Dog Bites: The One Bite Rule

Dog Bites: The One Bite Rule

June 22, 2021

If you have a dog or spend time around them regularly, it’s important that you understand Florida’s one bite rule. As much as you may love dogs, their bites can cause serious injury and illness. Even if Fluffy has never so much as harmed a fly before, your dog is still an animal—which means they may attack without warning. Be sure to talk to a personal injury attorney as soon as there is an issue.

The one bite rule

The one bite rule, according to Cornell Law, is a strict liability law. If applicable in your state, “the owner of a domesticated animal (e.g., a dog) will be held strictly liable for injuries caused by the animal only if the owner knew or should have known about the animal’s dangerous or vicious propensities, which have been manifested in the past. The burden of proof is on the injured party to show that the animal owner possessed this knowledge. The ‘one-bite’ rule originated in common law and has been rejected or modified by most states, either by statute or by case law, with regard to dogs.”

In Florida, Florida Statutes section 767.04 states that a dog owner is liable for injuries if the dog bites another person while that person is in public, or lawfully on private property. That means you can still be liable for the dog injuries even if the bite victim was in your home, as long as they had permission to be there.

Florida dog bite laws

If you’ve been bitten by a dog, you have four years from the date of the bite to work with a personal injury attorney and file a lawsuit in Florida. (However, it’s always best to file as soon as possible. Memories fade and evidence may disappear if you wait too long.) Dog bite cases are considered personal injury cases, so make sure you find a personal injury attorney who is experienced in this line of work.

You can defend a dog bite lawsuit in three different ways. First, the law requires that the bite victim must be lawfully on the premises. If the bite victim was trespassing, that’s a defense—after all, your dog was just protecting the property from intruders.

Comparative negligence is also a defense to dog bite cases. If the victim was engaged in behavior that caused the bite—in whole or in part—the amount of compensation will be reduced by the percentage at which they are deemed to be at fault. That means if your guest was taunting or teasing the dog before they were bitten, they may not be able to collect damages.

Finally, you can ward off liability by posting a “bad dog” sign. Warning guests and trespassers about your dog’s volatile behavior will limit your liability in whole or in part.

Dog bite cases can be extremely serious, so it’s worth having your dog professionally trained right away. Always keep them on a leash, and if they’re prone to bites, consider investing in a muzzle.

For help filing or defending a dog bite claim, call the personal injury attorneys at Ruben J. Padron, PA today.

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