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Florida is known as a “strict liability” state when it comes to dog attacks, meaning that dog owners are held liable for the behavior of their animals regardless of whether or not the animal had a history of aggressive behavior, whether or not the owner was aware of any dangerous tendencies, or even if the owner was acting negligently leading up to the attack. This type of liability can make it easier for a victim to initiate the personal injury claims process. It is important that you don’t confuse the matter of liability with the process of seeking the money you are owed for an injury.

While proving liability is an essential first step in the personal injury claims process, it will have little bearing on your negotiations for agreeing on an actual amount of damages you are owed (although pure comparative fault will play a role in the final amount you receive — more on that below). Working with a personal injury attorney through the entire claims process or a lawsuit is an important way to ensure that you are taking the correct steps to prove that you are entitled to compensation as well as proving the amount of compensation you deserve.

The Bernheim Kelley Battista & Bliss team has been representing clients in dog attack cases for years and will be happy to provide you with legal support throughout this challenging process. This blog post should give you a general idea of how Florida’s personal injury law applies to dog attacks, but speaking directly with an attorney during a free consultation is the best way to get clear insights into your unique situation. Contact us as soon as possible to get started on your case today.

Florida’s Dog Attack Liability Laws

The following are two sections of the Florida Statutes directly pertaining to dog attacks on humans and clearly states issues relating to negligence on behalf of both the owner and the victim. 767.01 Dog owner’s liability for damages to persons, domestic animals, or livestock. — Owners of dogs shall be liable for any damage done by their dogs to a person or to any animal included in the definitions of “domestic animal” and “livestock” as provided by s. 585.01. 767.04 Dog owner’s liability for damages to persons bitten. — 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. Dog Bites


Dog attacks can be terrifying, traumatic experiences regardless of the extent of physical injuries a victim suffers. In the aftermath of an attack, trying to focus on legal issues can quickly become overwhelming, especially when the insurance company representing the dog’s owner is aggressively focused on settling your claim quickly and cheaply, regardless of how severe your injuries may be. Partnering with the Bernheim Kelley Battista & Bliss team will give you the emotional space you need to stay focused on your medical issues and recovery while looking towards the future of your legal fight with confidence, knowing a proven attorney is focused on getting you the compensation you deserve. We offer a free consultation for victims and loved ones of victims, where we can go through the many details of the dog attack to get a clear sense of what happened, how it happened, the injuries the attack caused, and the impacts that these injuries have had on the victim and their loved ones so far. Once we understand these important details, we will be able to provide legal insights, examples of other cases we have successfully handled similar to yours and give you a sense of how personal injury law protects you in this unique situation.

What Makes a Victim?

“Strict liability” does not mean that anyone bit by a dog is automatically entitled to personal injury compensation. Situations where an individual was illegally trespassing on private property or provoked an attack are often excluded from this strict liability. In other circumstances, a victim may find that their final award is reduced through pure comparative fault if they are partially to blame for the incident. In terms of a dog attack, a victim is someone who was attacked by a dog while on public property or lawfully on private property and was not provoking the animal by teasing, harming, or attempting to harm the dog.

Pure Comparative Fault and Your Rights As a Victim

Insurance companies will often first attempt to offset their client’s liability by blaming the victim, either partially or fully. In Florida, the concept of “pure comparative fault” allows a victim to accept partial fault for an accident while still being able to seek compensation — their final award is simply reduced proportionately to the percentage of fault they accept. While this law is beneficial in situations where a victim would otherwise be barred from seeking any compensation due to their partial fault, insurers will attempt to use this law to their advantage by placing unnecessary fault on a victim to reduce the amount they will need to pay regardless of the total sum of damages they agree that the victim has suffered. This is one facet of the insurer’s playbook to save as much money as possible while protecting themselves and their client from future financial or legal issues.

“He’s Never Done That Before!”

A typical response to someone’s dog acting aggressively is to assure the recipient of the aggressive behavior that they have never seen them act that way before, suggesting that it must have been something that the victim did to set them off. In some states, a dog owner may not be held liable for their dog’s behavior if the animal illustrates no history of aggressive tendencies, but this is not true in Florida — hence “strict” liability. If a dog has attacked you, you must record as many notes as possible, as soon as possible, about the events leading up to the attack. No matter how vivid and clear the experience may be in your head in the hours or days after the attack, your memory will fade quickly, and important details may become confused or obscured in your mind. As these details fade, it may be more and more difficult to recall precisely what happened. It will give the owner and their representatives more leverage as they attempt to pin the blame on you, whether through direct proof or simply pointing out that you don’t remember all of the details.

After a Dog Attack, Your Safety and Health Are Top Priorities

A dog attack, as with any injury, must be treated seriously, and a victim must seek immediate medical attention to ensure that they can avoid as many additional complications as possible. Dog bites come with a high risk of infection from the bacteria in the dog’s mouth, not to mention the risk of serious blood loss and permanent damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues because of the tearing motion of a dog’s teeth. Call 911 immediately, and report that you (or someone else) have suffered from a dog bite. Give them your location, and give them as much detail as possible about whether or not the dog has been restrained and any other relevant information. When the EMTs arrive, accept their care and allow them to give you a full examination. If they suggest taking an ambulance to an emergency room, it is in your best interest to accept the ride and worry about the cost later with the help of your lawyer. Once you have gotten appropriate medical care and your injuries are stabilized, it is time to contact an attorney. We offer a free consultation to discuss your attack and give you a better idea of what you can expect through the legal process. Of course, no two dog attacks are alike, meaning that we will not be able to give you exact answers to many of your questions until we are working through your case together. Still, you will benefit greatly from our years of experience and deep understanding of Florida’s personal injury laws, including dog attacks.