Dogs are wonderful pets and provide a measure of security to families and people who live alone. However, even a usually docile and well-trained animal could be dangerous under the wrong circumstances.

Florida state law holds dog owners liable for the injuries their animal causes. If you or your family member suffered injuries due to an unruly canine, call a Wesley Chapel dog bite lawyer at Distasio Law Firm for assistance. One of the seasoned personal injury attorneys at our firm could help you hold the owner liable and perhaps prevent another person from suffering similar harm.

Owners Are Strictly Liable for Dog Bites in Wesley Chapel

Some states allow a dog one “free bite,” meaning that an owner will not be liable for a dog bite unless the animal has shown aggression in the past. Florida, on the other hand, makes dog owners strictly liable for bites their dog inflicts regardless of the animal’s history.

Florida Statute §767.04 states that dog owners are strictly liable to anyone their dog bites on public property. Strict liability means that if you suffer a dog bite, you must prove only that you were on public property and a particular dog inflicted the bite. You need not prove the dog’s owner was negligent or that the dog has a history of aggression.

Note that this statute applies only to injuries suffered from a bite and only to dog bites. If you suffered injuries when a dog knocked you down, or from a bite from another species of domesticated animal, you must prove that the animal’s owner was negligent. A well-practiced dog bite attorney in Wesley Chapel could determine whether owner negligence led to a specific injury.

What Happens If a Bite Occurs on the Dog Owner’s Property?

State law makes a dog owner liable for a bite even if it happened on the property where the dog lives, so long as the bite victim was on the property legally. A person is legally on the property if the landowner invited them or if the victim was a postal worker, meter reader, or another person whose job requires them to enter private property to carry out their duties.

Although the dog’s owner will be liable for bite injuries you suffered, you could receive reduced damages if your behavior was negligent. For example, if you were teasing the dog when it bit, a jury might decide you were partially responsible for your injuries. If so, a judge would discount the damages you collect by a percentage equal to your degree of responsibility for the incident.

Dog owners can partially shield themselves from liability for dog bites by posting warning signs on their property that contain the words “bad dog” or “beware of dog.” However, warning signs will not protect a negligent owner or an owner whose dog bites a young child. An experienced Wesley Chapel injury lawyer could review the circumstances surrounding an incident to determine whether a dog owner could be liable for a bite in a specific case.

Proving Negligence in Florida Animal Injury Cases

If a dog caused an injury through a means other than biting, or if you received a bite from another domesticated animal, you might need to prove the animal’s owner negligent. You can establish negligence by showing the person did not exercise the degree of reasonable care the situation required.

Violations of the law are evidence of negligent conduct. If a case involves a dog, Pasco County Code §14.97 bars dog owners from allowing their animals to run loose. The law requires dogs to be leashed and under the supervision of someone capable of controlling them. If a loose dog caused an injury, the owner’s failure to keep the animal under control as the law requires could bolster your claim for damages.

A skilled legal professional could build a negligence case against any owner whose animal caused an innocent person an injury in Wesley Chapel. If the injured person was negligent, they could still collect reduced damages from the animal’s owner.

Work With a Wesley Chapel Dog Bite Attorney After an Injury

Dogs bring joy to many people, but dog ownership comes with significant responsibility. If an owner is irresponsible and their lack of care causes an injury to you or a loved one, the owner should face severe consequences.

A Wesley Chapel dog bite lawyer could help you pursue damages for your injuries. Bringing a claim for damages not only offers you an opportunity to receive compensation, but it also forces the dog’s owner to take responsibility for their actions. Call today to get started on your claim.