Can I Sue Someone if Their Dog Caused My Car Accident In Fort Lauderdale?

Florida law sees dogs as property and holds property owners responsible for injuries their property causes. As such, dog owners may be liable for any injuries their dogs cause.

But holding a dog owner liable for your car accident can be tricky. Like all accidents, your claim must establish that the defendant’s negligence caused your accident and injuries, which requires thorough investigation of your case. Make sure you have legal representation to prove your case and get compensation. Call 954-524-2820.

What do I have to prove to hold a dog owner liable for my accident?

To prove your case, you must establish the following:

The dog’s owner.

This can be difficult. Even if it is abundantly obvious that a dog caused the accident – e.g., running into traffic and causing a vehicle to swerve, leading to the accident – the dog may become scared and run away from the scene.

Do your best to identify the dog’s owner at the scene of the accident. If the dog is with its owner, get the dog and dog owner’s information. If the dog is alone, do not approach it; instead, call animal control and wait until they arrive. If the dog ran away, you may have to talk to people in the area and ask if they know who owns the dog.

The dog caused the accident.

To recover damages, you will need to prove the dog caused your accident.

For example, if you were driving down the road and obeying all traffic laws when a dog ran in front of your car causing you to swerve and slam into a light pole, you can argue the accident would not have occurred had the dog not run into the road.

However, if you were reading a text and looked up to see a dog standing in the road (that you would have had time to avoid had you not been texting), it will be more difficult to prove the accident would not have occurred had the dog not been there.

The dog owner was negligent.

You cannot sue a dog, so if a stray dog caused your accident, you may be unable to recover damages. Therefore, you need to prove that the dog not only has an owner, but that the owner’s negligence led to the dog causing the accident. Proving a dog owner’s negligence will require you to show that the owner of the dog violated a law or failed to act reasonably under the circumstances.

Common examples of negligence include:

  • Leaving a dog in an open yard without taking reasonable precautions to restrain it.
  • Allowing the dog to wander while off-leash, violating local leash laws.
  • Failing to maintain control of a leashed dog.
  • Knowing that a dog is easily excitable, but failing to take reasonable steps to control it.

The accident caused your damages.

Finally, you will need to prove that the dog’s actions – e.g., running into traffic, jumping on the dog owner’s lap while he or she was driving – caused the accident and that you suffered injuries as a result. You will need to establish your damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.

How do I prove my claim?

In order to prove the elements of your accident claim, you will need to present evidence, such as:

  • Police reports: Officers will write up a report on how the accident occurred. It may contain their opinions on how the accident occurred in addition to any citations issued and each party’s version of the story.
  • Photos and videos: These can help prove how the accident occurred. For example, you can present photos showing that dog was off-leash or that the fence surrounding the dog’s enclosure was not secure. Surveillance cameras pointed in the right direction may have also captured the incident on film.
  • Eyewitnesses: Our attorneys can help you contact third-party witnesses who can verify the dog owner’s negligence. These witnesses will be critical to prove your case. Experts can also provide information about how an accident could have occurred as well as the residual effects of the accident on your physical, mental, and financial health.
  • Medical records: In addition to proving how the accident occurred, you also need to prove you suffered damages. Medical records, medical bills, W-2s, and paystubs can help establish the damages you suffered.

Can anyone besides the dog’s owner be liable for my accident?

In some cases, yes. For example, if the dog was under the control of a veterinarian or kennel, and the staff at the vet’s office or kennel failed to secure a gate, allowing the dog to roam free and ultimately cause an accident, the vet or kennel office may be liable.

Further, if you are rear-ended when trying to avoid a dog, you may be able to hold the driver behind you liable for following too closely and the dog owner for allowing the dog to run free.

What damages can I recover for an accident caused by a dog?

Car accidents caused by dogs are like any other type of accident in terms of what damages you can recover. Injured motorists may be able to recover a variety of damages including:

  • Medical expenses: Car accident injuries can be severe and require months of treatment and therapy. You can recover damages to pay for your medical bills and any future medical care you will need.
  • Lost wages and lost earning capacity: Those recovering from a car accident may be unable to work for months after the crash. Some may never be able to return to work. You can recover damages to cover lost income and loss of future income.
  • Pain and suffering, mental anguish and other noneconomic damages: In addition to physical and financial injury, accident victims may suffer psychologically. You can recover compensation for any emotional injuries you suffered due to the accident.

You can and should hold a dog owner liable if his or her dog caused your accident. The car accident lawyers at Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos & Lehrmann, P.L. in Fort Lauderdale can help you file your claim against a negligent dog owner or other party. Give us a call today: 954-524-2820.