t be held legally responsible for any injury they cause, so in the vast majority of cases it’s the owner who is liable. In many cases, the dog bite may have even occurred as a direct result of an owner’s negligence—they may have failed to train their dog, there could be an unrepaired break in the dog’s enclosure, or the dog might be running around a public place without a leash.
In Florida, dog owners are liable for bites if the incident occurred in a public area or a private place where the bitten person was lawfully allowed to be. Victims can recover damages under Florida’s Dog Bite Statute without having to prove the dog owner’s negligence, but in some serious cases, victims may also seek to prove the owner’s negligence in order to recover additional damages under the common law.
The only major exception to Florida’s dog bite law is if an owner prominently displays an easily readable sign that includes the words “Bad Dog.” However, far too few Florida pet owners with potentially dangerous dogs actually do this, and those who do can still be found liable if their dog bites a child under the age of 6 or if any bite was a result of the owner’s negligence.
Dangerous Dogs Identified Under Florida Law
Florida takes dog bites very seriously, and we even have a legal definition for dangerous dogs. A Dangerous Dog is:
- Any dog that has aggressively bitten or otherwise inflicted a “severe injury” on a person
- A dog that has more than once seriously injured or killed another domestic animal away from the owner’s property
- A dog used or trained for dog fighting
- A dog chased or approached a person in public in a menacing manner, without any provocation
Anyone owning a dog who meets one of these definitions must register their pet with the state and follow certain regulations, including:
- Securely confining their dog to prevent escape from the property
- Muzzling and restraining their dog with a strong leash when their pet is not confined
- Posting a clear warning sign on their property
- Notifying Animal Control if the dog gets loose, bites someone, or attacks another animal, as well as if they move to another property or if the dog gets a new owner
Protecting Yourself and Your Community
4.5 million is likely a low estimate for the annual number of dog bites, as not everyone who is bitten sees the problem as serious enough to report. If the bite doesn’t initially seem bad, some people might brush the accident off as “out of character” for the dog or “roughhousing gone too far.”
However, if you or a family member is bitten or attacked by a dog, you need to make sure you report the incident and hold the owner responsible so that this kind of incident doesn’t happen again. While we’d like to think that all dogs are good-natured and have been well-trained by their owners, the fact is that dogs are still strong animals and not all dog owners know how to successfully train their pets not to bite. It’s therefore up to you to draw attention to the issue and make sure that a potentially dangerous dog isn’t running loose in your neighborhood.
Work with an experienced dog bite attorney in order to make sure your case gets the attention it deserves and that you get the compensation you need to cover your injuries. Residents of Boca Raton, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Deerfield Beach, and Fort Lauderdale should contact the Law Offices of The Injury Law Firm of South Florida to schedule a free consultation. You can reach us at 954-764-7377 in Fort Lauderdale, at 561-209-2100 in Boca Raton, or toll-free at 877-566-8759. You can call us at any time on any day of the week or just fill out this quick contact form, and we’ll give your case the utmost respect and attention. Remember, you won’t have to pay until we recover damages for you.