The tragic story about a toddler who was mauled to death by two "mixed breed" dogs earlier this year provides a reminder that dog attacks and bites can cause devastating injuries and even fatalities. The horrifying story of 18-month-old Declan Moss viciously being mauled by two family dogs while in his grandfather's care was even more disturbing because last year Florida had four fatal dog attacks, the second highest total in the U.S. While dog attacks can cause serious injury to people of all ages, children are most susceptible to severe injury or death caused by a vicious dog attack. Three of the four fatal dog attacks in Florida last year, as well as this most recent tragedy, involved children ages 6 or under.
Our Miami personal injury lawyers at Greenberg Stone and Urbano recognize that a personal injury lawsuit cannot give parents back their child or truly compensate a severely injured victim. However, financial recovery can provide the monetary resources to promote the fullest recovery and highest quality of life for injured dog mauling survivors. When dog owners are held financially accountable for the harm their animals cause, the result can be some degree of justice for the victim and an incentive to take steps to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Florida dog bite law favors dog attack victims because there is no state law requirement that dog owners have any reason to know their dog has a propensity for viciousness, such as a prior dog bite. Florida Statute Section 767.04 imposes strict liability on dog owners for bite injuries that occur when the victim is in a public place or lawfully on private property. The statute expressly provides that liability can be imposed regardless of any prior viciousness by the dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness
While Florida law favors dog bite victims, the statute does raise potential defenses that can be used by a dog owner to avoid or mitigate liability. A sign can be posted by the dog owner that includes the words "Bad Dog," which can provide a defense to strict liability provided the victim is not under 6. Although the dog owner can still be liable when such a sign is posted, the dog bite victim might need to establish that negligence by the dog owner or violation of a leash law constitutes a basis for imposing liability. However, the statute clearly provides that even if the dog owner posts an appropriate warning regarding the dog, this measure does not provide a defense to other theories of liability based on statute or common law, which include negligence, negligence per se, or scienter.
Aside from whether the owner has posted a "Bad Dog" sign, these other legal theories might be relevant in the following situations:
- Negligence: This legal theory might be appropriate if the statute does not apply, such as the injury is caused by something other than a dog bite. If a dog gets out of the owner's yard and knocks over a 10-year-old riding a bike down the sidewalk, negligence might be an appropriate theory of liability.
- Negligence Per Se: This approach to imposing liability is based on a violation of a safety law or regulations. An example might include violation of a leash law where the failure of the dog owner to keep the dog on a leash results in the dog chasing and injuring someone in a fall or bite incident.
- Scienter: The scienter requirement which refers to a reason to know of a dog's prior vicious behavior also might be an appropriate legal theory if the dog has bitten someone in the past. This legal theory also might be helpful if the injury by a vicious dog is not caused by a bite.
Greenberg Stone and Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence
If you have been injured by a dog bite or dog attack, the Miami Personal Injury Attorneys at Greenberg Stone and Urbano will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve. For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida. We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida's top firms by the Miami Herald. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.