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Bagen Law Blog

Who is Liable When a Dog Bites?

Posted by Steven A. Bagen

Jul 4, 2013 10:14:00 PM

As long as people have had dogs as domesticated pets, there have been problems because of dog bites. As dogs cannot be held responsible for biting people, it is their owners who are held accountable by law. Traditionally many states from the eighteenth century have been holding dog owners responsible for their dogs’ behavior. The CDC estimates that there are more than 5 million dog bite instances every year in the US. The cliché of the mail man being chased by the dog is based on the truth, as they are the most bitten of all, followed by senior citizens.

The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that there are 72 million dogs in the US, in around 43 million homes. These numbers can help you understand the severity of the problem. In order to bring relief to the victims and the dog owners, insurance companies offer dog bite insurance in the range of $100,000 – $300,000. Any dog owner whose dog bites someone who is performing his or her duty required by the law, or is in the owner’s premises by express or implied invitation from the owner, or due to negligence of the owner is considered liable. Florida dog bite statute states that if the dog owner has put up signs prominently warning trespassers of “Bad Dog” or if the person is under six years old and left unsupervised or if the bite happened due to the victim’s negligence the dog owner’s responsibility changes, in proportion to the victim’s contribution to the dog biting incident.

The dog bite claim can include medical bills, compensation for trauma, lost income, and other punitive damages. The average claim used to be in the range of $20,000 but has touched almost $30,000 in the recent past. This has prompted many insurance companies into re-thinking the viability of offering/handling dog bite insurance. Though almost all the states hold the dog owner automatically responsible, some states offer relief through the “first bite” rule. This rule contends that the first time a dog bites someone the owner is allowed reprieve. Contradicting this rule, the negligence rule holds that if a dog bite happens due to the owner’s negligence, he or she is responsible for it and has to pay the claims.

Florida is a statutory strict liability state. Negligence is the dog owner’s negligence in its usual sense; “negligence per se” means when the dog owner has ignored some regulation, statute or ordinance enacted to guarantee people’s safety. The leash law, for instance, is meant to keep dogs on their leashes at all times, when in public. “Scienter” is when a person, who handles dogs, allows a dog to hurt someone, knowing that the dog has a habit of biting people or that it had in the past. Scienter means ‘knowingly’ in Latin. According to Florida dog bite law, when someone does something knowingly, there is intent implied in his action. This equals pre-meditation, and so shows culpability.

Steven Bagen is a personal injury claim lawyer serving the Florida counties since 1982. He has handled many personal injury cases, and almost exclusively deals with them. He is a member of associations like the Florida Bar Association, the Academy of Trial Lawyers of America, the Florida Trial Lawyers Association and the New York Bar Association. Over the past three decades of his career in representing the injured and the unfortunate, Mr. Bagen has realized that his firm’s motto says it all: “Helping Florida’s injured.” It has become words to live by for Mr. Bagen and his team of lawyers who rush to help the victims in personal injury cases across Ocala and Gainesville. In his zeal to help the victims, Mr. Bagen doesn’t charge you anything if you don’t win your claim. Either you win, or you don’t pay. Call us today for an evaluation of the merits of your claims!

Topics: Dog Bites