Breaking Down Dog Bite Claims In Florida
In 2019, the average dog bite settlement in the Sunshine State was over $53,000. That’s one of the highest figures in the country.
Several factors come into play in this area. Today, doctors better understand the nature and extent of physical and emotional dog bite injuries. The smaller medical treatment facilities which dominate the state simply cannot handle these cases, so these victims usually go to costly regional treatment centers. Additionally, Florida has extremely victim-friendly dog bite laws. More on these things below.
Because of the legal and medical environment in Florida, a Tampa dog bite lawyer is well-positioned to obtain maximum compensation for dog bite victims. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Dog Bite Injuries
Physical dog bite injuries are often difficult to diagnose and treat. In addition to broken bones, severe tearing lacerations, and other visible injuries, these attacks also usually cause unseen injuries, like internal bleeding and head injuries.
A dog’s teeth usually cause deep puncture wounds. Since internal organs have no protective skin layer, they usually bleed very badly. Frequently, medical professionals do not identify these injuries until victims have already lost about a fifth of their blood supplies.
Head injuries are likewise invisible. Frequently, doctors mistake common head injury symptoms, like disorientation and neck pain, for the effects of shock from the accident. As a result, these victims do not immediately get the treatment they need.
Additionally, many animal attack victims, especially younger victims, often experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms, such as extreme depression and severe nightmares.
Many states have owner-friendly dog bite laws which make it difficult to obtain fair compensation in these cases. Florida’s laws are basically the opposite. Some possible options include:
- Strict Liability: Florida has a comprehensive strict liability law. Owners are strictly liable for all injury damages, including the initial knockdown injuries, whether or not they knew the animal was potentially vicious.
- Scienter (Knowledge): Florida’s strict liability law is so broad that it alienates some pet owner jurors. Even these individuals are often willing to award damages in scienter claims. Owners are liable for damages if they knew the animal was potentially dangerous. Evidence on this point usually includes vicious barking and other pre-bite behavior.
- Negligence: Ordinary negligence is a lack of care. A teacher is negligent if s/he allows children to play near an unfamiliar dog. Negligence per se is a violation of a safety law. Most localities have very strict animal restraint laws. Owners who violate these laws are presumptively liable for damages in these situations.
The burden of proof in a scienter or other civil claim is usually a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, a little proof goes a long way.
Provocation is usually the only effective defense in strict liability claims. Florida law defines the P-word very narrowly in this context. Typically, provocation is a physical act that is tantamount to torturing the animal. Furthermore, provocation is always intentional. People cannot accidentally or subjectively provoke dogs in Florida.
Assumption of the risk is usually the most common defense in scienter and negligence claims. Warning signs don’t automatically protect owners, but they do make this defense easier to prove in court.
Reach Out to a Hard-Working Hillsborough County Lawyer
Injury victims are usually entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Tampa, contact Mark H. Wright, PLLC. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.