Strict Liability for Florida Dog Bites
Florida’s dog bite statute, found in code section 767.04, imposes strict liability on dog owners when their dog bites another that causes injury. Specifically, the owner of any dog that bites any person while that person is in a public place or lawfully on private property (including the property of the dog’s owner) is liable for damages suffered by the person bitten. Because the law imposes strict liability, this means that the owner is liable regardless of the dog’s former viciousness or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.
That being said, Florida’s comparative negligence laws will also come into play. Thus, if the person who was bitten was in any way negligence and that negligence is proximate cause of the dog bite injury, the dog owner’s liability will be reduced by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the injury.
Another important factor to keep in mind is the issue of one being lawful on private property. According to Florida law, this means that a person was on the dog owner’s property to perform a specific, legal duty or was expressly invited to be on the property by the owner. There is however an important exception. If at the time of the injury the owner has prominently displayed a sign on their property that includes the words "Bad Dog", then the owner will not be held liable. It is important to note here that according to Florida law, these exact words must be readily displayed on the sign. Simply writing "Beware of Dog" will not suffice.
But like many legal issues, there are exceptions to the exceptions. For instance, if the person bitten is under the age of six, then the owner will be held liable regardless of whether or not a sign was displayed. Likewise, if the damages were proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner they will be held liable regardless of whether or not the "Bad Dog" sign was posted.
If you or a loved one has suffered from a Florida dog bite injury, or if you are the owner of a dog that has bit another, then you should seek the advice of an experienced Florida dog bite injury lawyer. As can be seen, the law if full of complex exceptions. To make sure your rights are fully protected, contact us today at the Law Offices of James O. Cunningham, P.A. at 877-FL-INJURY (877-354-6587) for your free initial consultation.
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