Dog Bite Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

In many cases, a dog is man’s best friend. Unfortunately, even the friendliest dog can attack. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dogs bite 4.5 million people each year. While many of these bites are accidental nips, some can cause devastating injuries. If a dog bit you or your loved one, you may be entitled to compensation. A Fort Lauderdale dog bite lawyer can walk you through the process.

For attorneys with over 150 years of combined experience, call Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos & Lehrman, P.L. today.

What triggers a dog bite?

Dogs often bite if they feel:

  • Threatened (e.g., this is especially true if they feel you are threatening their puppies or food)
  • Scared or startled
  • Sick or injured
  • Provoked in any way

Dogs might also accidentally bite during playtime.

Common Dog Bite Injuries

If a dog bites you, you may experience both physical and emotional injuries.

Physical Injuries

Common physical injuries caused by dog bites include:

  • Abrasions
  • Punctures
  • Fractured bones
  • Sprains
  • Scarring
  • Nerve damage
  • Tissue loss
  • Crush injuries
  • Lacerations

Infections

Infections such as rabies, tetanus, cellulitis, C canimorsus, pasteurella, and staph can occur as the result of a dog bite. These infections can lead to numerous health issues such as fever, vomiting, myalgia, skin rash, and shortness of breath. If the infection is serious enough, death can occur.

Emotional Injuries

People may experience a wide-range of emotions after a dog attack. They may feel depressed, anxious, or afraid to live life as they used to. Some dog bite victims may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Those with PTSD may find it difficult to function in society and will likely need some form of psychological treatment or counseling.

Children in particular are susceptible to mistrust and fear after a traumatic event such as a dog bite.

Dog bite victims with scars or disfigurements may find it difficult to face the world and socialize with friends and family. Many dog bite victims may also receive different treatment because of their appearance.

Filing a Claim or Lawsuit After a Dog Bite

Florida residents injured by a dog have four years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit. The type of claim you file will determine whom you are able to file against. Strict liability claims only allow victims to file against owners, while negligence claims allow victims to file against non-owners as well, such as a keeper.

Strict Liability for Dog Owners

Florida is a strict liability state in regards to dog bites. This means that under Florida Statute § 767.01, dog owners are automatically liable for any injuries or damages caused by their dog.

Per Florida law, if a person is in a public place or lawfully in a private place and suffers a dog bite injury, the dog owner is liable for the person’s injuries. Strict liability means the victim can hold the owner liable without having to prove that the owner knew, or should have known, the dog had a “propensity for viciousness.”

There are two caveats to this strict liability rule:

Comparative Negligence: While the owner is automatically liable, the victim can also share fault. For example, if the victim had provoked the dog, even accidentally, the victim may be partially or fully liable.

“Bad Dog” Exception: The owner is not liable for the injuries caused if the owner had a clearly visible “Bad Dog” sign on his property at the time of the injury. If the bite victim is under the age of six or the injury was the result of the owner’s negligence, the owner will be liable despite the sign.

Negligence

Dog bite victims can also file a claim on the grounds of negligence, which, as we stated above, allows them to file against a negligent non-owner. A claim for negligence involving domestic animal injuries requires proving three basic elements: 

The defendant was the owner or keeper of the dog: Essentially, you must prove that, at the time of the attack, the defendant owned or was keeping the dog on his or her property.

The defendant knew (or should have known) of the dog’s dangerous propensities: To file under negligence, you must prove that the owner or keeper of the dog was aware that the animal was dangerous or could injure a person.

You can establish this element through:

  • History of the dog behaving aggressively
  • Previous complaints about the dog’s behavior
  • History of the dog fighting with other animals
  • Statements and warnings by the owner regarding the animal’s behavior and character

The defendant acted unreasonably when caring for the dog: You must be able to prove that the defendant was careless and that this carelessness led to the injury. For example, if the dog owner left the dog off the leash or left the gate open (and he knew the dog had a violent history), you may be able to hold him liable.

What damages might I be able to recover in a dog bite claim?

Regardless of whether you bring a claim on the basis of strict liability or of negligence, you may be able to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, emotional anguish, and pain and suffering.

Medical expenses from a dog bite can be costly. A 2010 report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows that a hospital stay relating to a dog-bite costs an average of $18,200.

In addition to initial hospital costs, dog bite victims may have to pay for various treatments and surgeries to cover scarring.

Dog bite victims may be also be able to recover damages for lost wages and for the pain and suffering they endured.

The attorneys at Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos & Lehrman, P.L. have years of experience handling cases involving dog bite injuries. For assistance with your dog bite injury, please contact us today at 954-524-2820.