Each year over 600 Floridians and Florida visitors are hospitalized due to dog bite injuries. Some of these injuries lead to lifelong disabilities, and about two fatalities result per year. Children under the age of ten are at the highest risk for dog bites, and even more frightening, due to their short stature and the ways in which they play, it’s more likely for children to be bitten on the neck or head. Statistically, boys are bitten more often than girls.
We’re all familiar with the adage that dogs are man’s best friend. Almost half of all households in America have a dog. From Labrador Retriever to German Shepherd, Beagle to Chihuahua, Pit Bull to Maltese, Doberman Pinscher to Siberian Husky, these animals can make great companions. Unfortunately, sometimes due to improper breeding, sometimes due to poor training, and sometimes due to unknown causes, situations go awry, and in the state of Florida, according to Statute 767.04, if a dog bite takes place in a public place, the owner is liable. Moreover, if the victim was on private property, but he or she was invited or otherwise allowed to be there, the liability remains with the owner of the pet. If you’ve been bitten by a dog in the state of Florida, you may be eligible for compensation.
Visitors and Residents Alike
Years ago, local-area victims of dog bites tended to be Florida residents. Today Orlando locals continue to enjoy lush pet-friendly parks such as Dr. Phillips Dog Parks, Meadow Woods Dog Park, Lake Eola Park, Waterford Lakes Dog Park, and many more.
Nowadays, however, more and more travelers bring their pets with them on vacation to hike on the West Orange Trail and Cady Way Trail among others. Moreover, if travelers can’t find an affordable pet sitter, such as a family member or friend, it’s sometimes more affordable to bring them along. Additionally, an increasingly high number of pet owners consider their dogs a part of the family, and they don’t want to leave them behind when they have time off from work.
As a result, each year, the number of pet-friendly hotels grows. This includes economy motels, midrange inns, and luxury resorts. Many welcome one or two small-sized or medium-sized dogs, and some allow canine guests of any size. While some hotels charge a pet fee, others allow canine companions to stay for free, which increases the popularity of pet travel. There are dozens of dog-friendly hotels in Orlando, but there are a handful of options in Winter Park, Maitland, Fern Park, Lake Mary, Lake Buena Vista, Altamonte Springs, and other area cities, towns, and neighborhoods, as well. As more and more visitors bring their pets on vacation, we’ve witnessed a rise in dog bites in high-traffic tourist areas near theme parks, museums, and shopping area properties.
Dog Bite Prevention
The best defense is prevention. Understanding canine body language can help people avoid dog bites. Stiff postures, lip licking, raised hackles, yawning, intense stares, high and rigid tail wags, and whale eyes (seeing the whites of the eyes) can be warning signals. This being said, even veterinary professionals cannot always predict when a dog will bite.
Therefore, never approach a stranger’s dog, especially if it is behind a fence, in a car, or in another area over which he or she might be territorial. Do not assume that because the animal is out with the owner that it will be safe to pet the dog. Sometimes animals become more aggressive in attempts to guard their owners, even if the threat is only a perceived threat.
Insurance companies and statistics have deemed the following breeds the most dangerous:
- German Shepherds
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Doberman Pinschers
- Chow Chows
- Great Danes
- Boxers, and
Factors include size, breeding standards, upbringing, training, and more. All dogs, however, have the ability to cause significant bodily harm especially to children. Injuries types include:
- Bone Fractures
- Nerve Damage and Nerve Injuries
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Facial Lacerations
- Emotional Trauma
- Shoulder Injuries
- Back Injuries
- Neck Injuries
Even small breeds can cause severe scarring or damage to sensitive areas like a victim’s face or eyes. Moreover, small dogs can carry the same diseases as any other dog. Remind children that dogs, even those in the toy group, such as the Chinese Crested, Havanese, Miniature Pinschers, Pugs, and Pomeranians, are not toys.
If You’ve Been Bitten
Unfortunately, if you’ve found yourself here, you or a loved one may have already fallen victim to a dog bite. If this is the case, don’t panic. Our firm focuses on personal injury law including dog bites, and we’re here to guide you though the complex legal process so that you can focus on your recovery.
First, if you’ve been bitten, it is important that you seek medical attention right away. This is for your health and safety, as dogs can carry a number of zoonotic diseases including rabies. Even if your injuries seem minor, complications can arise from dog bites, such as Pasteurella, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and others. In rare but severe cases, bacterial infections can lead to sepsis and even loss of limbs.
Moreover, proper medical and legal documentation will be important in the event that you need to seek compensation for your injuries. In severe cases, dog bites can lead to astronomical hospital and clinic bills and also to circumstances that might prevent a victim from attending work or from otherwise living the lifestyle that he or she previously enjoyed. With the help of a seasoned attorney, victims may seek the following types of compensation:
- Medical Expenses: If you’ve been bitten by a dog, you should be examined by a doctor immediately. X-rays, blood work, and surgery are among the procedures that your physician might order or perform. Even with health insurance, hospital fees, rehabilitation costs, and other medical expenses can add up quickly, as deductibles can be high and insurance companies do not always cover the tests and/or treatments that your doctor might deem necessary.
- Mental Anguish: Dog bites are traumatic. Sometimes these events trigger psychological distress, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and more. At times, victims may seek compensation for mental anguish.
- Lost Wages: In severe cases, dog-bite victims may find themselves unable to work for a period of time. In this case, they can seek compensation for the income they would have earned had they not been attacked and injured by someone’s pet.
Other types of compensation available to Floridians and visitors include loss of consortium, for damages suffered by family members, and, in worst-case scenarios, funeral expenses.
Give Us A Call Today
Whether you’re hoping to settle outside of the courtroom or you need legal representation throughout a more extended process, James O. Cunningham and his legal staff are available for a free consultation. Since 1977, attorney Cunningham has been serving the greater Orlando area. He has a number of convenient office locations, and this speaks to both his success in the courtroom and to his compassionate client-services. Among them are the following:
- Orlando’s Main Office in Orange County
- Lake Mary Office in Seminole County
- Kissimmee Office in Osceola County
- Daytona Beach Office in Volusia County
- DeBary Office in Volusia County
- Deland Office in Volusia County
- Inverness Office in Citrus County
- Lakeland Office in Polk County
- Winter Haven Office in Polk County
- Tampa Office in Hillsborough County
- The Villages Office in Fruitland Park of Marion-Sumter Counties
James O. Cunningham and his staff are passionate about seeking justice within the complex legal system. We know that if you’re suffered an animal bite, you’ve been through enough. You need to focus on healing your physical wounds and on your emotional recovery, as well. At times, victims lean toward willful ignorance because they feel as if they can’t handle anything more. Down the road, however, they find themselves under water, as they are unable to pay the mortgage because their money went toward medical bills, or, due to injuries, they find themselves unable to work. In this case, the compensation for lost wages could have made all the difference in quality of life.
If a dog has bitten you or someone you love, please contact a specialized personal injury attorney who is experienced in dog bite litigation within the state of Florida. We welcome you to contact us at 877-FL-INJURY (877-354-6587). Consultations are free, and we’ll provide the guidance that you need regarding your potential case. We’ve served central Florida residents and visitors in personal injury litigation for almost four decades, and we’re here to help you and yours in your time of need.