Dog Bite Injuries: A Warning to Dog Owners
Terms that come to mind when thinking about your dog often include “companion,” “security guard” and “man’s best friend.” In addition to these descriptions, if you are not a careful owner, your dog can also be a source of unanticipated liability. This liability can quickly arise if your dog bites another person, as dog bites can cause serious injuries and health risks, and Florida has adopted stringent laws to protect the public.
Florida statutes pertaining to dog bites impose strict liability on a dog owner whose dog bites another person. The statute clarifies thatliability will be imposed on the dog owner regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. Even if the victim of the dog bite was partially at fault for the incident, such as by teasing your dog, you as the dog owner will still find it difficult to completely avoid liability for the actions of your pet.
Ways to Protect Yourself
Provide a Warning
One step you can take to protect yourself from dog bite liability, as set out in the above-mentioned statute, is to provide a warning to people entering your property. Displaying an easily readable sign that includes the words “Bad Dog” can, in many cases, preclude a dog owner from liability for a dog bite by putting guests on notice of the presence of a dog. While this will not protect you if you are in a public place with your pet, it can easily serve as a first line of protection within your home or on your property.
Invest in Homeowner’s Insurance
In addition to displaying a “Bad Dog” sign, another means of protection from being liable for dog bite injuries to another person is to invest in a homeowner’s insurance policy. Homeowner’s insurance can provide liability coverage for accidents or injuries that occur on your property. Be sure you are careful in reviewing your policy, though, because there are several ways you might still be exposed to liability risks.
Watch for Policy Exclusions
Often, homeowner’s policies contain a variety of exclusions that result in certain injuries not being covered. One such example is a dog bite exclusion. While the policy may generally cover accidents that occur on your property, as the name implies, a dog bite exclusion would operate to preclude coverage for injuries that come about as a result of a dog bite. A dog bite exclusion can be a general exclusion, such that every injury sustained as a result of a dog bite is excluded, or it can single out a particular breed of dog that the insurance company identifies as more likely to be the source of a dog bite injury. Either way, if your policy contains such an exclusion, you are not as safe as you might think.
But what if you do not own a home? What if you rent a house or an apartment? Landlords are generally not liable for injuries caused by a dog owned by a tenant; Florida law only imposes strict liability on the actual owner of the dog. While a renter or tenant would not ordinarily have a homeowners policy, he or she should consider a renters policy, and again be sure to read the policy thoroughly to know exactly what is and is not covered.
A final note for landlords, however. While Florida law imposes strict liability for a dog bite only on a dog owner, there could still be a common law liability claim made against a landlord. If a dog bite victim is able to show that the landlord knew of a dogs presence on the premises and knew the dog had a propensity to bite people (a factor that is not necessary to find the dog owner liable), a dog bite victim could then have another potential source of recovery.
If you have been the victim of a dog bite, or if you are a dog owner concerned about your level of protection from dog bite liability, you can receive more information from the Rue & Ziffra website or by calling our office for a free consultation. Rue & Ziffra is a personal injury law firm handling various aspects of dog bite injury claims. Remember, if you or a loved one wishes to seek help for a dog bite injury, don’t hesitate to seek legal answers and information helpful to your unique situation.
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.