Representing Dog Bite Victims in Miami
Did you know that about 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the United States and that approximately 20 percent of those bites become infected? Those statistics come from DogsBite.org, which also states that nearly 9 million dogs attacks result in serious and even fatal injuries annually, and approximately 28,000 people who have been victims of dog bites require reconstructive surgery every year. In addition to the physical and psychological injuries associated with dog bites in Miami, victims also suffer very serious financial consequences. The average cost of a hospital stay for a dog bite injury is more than $18,000, which is double the rate of the average hospital stay for other types of injuries.
At Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein, LLP, we are dedicated to assisting dog bite victims in South Florida seek compensation for their losses. When you or your child suffers a life-threatening dog bite injury, you may require a lengthy hospital stay, not to mention extensive medical treatments and surgeries. You should not be responsible for these costs, and you deserve to be compensated for your losses. A Miami dog bite lawyer can help you seek compensation by filing a lawsuit.
We Handle All Types of Dog Bite Accident Claims
Dog bites can lead to many different types of injuries. In some cases, dog bite injuries are relatively minor and can even be treated at home with first aid. In other situations, dog attacks can result in extensive and debilitating injuries, such as brain trauma or the loss of a limb. As a fact sheet from the ASPCA explains, children often suffer particularly severe injuries in dog attacks. It is important for parents to understand that any dog can bite—even a family dog or a new neighborhood puppy. Common dog bite injuries that result in lawsuits include, but are not limited to:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other forms of head trauma;
- Neck injuries;
- Eye injuries and blindness;
- Facial lacerations
- Puncture wounds;
- Fractures and broken bones;
- Nerve damage;
- Scarring and disfigurement;
- Loss of limbs or amputation;
- Severe and life-threatening infections;
- Rabies; and
- Psychological injuries.
At Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein, LLP, our experienced Miami dog bite lawyers can help you seek compensation for many different types of injuries sustained in a dog attack.
Dog Owner Liability for Non-Bite-Related Injuries
When we think about injuries caused by dogs, bites, lacerations, and puncture wounds are often the first thing to come to mind. While dogs can and do cause these kinds of injuries, they are by no means the only types of injuries that a person could suffer after an animal attack. Fortunately, under Florida law, dog owners can also be held liable for any non-bite-related injuries their animals cause, so if you were hurt by someone else’s dog, you should think about reaching out to a Miami dog bite and animal attack lawyer, who can help you seek compensation for your medical expenses and lost wages.
Florida doesn’t adhere to the “One Bite Rule” standard, under which a dog’s owner can only be held legally responsible for injuries caused by that animal if the dog had a history of aggressive behavior. Instead, under Florida law, dog owners are held strictly liable for injuries caused by their animals. Fortunately, this means that victims of animal attacks aren’t required to prove that a dog’s owner was negligent in some way in order to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
While it is true that Florida’s strict liability law is applicable in dog bite cases, this does not mean that a person must be bitten before he or she can qualify for reimbursement. If, for instance, a dog scratched at a person with its nails, causing a serious injury, the owner could be held liable for the cost of treatment, even if the dog never bit the victim. Similarly, the owner of a dog that leaped onto a person, causing him or her to fall down, could also be held responsible if that action resulted in an injury. In fact, a number of Florida courts have held that a dog isn’t actually required to touch a victim for the strict liability law to apply. Instead, the animal need only have undertaken an affirmative or aggressive action, such as lunging or chasing, which caused the victim’s injury, for the owner to be held liable.
One Florida appeals court recently reiterated this interpretation of the law by ruling in favor of a woman who broke her femur when a dog lunged at her, which in turn caused her own dog to attempt to run away. In doing so, the dog’s leash wrapped around the woman’s legs, causing her to fall and break her femur. According to the court’s holding, the dog’s failure to touch the woman wasn’t a bar to her recovery.
Were You Injured by Someone Else’s Dog?
Florida dog bite cases can be complex, especially when the victim doesn’t suffer a bite-related injury. To ensure that your own claim has the best possible chance of success, please call one of the dedicated Miami dog bite and animal attack lawyers at Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum, LLP for assistance. You can call our office at (305) 371-2692 to set up a free consultation, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A member of our legal team can also be reached via online message.
Proving Liability for a Miami Dog Bite Accident
How do you prove liability for a dog bite injury in Miami? When dogs attack, Florida law applies a theory known as “strict liability.” This is different from other types of personal injury lawsuits in which plaintiffs file claims under a theory of negligence. To be clear, under Florida Statutes Section 767.04, a plaintiff does not need to prove that the dog owner was negligent to hold the owner liable for their injuries. Instead, the law states:
“The owner of any dog that bites any person while such a person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.”
This simply means that a plaintiff does not need to show that the owner had any knowledge of a dog’s previous bad behavior or tendency to attack. Instead, to hold a dog owner liable under this theory of strict liability, a plaintiff only needs to show the following:
- The dog bit you; and
- You were in a public place or lawfully on private property at the time of the dog bite.
At the same time, the statute underscores that any negligence of the plaintiff will reduce the amount for which the dog owner is liable. Florida law defines this as comparative fault. Under Florida Statutes Section 768.81, a plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by the percentage by which she is liable. For example, imagine a jury awards a plaintiff $20,000, but the jury also determines that the plaintiff was 10 percent liable because of her own negligence. Her award will be reduced by 10 percent, or $2,000, and she will recover $18,000.
Injured Victims Deserve Full Compensation
Once you have established that a dog owner is liable for your injuries, your dog bite attorney in Miami will seek damages for your losses. As a plaintiff in Florida, you have the burden of proving your damages. When you establish your damages, you can be eligible to receive compensatory damages. There are two types of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages can compensate dog bite injury plaintiffs for specific, objective losses such as:
- Lost income and future lost income;
- Hospital bills;
- Surgery costs;
- Rehabilitative therapy; and
- Medication costs.
Non-economic damages can compensate dog bite injury plaintiffs for more subjective losses that do not have a strict dollar figure such as:
- Psychological injuries;
- Scarring and disfigurement; and
- Loss of life enjoyment.
A dog bite lawyer in Miami can provide more information about the types of damages for which you may be eligible.
Dog Bite Claims: Common Defenses and the Law
Nearly half a million people reside in Miami, and many of them own dogs. Most of the dogs in the city are friendly and do not bite or attack, particularly when they are not provoked. Unfortunately, this is not true for all dogs. Every year in Miami, people become severely injured by dog bites. Though the law does provide many protections for victims, you should still contact a Miami dog bite lawyer that can help you claim the damages you need to cover the cost of your injuries.
What is the Dog Bite Law in Miami?
Dog bites in Miami, as throughout the rest of Florida, are governed by strict liability law. This means that unlike in several other states, it does not matter if the dog had a history of violence or aggression, and you do not have to prove the owner of the dog was negligent. You must only show the dog bit you, and that it caused you serious injury. When they can prove these facts, they can file a lawsuit against the dog owner to collect damages for their medical bills, lost income, pain, and suffering, and more.
Defenses to Dog Bite Claims
In dog bite claims, like in any other personal injury claim, the responsible party is likely going to try and use many defenses to avoid paying full damages. It is important to prepare for these defenses so you recover the compensation that will fully cover the cost of your injuries. The two most common defenses used in dog bite claims are as follows:
- You Were Trespassing: Dog bite claims fall under premises liability law and under this law, trespassers are not given the same protection as people that were invited onto the property. If you were trespassing and a dog bit you to protect the property, it may serve as a valid defense for the dog owner.
- You Were Partly At Fault: The law also does not provide as much protection for dog bite victims if they provoked the dog into hurting them. For example, if you kicked a dog that was not threatening in order to shoo it away and the dog bit you, that can also serve as a defense.
It is also not uncommon for dog owners to use these defenses when they are not true, in order to pay less compensation than you deserve. Dog bites may sound like a minor event, but they often leave accident victims with severe and permanent injuries, such as scarring. Our Miami dog bite lawyer will know what defenses to expect from the opposing party, and how to refute them so you claim a fair settlement. Working with our attorneys can help you maximize your recovery and navigate the negotiations involved in a settlement.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dog Bite Incidents?
After a bite, you should collect certain information about the incident, including the dog owner’s name and the location of the attack. Make sure to ask the dog’s owner if they have a homeowners’ insurance policy. Many homeowners do, simply because it is often a requirement if they have a mortgage. Get the name and policy number, along with a phone number you can call to report the attack.
Dog bites are often covered under a renter’s insurance policy, so if the person is renting then ask for their policy information as well.
Certain Dogs Excluded from Policies
Not all dogs are covered by standard homeowners’ insurance policies. Some will exclude coverage of certain “dangerous” dogs, such as pit bulls. Others exclude dogs simply because of their size and weight, believing (not unreasonably) that larger dogs are more prone to causing injuries. Still, other insurance companies will exclude any breed of dog if the dog has bitten someone before. They ask about the dog’s bite history in the application for insurance.
Value Penguin has a handy chart that shows what dog breeds may be excluded from liability coverage. This list includes:
- American Bulldogs
- Doberman Pinschers
- German Shepherds
- Pit Bulls
If you were bitten by a dog that is excluded from liability coverage, you might still have options for getting the compensation that you need, though it could be more difficult.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average dog bite insurance claim in 2018 was $39,017. This information was gathered from homeowners’ insurance companies, which reported their settlement information. Remember that each case is different, and you might receive more or less than this amount.
You Can Always Afford Our High-Quality Dog Bite Accident Attorneys
At Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein, LLP, your financial circumstances do not play any role in our willingness to take your case. Our dedicated Miami dog bite lawyers will take your case on a contingency basis, which means that we will only be compensated if we are able to secure a settlement or jury verdict in your favor. In such a case, our fees will come as a percentage of your recovery. You do not have to pay anything upfront in order to have an aggressive and experienced dog attack lawyer on your side.
Contact Our Team Today
When you or your child has suffered serious dog bite injuries, it is important to have an experienced advocate on your side. The dedicated Miami dog bite lawyers at Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein, LLP regularly assists clients with dog bite claims, and we can get started on your case as soon as you reach out to our firm. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation and to learn more about how we serve clients in the Miami area and throughout the greater South Florida region.
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