Can I sue for Personal Injuries Caused by a Dog Bite or Attack if the Dog has Never Bitten Anyone Before?

Yes, it does not matter whether the dog has ever bitten anyone before. According to Florida Statute § 767.04, the owner of the dog is liable for injuries even if the dog has never previously exhibited aggressive behavior. Years ago, Florida law provided that a dog owner would not be held liable the first time his or her dog bit a person, which has been referred to as the “first bite is free” law. Fortunately, this is no longer the case, and for good reason as no one has the ability to prevent an attack better than the dog’s owner.

This provision of Florida law only applies to a person that is in a public place or lawfully on private property. For example, an adult trespasser on private property will not be able to establish liability under this statute. Further, an owner will not be liable for persons entering his or her property if the owner placed a sign in a “prominent place” advising of a “bad dog.”

In the event the victim of a dog bite was acting negligent when the attack happened, that person’s recovery will be reduced by his or her degree of negligence. A victim’s negligence would typically arise out of intentional provocation of the dog.

Most commonly the dog bite cases we handle arise from an incident that occurs on the roadway or sidewalk near the home of the person that owns the dog. Often, the person attacked was walking a dog. In these situations, our investigation commonly determines that the homeowner failed to secure the dog inside a fence allowing it to escape.

Dog bites can be very serious. Even worse, children are the often the victims. Personal injuries resulting from dog attacks or bites include puncture wounds, lacerations, infection, scarring, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, loss of normal range of motion of the bitten area and traumatic psychological injuries.

A person suffering injuries from a dog bite or attack is entitled to obtain reimbursement and compensation for medical bills, lost wages, scarring, functional impairment and pain and suffering.

Our lawyers have handled dog bite and attack cases throughout the Jacksonville area for over 20 years. Most of those cases involved infections that resulted from the bite. In one case, we secured a six-figure recovery for our client who suffered a severe infection in her hand that led to reflex sympathetic dystrophy (“RSD”), which is a disabling and painful neurological complication. We have also handled dog bite claims involving: significant injuries to a child’s hand; elbow injuries; and shoulder injuries.

Homeowners’ insurance will sometimes cover the owner for dog attacks. However, insurers are increasingly excluding coverage for dogs altogether and other insurers exclude coverage for breeds that tend to be more aggressive.

If you have any additional questions about Florida law regarding personal injuries from a dog attack or bite, please call – consultations are always free. If we accept your personal injury case, you pay us nothing unless we make a financial recovery for you.

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