The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over 4.5 million people suffer dog bites annually in the United States, and over 800,000 have to receive medical attention for their dog bite injuries. At least half of the victims are children, and anybody with injuries in Florida will want to work with a Gainesville dog bite lawyer.
If you need to file an insurance claim for a dog bite injury, you want Steven A. Bagen & Associates, P.A. on your side. Our Gainesville personal injury lawyer obtained $111,000 for a dog bite victim and many other successful results for other injury victims. Reach out today to learn more.
Florida Dog Bite Laws
Under Florida Statutes, the owner of any dog that bites any individual in a public place or lawfully on or in a private place must pay for damages the bitten person suffered. This is regardless of any former viciousness of the dog or the dog owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. This law makes Florida a strict liability state regarding dog bites, meaning victims will not be required to prove any negligence on the part of a dog owner.
Any negligence on the part of a victim that is a proximate cause of a biting incident can reduce the liability of the dog’s owner. A person is lawfully on a dog owner’s private property when they are there in the performance of any duty imposed upon them by the laws of Florida or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States. This is also true when the dog owner implicitly or explicitly invites the person to the property.
A dog owner is not liable if, at the time of the injury, the owner displayed in a prominent place on their premises an easily readable sign that included the words “Bad Dog.” Exceptions to this exclusion include when a dog bite victim is younger than six years old or the bite happened due to a negligent act or omission of the dog owner.
Florida Statutes define a dangerous dog as any dog that the records of an appropriate authority indicate has aggressively bitten, attacked, endangered, or inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property.
A dangerous dog has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while it was off the dog owner’s property or had – unprovoked – chased or approached an individual on the streets, sidewalks, or any public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack. One or more persons must attest to these actions in a sworn statement, and appropriate authorities must dutifully investigate the history.
In some instances, aggressive dogs can be declared dangerous under state law. In such situations, dog owners must take specific precautions and follow strict rules regarding their dogs; otherwise, they can face criminal charges for injuries the dangerous dog causes.
A dangerous dog must be registered with local authorities and kept in a secure location appropriately marked with dangerous dog warning signs. When the dog leaves the owner’s property, the owner must restrain the dog with a leash or harness and a muzzle.
Injuries and Diseases From Dog Bites
In most dog bite cases, injuries involve the actual flesh wounds people suffer when a dog bites them.
Such injuries can include:
- Lacerations that require stitches
- Brain injuries if someone falls and hits their head
- Torn soft tissue from the dog’s teeth
- Puncture wounds
- Fractures due to the strength of a dog’s jaws
Diseases transmitted to victims through dog bites may include:
- Rabies – Rabies is a viral disease that can cause brain inflammation, fever, and tingling at the exposure site. Additional symptoms may include vomiting, nausea, violent movements, confusion, inability to move certain body parts, and loss of consciousness. Without proper treatment, rabies can cause death. The CDC says rabies causes approximately 59,000 deaths worldwide every year.
- Capnocytophaga – Capnocytophaga germs can spread to humans through bites from dogs and can cause illness, including sepsis, the body’s extreme response to an infection that can be a life-threatening medical emergency. While most people who have contact with a dog with capnocytophaga will not become sick, those with weakened immune systems or who have difficulty fighting off infections (such as individuals with cancer or people taking certain medications) will be at greater risk of becoming ill. People infected with capnocytophaga can suffer a range of signs and symptoms. These symptoms include blisters around a bite wound within hours of the bite, swelling, redness, draining pus, pain at the bite wound, fever, diarrhea or stomach pain, vomiting, headaches or confusion, and muscle or joint pain. The CDC reports that roughly three in ten people who develop a severe infection from capnocytophaga will die. Some infections can progress quickly, resulting in sepsis and death 24 to 72 hours after symptoms appear.
- Pasteurella – Pasteurella multocida is a frequent cause of infection following dog bites and can be cellulitis rapidly developing at the site of an injury. An infection can cause a chronic local infection of deep tissues, osteomyelitis, and bone or bone marrow inflammation. A National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) study found that the most frequently identified bacteria from dog bites are Pasteurella (50 percent), streptococcus (46 percent), staphylococcus (46 percent), fusobacterium (32 percent), and Bacteroides (30 percent). Pasteurella may cause red, painful infections at the sites of dog bites, swelling in the joints, swollen glands, and difficulty moving.
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) – MRSA is a type of infection caused by staph bacteria that can resist many antibiotics used to treat ordinary staph infections. Staph skin infections such as MRSA often begin as swollen, painful red bumps that look like pimples or spider bites. An affected area might be warm to the touch, full of pus or other drainages, and accompanied by a fever, but the red bumps can quickly turn into deep, painful boils or abscesses requiring surgical draining. While the bacteria sometimes remain confined to the skin, they can burrow deep into the body and cause life-threatening infections in bones, joints, surgical wounds, the bloodstream, heart valves, and lungs. People may suffer from skin, lung, and urinary tract infections.
- Tetanus – Tetanus is an infection caused by a bacteria called Clostridium tetani, and when the bacteria invades the body, it can produce a poison causing painful muscle contractions. People also call tetanus “lockjaw” because it can cause a person’s neck and jaw muscles to lock and make it difficult to open their mouth or swallow. Severe complications of tetanus may be life-threatening, and there is no cure for tetanus. Treatment instead focuses on managing symptoms and complications until the effects of a tetanus toxin resolve. Symptoms may include painful muscle spasms and stiff, immovable muscles in the jaw, tension of the muscles around your lips, painful spasms and rigidity in the neck muscles, difficulty swallowing, and rigid abdominal muscles.
- Streptococcus – Bacteria referred to as group A Streptococcus or group A strep may cause several different infections, ranging from minor illnesses to severe and even deadly diseases. Victims may suffer from strep throat, cellulitis, scarlet fever, streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, impetigo, rheumatic fever, necrotizing fasciitis, and post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis.
- Staphylococcus – Staph infections result from staphylococcus bacteria, which are germs commonly found on the skin or in the nose of several healthy people. Staph infections can turn deadly when bacteria invade deeper into your body and enter your bloodstream, joints, bones, lungs, or heart. Such infections can potentially be life-threatening. Treatment will usually involve antibiotics and cleaning of an infected area. Still, some staph infections may no longer respond to standard antibiotics, and treating antibiotic-resistant staph infections can require other antibiotics causing more side effects. Skin infections caused by staph bacteria include boils, impetigo, cellulitis, and staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome. Staphylococcus may infect your brain through meningitis, the heart through endocarditis, or the lungs through pneumonia, bones, muscles, or surgically implanted devices.
Dog Bite Claims Process
You should immediately contact the local animal control agency whenever a dog in Florida bites you. Their investigation can help you with your case and prevent the same dog from biting other people. Always seek medical attention for your dog bite, even when you do not think the injuries are severe.
Remember your potential infection risk with a dog bite; a doctor will ensure your bite gets adequately treated, reducing your chances of more severe symptoms later. Furthermore, it will be critical to have a medical record of your care created to help obtain compensation.
Try to document the scene of the dog bite when possible, usually by taking pictures of the setting of your dog bite, the dog itself, and your injuries before they heal. Also, try to write down everything you remember about the incident because you might forget important details later.
After you take all these steps, seek the help of a Gainesville personal injury attorney. You will want a lawyer’s help navigating the complicated legal process.
Owners do have defenses in some dog bite cases, which may include:
- You trespassed on the dog owner’s property.
- You provoked the dog.
- The dog defended its owner or someone in the immediate vicinity from a perceived threat or attack.
Dog bite cases in Florida involve a statute of limitations (or time limit) of four years from the date a victim got bitten. This deadline applies to most personal injury cases in Florida.
The Insurance Information Institute (III) reported that dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for over one-third of homeowners’ liability claim dollars last year, costing $881 million. There were 17,989 claims with an average cost of $64,555 per claim. (The value of your dog bite claim will depend on the nature and severity of your injuries and losses.)
Dog bites may result in victims receiving considerable damages, including economic or actual damages and non-economic or general damages.
Economic damages are the awards that refer to losses that can be calculated and proven, including:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Treatment costs
- Corrective surgeries
Non-economic damages will be far more subjective and not as easy to quantify, often leaving the amounts up to the discretion of a jury.
Such damages can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
Dog owners and insurance companies often try to shift blame for a dog attack to the victim. They might claim you provoked the dog, were trespassing, or acted unlawfully, and your conduct led to the bite. Too often, people concede to such allegations because they do not know how to fight back and prove the dog owner’s liability to insurance companies.
You can bet that both dog owners and their insurance companies will try to blame you for your dog bite, so it is another important reason for you to retain legal counsel. Our attorneys stand up for the rights of dog bite victims, and we know the tactics insurance companies use. You want us to handle your case as soon as possible.
Call Us Today for Your Free Consultation With a Gainesville Dog Bite Lawyer
Did you recently suffer a dog bite in Florida and suffer severe injuries? You will want to quickly reach out to Steven A. Bagen & Associates, P.A. for legal assistance with all the issues you are now facing. We can assess the best path forward and navigate the legal process.
Our firm has been handling personal injury cases since 1983 and can help you with every aspect of your recovery, including obtaining and paying for necessary medical care. Call (800) 800-2575 or contact us online to set up a free consultation that will allow us to examine your case and go over all the details so you can know exactly what your options are and how we can help.
Help for Dog Attack Victims in Gainesville
The Center for Disease Control (“CDC”), reported that there are approximately 5 million dog bites each year. However, only about 800,000 people seek medical treatment, usually involving cosmetic surgery. Young children top the list of those most bitten, with bites and lacerations around their head and neck. Senior citizens followed by postal carriers, are the next category to be bitten by dogs more frequently.
The third week in May is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the CDC and the U.S. Postal Service, as “National Dog Bite Prevention Week.” Due to the high statistic of dog bites, and their possible infectious injury results, the CDC works with local state health departments. They help to establish prevention programs and to track U.S. dog bite trends.
The American Veterinary Medical Association, reports that there are more than 72 million dogs living in the U.S., in over 43 million homes. Homeowner and renters insurance typically carries liability provisions to cover dog bites with limits between $100,000 to $300,000. The Insurance Information Institute states that the average cost per claim has risen from about $19,000 in 2003 to more than $29,000 in 2011, an average claim increase of about 53.4 percent.
The liability coverage for dog owners whose dogs bite people can include medical bills, lost income and pain and suffering. Dog bite laws vary from state to state, which involves the dog bite statute. This statute states that a dog owner is automatically liable. The one-bite rule exempts dog owners from their dog’s first bite. A negligence law states that an owner is liable if their dog bites someone out of negligence. As a result, insurance companies are considering to limit dog bite insurance coverage or to exclude this coverage all together.
For a free case review, contact a Gainesville dog bite attorney at Steven A. Bagen & Associates today!