Tampa Dog Bite Attorney
Dogs have long been known as “man’s best friend.” This being said, some dogs can and do cause injuries to people on a regular basis across the country. While some breeds endure more scrutiny than others, the truth is that any dog of any breed – even those with no history or apparent inclination toward violent behavior – can cause serious injuries in the right circumstances. It’s crucial for Florida dog owners to know their legal obligations when it comes to handling their dogs, and it’s also wise to learn Florida’s dog bite laws and legal protections for dog owners.
If a dog injured you or a loved one, it’s important to find the right Tampa dog bite attorney to hold the dog’s owner accountable. The Williams Law, P.A. team has extensive experience in handling all manner of dog attack cases. We understand the legal obligations for dog owners in the state of Florida and want to help injured citizens recover the compensation they need following dog bite injuries. Call our team to schedule a free initial case evaluation for your Tampa dog bite injury today.
Florida’s Dog Bite Law
The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit for a dog bite injury in Florida is four years. Therefore, an injured person has four years from the date of the incident to bring legal action against the dog’s owner. Florida law stipulates that a dog owner is liable for injuries his or her dog inflicts as long as the injured person was lawfully present at the location where the bite occurred. Unlike other states, Florida follows a strict liability law for dog owners. A plaintiff does not have to prove that the dog owner was negligent in his or her care of the dog. They only must prove the plaintiff was lawfully present where the attack took place.
While strict liability for dog bite injuries may present problems for responsible dog owners whose pets act unpredictably, there are a few common defenses to dog bite injury lawsuits. Generally, the only two valid defenses are:
- Trespassing – A dog owner is not liable for injuries inflicted on a person who was trespassing on the dog owner’s private property.
- Comparative negligence – This comes into play if the injured plaintiff contributed to the incident in some way. This could include provocation, antagonizing the dog or the dog’s owner, or accidentally hitting the dog or stepping on its tail, prompting it to bite in response.
In these situations, a judge may decide that the plaintiff is partially at fault for the incident and reduce his or her case award by a proportionate amount. For example, if a plaintiff suffered a dog bite after getting into a loud verbal altercation with the dog’s owner, the court may decide that the plaintiff partially caused the dog to attack and may reduce his or her damages by an appropriate amount. Typically, the reduction matches the plaintiff’s fault percentage. A plaintiff found 25% at fault in a $10,000 case would only receive $7,500.
Damages in Dog Bite Lawsuits
If you find yourself involved with a dog bite lawsuit, it’s crucial to have some idea of what to expect. Injured plaintiffs can recover compensation for their medical expenses, pain and suffering, property damage, and lost income if the injury caused them to miss work. Dog bite injuries are notoriously painful. They can easily leave lasting scars or other types of permanent physical and emotional damage. Damages that can be claimed in a dog bite case are:
- Permanent physical damage
- Emotional damage
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Loss of quality of life
- Pain and suffering
Dog bites can cause puncture wounds, broken bones, and lacerations. If a large dog jumps on top of a victim, knocking him or her to the ground, the victim could suffer further injuries as well. Additionally, a dog bite could become infected and create a host of new problems for the victim. After suffering a dog bite and documenting the dog’s owner’s information and gathering statements from any witnesses who saw the attack, seek medical attention immediately. The medical report your doctor provides will be invaluable in your lawsuit.
What to Do After a Dog Bite
Although a personal injury lawyer from Williams Law, P.A. can work wonders for your case, you also play a role. Making mistakes such as failing to go to the hospital right away could potentially hurt your ability to secure compensation. Taking the right steps, on the other hand, can optimize your odds of success and maximize a personal injury award. Call us anytime to discuss your dog bite claim and we’ll help you know exactly what to do next. In the meantime, here are the general steps we recommend dog bite accident victims take:
- Stay calm. Don’t panic or get angry with the dog owner. Instead, remain calm and as polite as possible. Becoming aggressive could give the owner the ability to claim that the dog was acting to protect him or her when it attacked. It could also lead to further injuries from the dog in question.
- Get the name and contact information of the dog owner. Try to get the full name, contact information, and insurance information of the pet owner on the scene. Also find out the dog’s name, breed, and whether it is up-to-date on its shots.
- Take photographs. Use your phone to take pictures of your injuries, the scene of the incident, the dog, and any other potential evidence. For example, if a dog escaped through a hole in a fence and attacked you, take a photo of the hole as evidence against the owner.
- Talk to witnesses. If anyone saw the dog bite you, document their information as potential witnesses. Get full names, contact information, and recorded statements on your phone, if possible. Witness statements can help prove fault and hold the owner accountable.
- Go to the hospital. Get medical help for your dog bite or scratch injury right away. Waiting can tell an insurance company that your injuries must not have been very serious. Visit the nearest hospital and explain what happened. You may need treatment to prevent rabies and infections.
- Follow the doctor’s orders. Don’t deviate from your prescribed treatment plan. Failing to take anti-inflammatory medication or to come to a follow-up appointment could hurt your ability to obtain compensation.
- File a report with Tampa animal control. Call your local animal control agency to report what happened. This can prevent the pet owner from concealing the incident. Pet owners may argue that he/she didn’t know of the dog’s violent tendencies in a future case – or ideally prevent a future case from ever happening.
- Create a case file. Gather all details, information, and documents relating to your case together in an organized file. Get copies of police reports, medical records, insurance company communications, photographs, and any other evidence you may have.
- File an insurance claim. Once you’ve prepared the information surrounding your case, call the dog owner’s insurance company to file a claim. Home insurance companies will often take these claims, since pets are technically property. If you aren’t sure how to file your insurance claim, call a lawyer instead.
- Contact an attorney. A Tampa dog bite lawyer can gather evidence, build a case, protect your rights, and fight for fair compensation after an animal attack. The sooner you contact Williams Law, P.A. after a dog bite incident, the better.
If in doubt, perform step 10 first – contact us and explain what happened. We know dog bite cases can be frightening and confusing. We’re here to answer your questions and quell your concerns in the aftermath of a dog-related injury in Tampa. We’re happy to listen to your story and recommend the next step for a strong injury claim. Call (813) 288-4999 today for a free dog bite injury consultation.