How to Avoid Dog Bite Liability

The image of a mailman, dressed in uniform and with a package in hand, frantically shaking his leg in an attempt to stop a homeowner’s Chihuahua or Doberman from aggressively biting and pulling on the cuff of his pants used to be a humorous gag for cartoons and sitcoms. For dog owners today, however, this image is decidedly less funny given Florida’s recently amended dog bite laws, which place considerably more responsibility on dog owners when it comes to deciding fault in the event of a dog bite-related lawsuit.

Below are a few steps you can take to help avoid being liable for a dog bite, whether on your property or off. They can also be useful for individuals who might be entitled to damages from a dog bite, when deciding whether to call Kaiser Romanello and begin the process of recovering compensation.

Know your dog’s behaviors

Dog owners whose animals cause injury are no longer held to “first bite” defenses, in which a dog owner could claim that because they had no prior indications of a dog’s tendencies towards violence, they bear no responsibility for that dog’s first bite. Instead, Florida’s “Dog Bite Statute” now makes the owner of a dog strictly liable for any injury the animal causes, regardless of if the owner took every possible precaution and didn’t anticipate that the dog would ever bite. Even if a dog is well-behaved, owners are advised to know any stressors that can cause their pet to become agitated, such as loud noises or being touched while eating, and what the signs of this agitation are in order to intervene in such situations.

Post a cautionary sign

Florida dog bite laws can sometimes be slightly more lenient towards the dog owner in cases where they have prominently displayed a “Beware of Dog” sign on their property, the incident took place on their private property and the victim is older than 6 years of age. However, it’s still possible for a dog owner to be held liable despite posting the sign, if a victim can show the dog owner did not take other reasonable and situationally relevant precautions to prevent the incident.

Carefully supervise all children around your dog

The victim of a dog bite can be determined to have caused the bite themselves, if their actions leading up to the incident were considered negligent. However, if a young child harasses an animal to the point of aggression, the owner of the animal is considered fully responsible for the actions of the dog despite the child’s involvement, as the child is assumed to have been unaware of the dangers of their actions. It is therefore crucial that all dog owners avoid leaving young children unsupervised around their dogs, regardless of a past history of gentle behavior.

Consider a muzzle

Many dog owners are hesitant to put a muzzle on their dog, believing it to be cruel or simply finding it unnecessary given their dog’s record of gentle behavior. While both of these sentiments are understandable, dog bite cases can be extremely expensive if complications arise from the injury, and as with many difficult situations, prevention can be the best cure. Pet care companies now make soft, comfortable but secure muzzles to help owners breathe more freely when they take their pets out in public.

Unfortunately for dog owners, under Florida law there is very little that can be done to prevent being held liable for dog bite-related injuries. In most cases, dog bites will be determined to be the fault of the dog owner, and settlements can be large if the injury results in infection, fracture or dislocation, or serious lacerations requiring hospital care and recovery time. If you have been the victim of a dog bite and are struggling to pay the resultant medical bills, the law is on your side; call Kaiser Romanello to help you begin the process of recovering damages from your dog bite-related incident.

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