When Am I Responsible if My Dog Bites Someone in Florida?

Florida Deadlines to File a Lawsuit

In Florida, the statute of limitations is a law that limits the amount of time an injured person has to file a lawsuit after a dog bite injury. The statute of limitations needs an injured person to get their lawsuit filed in Florida’s civil court system within four years of the date of a dog bite. In case you miss the four-year deadline, the court might throw your case out instead of hearing it. To ensure your case will be heard at least, you need to make sure it is filed before the deadline passes.

Florida’s Dog Bite Statute

Florida’s dog bite statute, FLSA 767.04, states that a dog owner is liable for injuries if:

  • the dog bites another person, and
  • the person is in a public place or lawfully in a private place.

This statute of limitations only covers injuries caused by dog bites. However, a person who is injured by a dog in any other way may be able to show that the owner is liable if the injured person can show the owner’s negligence, or failure to use reasonable care, resulted in the injury. For instance, a person who is severely bitten up by a dog may be able to hold the owner liable for failing to use a leash and properly restraining the dog.

“Strict Liability” Dog Bite State

Florida is known to be a “strict liability” state in the context of dog bites. A Florida dog owner may be held liable if his or her dog bites someone, even if the owner had previous knowledge or warning that the dog might bite. The injured person does not have to establish that a lack of reasonable care caused the bite.

Defenses to a Dog Bite Claim in Florida

A Florida dog owner has basically two defenses to a dog bite claim: trespassing and comparative negligence. Florida’s dog bite law needs an injured person to be “lawfully” in the place where the bite occurred in order to recover damages. A person who is trespassing on private property with no permission is not “lawfully” on the private property. Thus, a dog bite owner could argue that the injured person was trespassing. Thus, he or she is not entitled to retrieve damages.

On the basis of partial defense, a dog owner might raise the defense of comparative negligence. As per Florida’s dog bite law, if a dog bite injury victim’s own negligence is partly the cause of the dog bite, the amount of damages a liable owner must pay will be reduced by a percentage. This percentage is equal to the percentage of blame assigned to the injured person.

According to Florida’s law, a landlord has a duty to protect its tenants in connection with a vicious dog of which the landlord has knowledge. The court states that a landlord who recognizes and assumes the duty to protect co-tenants from dangerous propensities of a tenant’s pet is required to undertake reasonable precautions to protect co-tenants from reasonably foreseeable injury occasioned thereby. Thus, the landlord may be liable for tenant’s dog if landlord knows dog is vicious and has sufficient control of premises to protect plaintiff.

When the lease agreement includes rules that specifically prohibit certain breeds of dogs, the landlord can be held liable for his or her failure to enforce those rules despite knowledge that prohibited dogs reside upon the premises.

Also, there are exceptions to liability. There might not be liability where the victim is a trespasser or exceeded her invitation to be on the premises.

Florida states that the landlord has no duty to third parties for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog where those injuries occur off the leased premises. However, a landlord can be held liable for a dog attack that occurs off the premises under certain circumstances.

As per section 767.04, the Florida dog bite statute, has a unique exception. It says that there is no liability under the statute if the victim is 6 years of age or older, the incident happens on the dog owner’s premises, and those premises contain a conspicuously posted sign saying “Bad Dog”. The same exception is applicable if the sign says “Beware of Dog”. The sign must be in a proper place and easily readable. It gives actual notice of the risk of bite to the victim. 

Since the Florida dog bite statute imposes strict liability, there cannot be comparative negligence on the victim’s part unless his conduct is more than a mistake:

In a dog injury case, it is no defense that a plaintiff acted unreasonably, unless his behavior was so blatant as to supersede the dog’s behavior as the legal or proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries. This makes an owner of a dog virtually an insurer of the dog’s conduct, the conduct on the plaintiff’s part superseding the behavior of the dog would have to be shown to be more than a mistake on the plaintiff’s part as to the intention of the dog to bite or attack him.

Florida has a statute that makes a dog owner liable for any form of damage to a person or domestic animal, meaning a non-bite injury. It also states that 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. The Florida definition of “domestic animal” is as follows: “Domestic animal” includes any equine or bovine animal, goat, sheep, swine, domestic cat, dog, poultry, ostrich, emu, rhea, or other domesticated beast or bird. The term “animal,” shall include wild or game animals whenever necessary to effectively control or eradicate dangerous transmissible diseases or pests which threaten the agricultural interests of the state.

A complete set of plaintiff-oriented litigation forms for dog bite cases. This includes pleadings, interrogatories, deposition questions and much more. The Dog Bite Lawsuit Forms save you hours of legal research and typing. The deposition outlines cut 90% off your preparation time. They will ensure a winning, comprehensive approach to your dog bite case.