Clearwater Dog Bite Attorney
What is the law for dog bite claims in Clearwater, FL?
Many states throughout the United States apply the "one-bite rule" in personal injury cases involving dog attacks. The one-bite rule dates back hundreds of years to the English common law, and it holds that a dog's owner is not legally responsible for the first time his or her dog attacks another person. Unless the dog has a history of attacking humans, or of behaving as though it wanted to attack a human, the victim of a bite does not have grounds to pursue financial compensation. In other words, the one-bite rule makes it necessary to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the animal's owner was negligent in preventing the attack from occurring. If you or a family member has been bitten in Clearwater, you will be glad to learn that Florida state law takes a more modern approach to the matter of dog bite claims.
Florida law holds a dog owner strictly liable for injuries caused by the animal. Under the terms of Florida Statutes §767.04, "Dog owner's liability for damages to persons bitten," a dog owner is responsible for bites occurring on public or private property, regardless of whether the animal has a history of violence or of vicious behavior. Some dogs tend to be more aggressive than others, but any dog has the capability of turning vicious at any time, often without warning, and can cause devastating injuries and disfigurement to the victim of the attack. In light of this, the law allows you to claim compensation for your medical bills, your lost income and the pain, suffering and emotional distress you have been forced to experience.
Defenses to Dog Bite Claims in Clearwater
It is important to note, however, that the Florida dog bite statute does provide certain defenses against a claim such as yours. To begin with, the defense in your case may attempt to reduce the dog owner's liability by claiming that you were in some way negligent and that this caused or contributed to the attack. For example, they may argue that you provoked the attack. The statute provides that the amount of financial recovery possible in a dog bite claim is reduced according to the percentage of contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff. When we represent you, we will invest the time in developing evidence to thwart any defense along those lines. prove that the attack was entirely the fault of the dog's owner and to absolve you of any alleged negligence.
Another issue in dog bite personal injury claims is the question of whether or not the plaintiff was lawfully present on the property where the attack occurred, if the incident took place in a residence or other private property. For example, trespassers are not entitled to claim monetary damages under the dog bite law. If you were on the property as a guest, customer or client of the dog's owner, or were there to perform a lawful duty such as delivering mail or working as emergency services personnel, it should be possible to establish that you were lawfully present at the time of the attack.
Finally, the defense may attempt to defeat your claim with evidence that the dog's owner had displayed a "Bad Dog" sign in a prominent position on the property. The dog bite statute provides that the presence of such a sign will defend the dog's owner from being held liable for an attack. This protection does not apply, however, in cases where the victim was a child younger than 6 years of age, or if the attack was proximately caused by a negligent act or omission on the part of the dog owner.
Clearwater Personal Injury Attorneys for Dog Bite Cases
Bring your dog bite claim to the team of Clearwater personal injury lawyers at Cope, Zebro & Crawford, P.L. We have more than 45 years of combined experience, and have worked on both sides of dog bite cases from start to finish. If at all possible, we will seek to settle your claim out of court, an approach which is often suitable to dog bite cases where the parties are friends or neighbors who want to avoid adversarial litigation. In the event that the insurance company refuses to pay you a fair settlement, however, we will not hesitate to take your case to trial in pursuit of the full amount that you deserve. We work on contingency, so you will not have to pay us a fee out of pocket to begin the process. Take the first step now by contacting us for a free case evaluation.
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