Some Insurance Company Defenses in Florida Dog Bite Claims
Since 2003, the average dog bite injury settlement has increased almost 95 percent. That increase is mostly due to rising hospital bills, better understanding of dog bite injuries, and the skillfulness of Tampa dog bite attorneys.
These injuries are expensive and intricate because they have so many levels. Physically, dog bites often cause head wounds and broken bones. The bites cause several different types of wounds, including both deep puncture injuries and slashing wounds, which are difficult to correct. Finally, many dog bite victims also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They must deal with symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares, and heightened awareness.
Your Claim for Damages in Hillsborough County
In the Sunshine State, most dog bite victims have several legal options. Mostly depending on the facts of the case, including the circumstances of the bite and the nature of the victim’s injuries, these options include:
- Strict Liability: Any dog can bite any person at any time. The breed is almost irrelevant. Therefore, Florida’s dog bite law holds owners strictly liable for damages. It does not matter if the dog was vicious or not. However, recovery under the strict liability law is generally limited to bite injuries only.
- Scienter (Knowledge): If the owner knew the dog was potentially dangerous, the victim may be eligible for substantial compensation. Evidence of knowledge includes things that happen right before the attack, such as aggressive barking, and things that occurred weeks or months earlier, such as a prior incident.
- Negligence Per Se: Tampa and most other Florida cities have restrictive animal restraint laws, such as leash laws and fence laws. If the owner violated such a law, and that violation substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s injuries, the owner may be legally responsible for damages.
These damages normally include money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
What Constitutes “Provocation” in a Florida Dog Bite Claim?
The provocation defense is probably one of the most common dog bite defenses. In general, if the victim provoked the animal, the owner is not liable for damages. This defense even applies in strict liability matters.
In most cases, “provoke” is synonymous with words like “irritate.” According to that meaning, sudden movements or loud noises could provoke an animal.
But in this legal context, “provoke” has a much narrower meaning. First, the victim’s actions must be intentional. A child can unintentionally provoke a sibling, but a child cannot unintentionally provoke a dog. Additionally, the provocation must be physical. In fact, the physical provocation must be so extreme that it justifies the dog’s violent response.
The Assumption of the Risk Defense
This defense is common in dog bite matters as well, especially if they occurred on the owner’s property. Generally, an owner is not liable for a dog bite, swimming pool drowning, or other premises liability claim if the victim:
- Voluntarily assumed
- A known risk.
Signs like “Beware of Dog” may give rise to this defense. But a sign is not enough. The sign must be highly visible. A small sign partially obscured behind a tree probably does not suffice. Additionally, the victim must have sufficient reading comprehension skills to read the sign and understand what it means.
Partner with Tenacious Lawyers
Dog bite victims may be entitled to substantial compensation, but insurance companies do not simply give this money away. For a free consultation with an experienced dog bite injury attorney in Tampa, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.