Dogs are wonderful companions who live successfully in many residential neighborhoods, but dog behavior can often be unpredictable; any dog can bite. Although bite injuries can occur from a dog of any size, a large, powerful dog has the strength and large teeth to cause severe damage to a human being. Unfortunately, dog bites are quite common and send many people to the emergency room each year. In some cases – especially for a child or an elderly person – these injuries could potentially be life threatening.
In the United States, dog control and nuisance laws are typically regulated by state. Most counties or municipalities have dedicated animal control services for licensing and control of loose dogs. Animal control authorities should be notified about the dog bite so they can ensure that the dog is safely contained, vaccinated for zoonotic disease as required by law and to cite the owner for any violation of ordinances such as leash or nuisance laws. If you are bitten by a dog who is unlicensed, unvaccinated or whose ownership and vaccination status is unknown, you may need to receive preventative vaccinations for rabies which will add considerable cost to your medical care. It is very important to work with your insurance agent, local animal control authorities, your doctor and your attorney to ensure that your medical needs are fully evaluated and your medical costs will be compensated.
In the state of Florida, a dog’s owner can be potentially liable for any injuries his or her dog may cause to humans. Even if you only have a small wound, it is important to receive medical care and report the bite to Animal Control so you can receive information about the dog’s license and vaccination status. When you have been bitten by a dog, you should consult with your attorney to determine the best steps to secure payment for your medical bills and recover damages.
One defense a dog owner might use is to accuse you of provoking the dog to bite by chasing, teasing or otherwise arousing the dog’s aggression. This may be difficult to prove – especially if the dog has a known prior history of biting and displaying aggression towards humans. If you have not provoked the dog, you should be awarded compensation for your loss and your injuries. Your attorney is not required to prove negligence by the dog owner in most situations.
Recovery from a dog bite is not always as simple as receiving medical care for the wounds. Depending on the situation, the severity of the bite and the victim’s level of pain, a dog bite can cause many emotional scars that may be difficult to resolve. If you were walking down a sidewalk and were surprised by a dog attack, you might not feel comfortable walking in your neighborhood. If the dog bite happened on your property, you may not feel safe in your yard or home. Pursuing compensation for your injuries does not repair the emotional and physical damage, but it does give you the resources to pursue the medical and mental health care you might need to resume your normal activities without ongoing fear.
Homeowner’s insurance will often cover medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. Your attorney can help you explore best options for insurance compensation for your loss. You may also be able to request damages from the dog’s owner, and from the owner of the property where the bite occurred such as the dog owner’s landlord. The landlord could also be held potentially liable if he or she knew that the dog had a history of biting and aggression towards people.
Your attorney can assist you with the details of your Florida dog bite case and determine what insurance coverage may be available. He or she can also advise you on how to pursue and recover damages and compensation for your current or future medical care and other potential losses.