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Who Is Liable In A Dog Bite Accident?

The dog is still one of the most popular pets in America, and thanks to Florida’s mild, year-round weather, it’s a great pet to have here, since you can take it out—or even keep it outside—all year long without worrying about winter discomfort. However, caring for a dog, while not on the same level as a child, does take responsibility and commitment to ensure the health and happiness of the pet.

On the other hand, exactly like a child, whatever happens to a dog, or with a dog is the responsibility of the owner. A dog can’t read, can’t talk to others, can’t explain itself or its decisions. So all the actions a dog takes, and the consequences that result, are something that an owner must answer for.
This is especially true with bites, although certain conditions may change this.

Your Pet, Your Consequences

The most common legal conclusion in a dog bite scenario is that the owner is the one that must answer for any liability if a dog bites someone. Florida is a “strict liability” state in this regard, meaning that even if an owner is not aware that a dog may be aggressive and bite people, there’s still legal responsibility if the dog does so. In other states, if the owner isn’t initially aware of this characteristic in an animal, there’s some room to maneuver away from having to take full liability for an accident.

Dog owners have to think about their liability in a biting situation if it takes place either in public or on their own property, with a legally invited guest. Intruders are not protected by dog bite laws, and dog owners do not have to worry about getting sued by a thief if a dog bites a home invader.

Other Handlers Count Too

Even if you’re the owner of a property, but you’re not living there, you’re a landlord, it’s possible for you to still be liable for a dog bite. If you approve of pets being on your property, you must ascertain whether the animals may require special confinement or put a warning on your property about the presence of an animal. If you don’t, a dog bite/attack that occurs on your property may still find you liable even if you’re not there.

This also applies to people who may be handling a dog that isn’t actually the owner. If a third party, such as someone hired to walk dogs, runs afoul of a dog attack or bite, that other handler may also be potentially liable in court for personal injury through negligence, resulting in a dog bite.

In the case of landlords and third parties such as dog walkers, ignorance may be an excuse. It is only if they know that an animal is aggressive, but choose not to take appropriate precautions, that a negligence-based lawsuit may move forward.

If you or anyone you know has been bitten by a dog due to the owner’s—or someone else’s—negligence, talk to an attorney experienced in dog bite lawsuits, and get the help you need.

Stephen M. Fernandez developed a strong belief in justice and fairness in public policy while earning his Political Science degree prior to attending law school. Since joining the Florida Bar Association in 2004, Stephen Fernandez has combined his background in public policy, business administration and civil law to serve as a highly effective trial lawyer fighting for Florida's injured, working hard every day to make sure his clients get what they are owed.

Who Is Liable In A Dog Bite Accident?

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh

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