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When Man's Best Friend isn't...The Law on Dog Bite Injuries.

Angry Dog

The website reports that in 2017 there were over 89 million dogs owned by households in the United States. That is an increase from 68 million reported for the year 2000. The percentage of homes where a dog resides is 68% according to The Insurance Information Institute, and State Farm reported an 18% rise in homeowners’ liability claims due to dog bites in 2016. The highest number of claims occurred in California, New York, and Florida. Florida ranked 2nd with 1,325 claims filed with an average cost per claim of $37,339. The total payout for these claims was $73.3 million.

With these figures, you have a good statistical chance of one either being the victim of a dog bite or having a claim filed against you.

In some jurisdictions, a dog owner is not liable for a dog bite unless there was prior notice of the propensity of the dog to bite, whether the dog was considered "vicious" or not. This is known as the "one bite rule." These jurisdictions may, however, deem certain breeds such as Pit Bulls as vicious without any prior evidence of the same. This “one bite rule” applies in Alabama when one is bitten outside the property owned or controlled by the owner of the dog. (see Alabama Statute 3.6.1)

In Florida, statute 767.04 defines the dog owner's liability for a bite injury. In Florida, there is no "one bite rule." Florida law states that an owner is liable for bites that occur in a public place or when the victim is lawfully in a private place, including the victim's property, regardless of the owner's knowledge of their dog's viciousness.

Florida and Alabama both allow the dog owner to defend against liability if the bite occurred due to any negligence on the part of the victim, i.e., provoking the dog.

Additionally, in Florida, if one places a prominently displayed sign on their property that reads "Bad Dog", the dog owner will not be liable for a dog bite injury, except for victims under 6 years of age or if the bite was caused by a negligent act or omission on the part of the dog owner, i.e. failing to maintain a fence.

As a homeowner, you need to make sure that you have adequate insurance coverage to protect you if such a claim arises. It is essential to read your homeowner's policy to make sure it covers dog bite claims. Some exclude them entirely, while others have exclusions for prior knowledge of the dog's viciousness. An option for the homeowner is to secure a general liability or umbrella policy that covers dog bite claims.

If you are the victim of a dog bite, immediately seek medical attention and confirm that the dog’s rabies vaccination is up to date. The next step is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. Attorneys Aaron Watson and Eric Van Loock at The Watson Firm stand ready to assist you if you are the victim of a dog bite, or injured through any other negligent act. Call today for a free consultation regarding your injury claim.