Dog Bite Lawyer
South Florida Dog Injury Claims
Here are The Basic Facts:
Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States seeks medical attention for a dog bite injury. The most common injuries from dog bites include:
Alan Sackrin is an expert personal injury lawyer who strives to help his clients obtain maximum compensation for their dog bite injuries. What sets Alan apart from other personal injury lawyers handling dog bite cases is his level of investigation and his willingness to file a lawsuit if a fair settlement can not be negotiated.
It’s a fact, every year there are approximately 900,000 dog bites requiring medical attention and over four million dog bites ranging from minor nips to serious dog maulings resulting in serious bodily injury and even death. At least fifteen people die each year as a result of dog attacks in the United States. Unfortunately the majority of dog bite victims are children and in a majority of the cases the dog is owned by a family member or friend.
Florida's Dog Bite Law
In Florida, our dog bite law (Florida Statute 767 - see below) is based upon strict liability which means an owner is responsible for his or her dog’s actions even if the dog has never bitten anyone before. However, the victim's own negligence can be considered to reduce the dog owner's liability (reduced by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence, or fault, contributed to the biting incident). When a dog owner fails to exercise caution, he or she places the general public at great risk.
Compensation for dog bite injuries can include monetary damages for:
Based on his 30+ years of experience, Alan knows the kind of experts to hire and the various types of compensation to seek. The best thing a person can do after being involved in a dog bite accident is to immediately seek medical care and then consult with a injury attorney about your rights.
On every dog bite case, Alan starts his investigation by reviewing the medical records, reading witness statements and the police report, examining the location of the attack and then determining the identity of the dog owner.
Why Are Some Dog Bite And Dog Injury Cases Difficult?
Many dog bite accident lawsuits involve complexities especially when it comes to understanding the subtleties in Florida's law related to a dog's viciousness and its impact on an injury claim under Florida statute 767 and common law negligence claims.
Alan handles dog bite lawsuits for clients located in Hallandale, Hollywood, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Weston, Davie, North Miami Beach, Dania Beach and all other cities in Dade and Broward County since 1982.
Examples of Common Issues in Dog Bite and Dog Injury Cases
1. Does The Homeowner's Insurance Coverage Cover Dog-Related Claims
Insurance companies in the United States paid around $530 Million in dog-related injury claims under homeowner liability policies in 2014. The Insurance Information Institute reports that dog injury claims are getting more expensive, too: they’ve gone up over 67% from 2003 to 2014.
Why is this important to dog injury or dog bite victims? Because this means that insurance companies are looking for ways to cut those costs.
Today, and in the future, we may see insurance carriers refusing to provide coverage to a home owner or to a renter if the applicant owns a dog — or owns a dog deemed by the carrier to be an aggressive breed (like a Rottweiler or Pit Bull Terrier). (Lots of policies already do this.) Or, they may offer to cover this type of claim for an additional premium if the dog owner agrees to take certain measures, like keeping the dog in a fenced yard or in a cage.
If homeowner's insurance doesn’t cover the claim, then the victim is left with going after the dog owner’s personal assets (that aren’t protected from judgment).
2. Was There A "Beware Of Dog" Or "Bad Dog" Sign On The Business Premises?
Not having a warning sign can help a victim's case. However, it depends on the facts of the case. For example, in the case of Belcher Yacht, Inc. v. Stickney, 450 So. 2d 1111 (Fla. 1984), there was a “Beware of Dog” sign posted at Belcher Yacht Sales, Inc. (Belcher). Belcher sold yachts at a marina, as well as stored and maintained yachts for its clientele.
The whole operation was fenced with a chain link fence. To get inside, the victim had to go through a gate; on Sundays, Belcher customers had to go through the rear gate, which was near a guardhouse. As extra protection, Belcher also used dogs on the premises. He had used guard dogs for years without a problem. One of them was Duke, who had some attack dog training and was kept tethered on a long leash near the rear gate guardhouse.
And, there was a big “BEWARE OF DOG” sign - It was on the outside fence, by the gate, easy to see for everyone.
When one of the yacht owners came to the marina to get his boat for a Sunday fishing trip, he was bit by Duke and seriously injured. In that case, the court ruled that even though the victim was a customer (”business invitee”) he could not recover damages against Belcher for his injuries because he had seen and understood the “BEWARE OF DOG” sign. However, the law has changed since this case - See #3 below related to common law negligence claims.
3. Do The 2 Florida Laws About Dog Injuries Have Different Burdens of Proof?
No, Florida Statute 767.01 and 767.04, are both strict liability statutes. Meaning, the dog owner is automatically responsible for harm caused by a dog (the victim doesn't have to prove the owner was at fault for the dog bite).
However, there are exceptions to the dog bite statute (767.04). If the injured party provoked the dog, or there is a conspicuously placed "Bad Dog" sign, then the owner's liability can be limited or the owner can be found not to be liable at all. However, the law allows a victim to sue under a common law negligence claim if the victim is on the owner's property and is injured, and the victim can prove the owner was at fault because he or she knew or should have known the dog had a propensity to bite (even if there was a "Bad Dog" sign).
4. Does Ownership Have To Be Established In A Dog Injury Claim?
In the case of Smith v. Allison, 332 So. 2d 631 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1976), a young man was entrusted by his parents with their small dog and while he was dog-sitting, the dog got out of his fenced yard. A man was driving his motorcycle along a road near the house, and saw the little dog up ahead, in the middle of the road.
A car was coming towards the motorcyclist, and as he got closer to the dog, it ran into his path. This caused him to lose control of the motorcycle and crash. He sued for damages under the dog injury law, Florida Statute 767.01, and lost. Why? He failed to sue the owners and sued the dog-sitter, which was held not to be sufficient. Under the Florida dog injury law, where dog owners are held liable for any damage done by their dogs, the injured person must show the defendant’s actual ownership of dog, not merely possession or custody.
Get Help From An Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
Alan Sackrin’s 30+ years of experience handling personal injury cases makes him qualified to handle any type of dog bite claim or lawsuit. Alan is a Board Certified civil trial lawyer which means he is an expert in proving the value of your damages.
Contact an experienced Florida Dog Bite Lawyer Today
Contact Alan Sackrin to find out how he can help you. You can contact him by phone at 954-458-8655 or by e-mail through this web site to schedule an appointment and learn more about your rights if you were bitten or injured by a dog in South Florida. Alan offers a free initial consultation to evaluate your claim and answer your questions.
Florida Statute 767
767.01 Dog owner’s liability for damages to persons, domestic animals, or livestock.—Owners of dogs shall be liable for any damage done by their dogs to a person or to any animal included in the definitions of “domestic animal” and “livestock” as provided by s. 585.01.
767.02 Sheep-killing dogs not to roam about.—It is unlawful for any dog known to have killed sheep to roam about over the country unattended by a keeper. Any such dog found roaming over the country unattended shall be deemed a run-about dog, and it is lawful to kill such dog.
767.03 Good defense for killing dog.—In any action for damages or of a criminal prosecution against any person for killing or injuring a dog, satisfactory proof that said dog had been or was killing any animal included in the definitions of “domestic animal” and “livestock” as provided by s. 585.01 shall constitute a good defense to either of such actions.
767.04 Dog owner’s liability for damages to persons bitten.—The owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness. However, any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident. A person is lawfully upon private property of such owner within the meaning of this act when the person is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when the person is on such property upon invitation, expressed or implied, of the owner. However, the owner is not liable, except as to a person under the age of 6, or unless the damages are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner, if at the time of any such injury the owner had displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words “Bad Dog.” The remedy provided by this section is in addition to and cumulative with any other remedy provided by statute or common law.
767.05 Owner’s liability for damages by dog to dairy cattle.—An owner or keeper of any dog that kills, wounds, or harasses any dairy cattle shall be jointly and severally liable to the owner of such dairy cattle for all damages done by such dog; and it is not necessary to prove notice to or knowledge by any such owner or keeper of such dog that the dog was mischievous or disposed to kill or worry any dairy cattle.
767.07 Interpretation.—Section 767.05 is supplemental to all other laws relating to dogs not expressly referred to therein and shall not be construed to modify, repeal, or in any way affect any part or provision of any such laws not expressly repealed therein or to prevent municipalities from prohibiting, licensing, or regulating the running at large of dogs within their respective limits by law or ordinance now or hereafter provided.
767.10 Legislative findings.—The Legislature finds that dangerous dogs are an increasingly serious and widespread threat to the safety and welfare of the people of this state because of unprovoked attacks which cause injury to persons and domestic animals; that such attacks are in part attributable to the failure of owners to confine and properly train and control their dogs; that existing laws inadequately address this growing problem; and that it is appropriate and necessary to impose uniform requirements for the owners of dangerous dogs.
767.11 Definitions.—As used in this act, unless the context clearly requires otherwise:
(1) “Dangerous dog” means any dog that according to the records of the appropriate authority:
(a) Has aggressively bitten, attacked, or endangered or has inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property;
(b) Has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s property; or
(c) Has, when unprovoked, chased or approached a person upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, provided that such actions are attested to in a sworn statement by one or more persons and dutifully investigated by the appropriate authority.
(2) “Unprovoked” means that the victim who has been conducting himself or herself peacefully and lawfully has been bitten or chased in a menacing fashion or attacked by a dog.
(3) “Severe injury” means any physical injury that results in broken bones, multiple bites, or disfiguring lacerations requiring sutures or reconstructive surgery.
(4) “Proper enclosure of a dangerous dog” means, while on the owner’s property, a dangerous dog is securely confined indoors or in a securely enclosed and locked pen or structure, suitable to prevent the entry of young children and designed to prevent the animal from escaping. Such pen or structure shall have secure sides and a secure top to prevent the dog from escaping over, under, or through the structure and shall also provide protection from the elements.
(5) “Animal control authority” means an entity acting alone or in concert with other local governmental units and authorized by them to enforce the animal control laws of the city, county, or state. In those areas not served by an animal control authority, the sheriff shall carry out the duties of the animal control authority under this act.
(6) “Animal control officer” means any individual employed, contracted with, or appointed by the animal control authority for the purpose of aiding in the enforcement of this act or any other law or ordinance relating to the licensure of animals, control of animals, or seizure and impoundment of animals and includes any state or local law enforcement officer or other employee whose duties in whole or in part include assignments that involve the seizure and impoundment of any animal.
(7) “Owner” means any person, firm, corporation, or organization possessing, harboring, keeping, or having control or custody of an animal or, if the animal is owned by a person under the age of 18, that person’s parent or guardian.
767.12 Classification of dogs as dangerous; certification of registration; notice and hearing requirements; confinement of animal; exemption; appeals; unlawful acts.—
(1)(a) An animal control authority shall investigate reported incidents involving any dog that may be dangerous and shall, if possible, interview the owner and require a sworn affidavit from any person, including any animal control officer or enforcement officer, desiring to have a dog classified as dangerous. Any animal that is the subject of a dangerous dog investigation, that is not impounded with the animal control authority, shall be humanely and safely confined by the owner in a securely fenced or enclosed area pending the outcome of the investigation and resolution of any hearings related to the dangerous dog classification. The address of where the animal resides shall be provided to the animal control authority. No dog that is the subject of a dangerous dog investigation may be relocated or ownership transferred pending the outcome of an investigation or any hearings related to the determination of a dangerous dog classification. In the event that a dog is to be destroyed, the dog shall not be relocated or ownership transferred.
(b) A dog shall not be declared dangerous if the threat, injury, or damage was sustained by a person who, at the time, was unlawfully on the property or, while lawfully on the property, was tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog or its owner or a family member. No dog may be declared dangerous if the dog was protecting or defending a human being within the immediate vicinity of the dog from an unjustified attack or assault.
(c) After the investigation, the animal control authority shall make an initial determination as to whether there is sufficient cause to classify the dog as dangerous and shall afford the owner an opportunity for a hearing prior to making a final determination. The animal control authority shall provide written notification of the sufficient cause finding, to the owner, by registered mail, certified hand delivery, or service in conformance with the provisions of chapter 48 relating to service of process. The owner may file a written request for a hearing within 7 calendar days from the date of receipt of the notification of the sufficient cause finding and, if requested, the hearing shall be held as soon as possible, but not more than 21 calendar days and no sooner than 5 days after receipt of the request from the owner. Each applicable local governing authority shall establish hearing procedures that conform to this paragraph.
(d) Once a dog is classified as a dangerous dog, the animal control authority shall provide written notification to the owner by registered mail, certified hand delivery or service, and the owner may file a written request for a hearing in the county court to appeal the classification within 10 business days after receipt of a written determination of dangerous dog classification and must confine the dog in a securely fenced or enclosed area pending a resolution of the appeal. Each applicable local governing authority must establish appeal procedures that conform to this paragraph.
(2) Within 14 days after a dog has been classified as dangerous by the animal control authority or a dangerous dog classification is upheld by the county court on appeal, the owner of the dog must obtain a certificate of registration for the dog from the animal control authority serving the area in which he or she resides, and the certificate shall be renewed annually. Animal control authorities are authorized to issue such certificates of registration, and renewals thereof, only to persons who are at least 18 years of age and who present to the animal control authority sufficient evidence of:
(a) A current certificate of rabies vaccination for the dog.
(b) A proper enclosure to confine a dangerous dog and the posting of the premises with a clearly visible warning sign at all entry points that informs both children and adults of the presence of a dangerous dog on the property.
(c) Permanent identification of the dog, such as a tattoo on the inside thigh or electronic implantation.
The appropriate governmental unit may impose an annual fee for the issuance of certificates of registration required by this section.
(3) The owner shall immediately notify the appropriate animal control authority when a dog that has been classified as dangerous:
(a) Is loose or unconfined.
(b) Has bitten a human being or attacked another animal.
(c) Is sold, given away, or dies.
(d) Is moved to another address.
Prior to a dangerous dog being sold or given away, the owner shall provide the name, address, and telephone number of the new owner to the animal control authority. The new owner must comply with all of the requirements of this act and implementing local ordinances, even if the animal is moved from one local jurisdiction to another within the state. The animal control officer must be notified by the owner of a dog classified as dangerous that the dog is in his or her jurisdiction.
(4) It is unlawful for the owner of a dangerous dog to permit the dog to be outside a proper enclosure unless the dog is muzzled and restrained by a substantial chain or leash and under control of a competent person. The muzzle must be made in a manner that will not cause injury to the dog or interfere with its vision or respiration but will prevent it from biting any person or animal. The owner may exercise the dog in a securely fenced or enclosed area that does not have a top, without a muzzle or leash, if the dog remains within his or her sight and only members of the immediate household or persons 18 years of age or older are allowed in the enclosure when the dog is present. When being transported, such dogs must be safely and securely restrained within a vehicle.
(5) Hunting dogs are exempt from the provisions of this act when engaged in any legal hunt or training procedure. Dogs engaged in training or exhibiting in legal sports such as obedience trials, conformation shows, field trials, hunting/retrieving trials, and herding trials are exempt from the provisions of this act when engaged in any legal procedures. However, such dogs at all other times in all other respects shall be subject to this and local laws. Dogs that have been classified as dangerous shall not be used for hunting purposes.
(6) This section does not apply to dogs used by law enforcement officials for law enforcement work.
(7) Any person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of a noncriminal infraction, punishable by a fine not exceeding $500.
767.13 Attack or bite by dangerous dog; penalties; confiscation; destruction.—
(1) If a dog that has previously been declared dangerous attacks or bites a person or a domestic animal without provocation, the owner is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. In addition, the dangerous dog shall be immediately confiscated by an animal control authority, placed in quarantine, if necessary, for the proper length of time, or impounded and held for 10 business days after the owner is given written notification under s. 767.12, and thereafter destroyed in an expeditious and humane manner. This 10-day time period shall allow the owner to request a hearing under s. 767.12. The owner shall be responsible for payment of all boarding costs and other fees as may be required to humanely and safely keep the animal during any appeal procedure.
(2) If a dog that has not been declared dangerous attacks and causes severe injury to or death of any human, the dog shall be immediately confiscated by an animal control authority, placed in quarantine, if necessary, for the proper length of time or held for 10 business days after the owner is given written notification under s. 767.12, and thereafter destroyed in an expeditious and humane manner. This 10-day time period shall allow the owner to request a hearing under s. 767.12. The owner shall be responsible for payment of all boarding costs and other fees as may be required to humanely and safely keep the animal during any appeal procedure. In addition, if the owner of the dog had prior knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities, yet demonstrated a reckless disregard for such propensities under the circumstances, the owner of the dog is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(3) If a dog that has previously been declared dangerous attacks and causes severe injury to or death of any human, the owner is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. In addition, the dog shall be immediately confiscated by an animal control authority, placed in quarantine, if necessary, for the proper length of time or held for 10 business days after the owner is given written notification under s. 767.12, and thereafter destroyed in an expeditious and humane manner. This 10-day time period shall allow the owner to request a hearing under s. 767.12. The owner shall be responsible for payment of all boarding costs and other fees as may be required to humanely and safely keep the animal during any appeal procedure.
(4) If the owner files a written appeal under s. 767.12 or this section, the dog must be held and may not be destroyed while the appeal is pending.
(5) If a dog attacks or bites a person who is engaged in or attempting to engage in a criminal activity at the time of the attack, the owner is not guilty of any crime specified under this section.
767.14 Additional local restrictions authorized.—Nothing in this act shall limit any local government from placing further restrictions or additional requirements on owners of dangerous dogs or developing procedures and criteria for the implementation of this act, provided that no such regulation is specific to breed and that the provisions of this act are not lessened by such additional regulations or requirements. This section shall not apply to any local ordinance adopted prior to October 1, 1990.
767.15 Other provisions of chapter 767 not superseded.—Nothing in this act shall supersede chapter 767, Florida Statutes 1989.
767.16 Bite by a police or service dog; exemption from quarantine.—Any dog that is owned, or the service of which is employed, by a law enforcement agency, or any dog that is used as a service dog for blind, hearing impaired, or disabled persons, and that bites another animal or human is exempt from any quarantine requirement following such bite if the dog has a current rabies vaccination that was administered by a licensed veterinarian.
DISCLAIMER – Florida laws are often amended and they can be amended during any legislative session. We are only showing this law for educational purposes, and urge you to consult an experienced Florida personal injury attorney before relying on these provisions.