When Animals Attack Children in Florida
Since 2003, the average dog bite settlement has increased 134 percent. Most of that increase is attributable to a better understanding of the nature of dog bite injuries, as outlined below.
While substantial compensation is available in these claims, insurance companies do not simply give this money away. In fact, their lawyers fight hard to reduce or deny compensation to victims. A good Tampa dog bite attorney helps ensure that these victims do not end up settling for less.
Animal Attack Injuries
In most of the serious dog bite claims, a large Mastiff breed dog, like a rottweiler, suddenly and viciously attacks a small child. These incidents cause lasting physical and mental injuries.
Physically, the knockdown might be the most serious part of the attack. For most children, these knockdowns cause permanent brain injuries. Additionally, when dogs bite, their teeth usually cause deep puncture wounds and severe tearing lacerations. This combination of injuries requires treatment at a specialized trauma center. Even if surgery is successful, physical scars often remain.
Mental and emotional scars usually remain as well. Most child victims suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following these attacks. The symptoms, which include flashbacks, trouble sleeping, and depression, make it difficult or impossible to function at work, home, or anyplace else.
Your Claim for Damages
Depending on the facts of the case, these victims usually have several legal options. Each alternative has some pros and cons.
- Strict Liability: Florida has a limited strict liability law. Unless the victim provoked the animal (more on that below), the owner is strictly liable for bite damages. It is much easier to prove strict liability than negligence. However, it’s also difficult to separate bite-related from non-bite-related injuries. Additionally, many pet owner jurors view strict liability as a financial penalty for dog ownership.
- Scienter (Knowledge): If the owner knew the dog was potentially vicious, the owner is responsible for all resulting damages. Jurors often embrace this theory even if they are pet owners. However, it only applies if there is evidence of knowledge, such as pre-bite behavior like aggressive barking or prior attacks against animals or people.
- Negligence: The ordinary negligence theory, which usually involves a lack of care, normally applies against third parties, such as dog groomers or teachers who negligently handle animals. Negligence per se, a related theory, usually involves violation of a leash or other animal restraint law.
In all these situations, damages normally include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
The provocation defense applies mostly in strict liability claims. In this context, provocation is an intentional and malicious act. People cannot accidentally provoke animals by making fast movements or loud noises. In fact, provoking is almost synonymous with torturing.
The assumption of the risk defense often applies in scienter and negligence claims. This defense usually involves a “Beware of Dog” or other warning sign. Although these signs do not automatically let owners off the hook, they do make it easier to establish the assumption of the risk defense in court.
Contact a Diligent Attorney
Child dog bite victims have multiple legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney, contact Mark H. Wright, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.