A dog bite is nothing to joke about. If a dog or a loved one bites you, you must seek immediate medical care or face grave consequences. Once medical attention is taken care of, it's time to turn your focus to legal action.
You will need a Tampa dog bite lawyer if you live in Florida. Even if you're not a permanent Tampa resident, this applies if the bite occurred in Tampa or nearby neighborhoods.
What you need to do right now
If you or someone you love is attacked by a dog and bitten, you must act fast. While this article offers a comprehensive understanding of and a guide to dog bite laws in Florida, here are the five steps you need to take immediately in the case of a dog attack:
- First, get to safety. If a dog attacks you, you must seek help immediately if you cannot chase it off or fend for yourself. Only after the dog has been chased away or restrained is it safe to assess the damage. Naturally, whether or not your injuries require immediate attention, you should seek medical help immediately.
- Next, identify the dog, its owner, and its witnesses. This will be an essential aspect of your court case. It would be best to find out who the dog belongs to and speak to people who witnessed the attack. Get their contact details, as your Tampa dog bite lawyer will want to get in touch with them. If you have no witnesses to attest to the attack, it may be considerably harder to prove it happened.
- Report the attack. You must report the attack promptly to a Tampa animal control agency or, in some cases, the police. They will want a description of the dog and the owner's contact details. Beware that failing to report the incident may not bode well for your trial.
- Document the damage. Remember, a dog bite case can take months and years until you appear in court, which means your injuries will have long healed. Your Tampa dog bite lawyer will want you to document your injuries immediately after the attack. Take photos of the injuries, damaged clothing, the attack scene, and, if possible, the animal itself.
- Get a lawyer. Not only is it best to act presently, but a Tampa dog bite lawyer can offer crucial advice in these delicate moments. Only sign agreements with insurance companies after consulting with your lawyer, as this may impact your paid damages.
Below, we will talk you through everything you need to know about dog bite laws in Florida, the ensuing lawsuit, and everything else your Tampa dog bite lawyer can help you with. But first, a word on choosing the right lawyer.
Hughes Law Firm
With a broad background of legal experience, Ryan T. Hughes is the personal injury lawyer you need. Together with a brilliant team, we look at the incident from all angles to devise a foolproof plan.
We focus on speed and professionalism. Time is of the essence when it comes to personal injuries (a category that includes dog bites and similar attacks). At Hughes Law, we feel for the suffering and trauma you've gone through.
As your area's best Tampa dog bite lawyer, we can help you file a lawsuit and ensure you receive the damages you owe (see below).
An excellent personal injury lawyer can recover the medical expenses from a dog bite, so you don't need to worry about affording treatment. However, since these are time-sensitive issues, you must contact us at Ryan Hughes Law immediately. If you delay hiring a lawyer, you may end your entire case.
So, if a dog has attacked you or a family member in the Florida area, you need to seek medical and legal help. While you do, it's best to familiarize yourself with legal practices in your area.
This should help you better understand the legal process for dog bites, what damages you can expect from a lawsuit, what timeframe you're looking at, and so on.
Personal Injury Lawsuit – what constitutes personal injury?
Personal injury lawsuits can come from a broad range of areas.
Any physical suffering sustained by a person due to another's negligence or assault can be classified under personal injury.
Most commonly, personal injury lawsuits will arise from car crashes and other vehicle-related accidents. However, that is not the only kind of personal injury lawsuit – accidents at work, slip and fall incidents, medical malpractice, intentional assault, and battery all fall under "personal injury."
If a dog has bitten you, you also require a personal injury lawyer since a dog bite falls under this category.
A personal injury relates to any physical damage, and it is thus called because it affects you physically and not your property.
If you suffered a canine attack that caused damage to yourself and your property, we suggest you bring it up with your lawyer – they will advise you on how to proceed.
Florida allows individuals who have been the victims of such an attack to file a lawsuit against the guilty party. Through this lawsuit, you can receive financial compensation for your physical suffering and any costs incurred.
When it comes to a companion animal, like a dog, its owner is ultimately deemed responsible in the eyes of the law.
Here's what you should know about Florida dog bite laws:
Florida Dog Bite Laws
So, what exactly are the Florida laws regarding dog bites?
Tip: While state laws are the most important in such legal cases, remember that different counties may also have different rules. Below, we will talk about both Florida state laws and Tampa county laws regarding dog bites.
The good news is that, unlike other states, Florida does not use the "one bite law." According to that rule, owners may be absolved if the dog has never bitten someone.
Thankfully, this is not the case in Florida, where owners are fully culpable if their pet (dangerous or generally not) has bitten or attacked them.
According to Florida law 767.04 (dog bite law), owners can be sued and held responsible even if their dog is usually peaceful. Even if they have no prior knowledge of the dog's propensity to bite, that does not excuse the incident.
What about negligence?
You may be concerned about having to prove the dog owner's negligence. Under Florida law, some types of personal injuries result from failure. Using the perpetrator for negligence, you'd naturally have to prove negligence before being awarded any damages.
However, Florida operates as a "strict liability" case, as any good Tampa dog bite lawyer will be able to tell you. This means that you, the victim, do not need to prove the dog owner acted negligently or created an unsafe situation.
The dog's owner is held accountable, whether or not the attack resulted from their negligence. Even if the owner fulfilled the usual safety norms, they could still be held responsible.
According to Florida law, the pet owner must cover damages whenever their pet bit or attacks someone.
What are the exceptions?
As with most laws, the Florida dog bite law has some exceptions. For instance, the dog owner can only be sued or held responsible if:
- The bite occurs in a public setting (e.g., on the street or a park);
- The bite occurs on private property where the victim had full right to be (this covers social events, like visits, but also deliveries, mail workers, and law enforcement);
- The animal was defending its owner or someone in the immediate vicinity from a perceived attack – beware that even if there was no actual attack, as long as the owner's defense can reasonably prove that the dog sensed a seizure and was only acting to defend, they might be acquitted.
In other words, if a dog bites you on private property that you entered unlawfully, you cannot receive any damages.
Likewise, a dog owner may be exonerated if they post some warning, like a "bad dog" sign.
Lastly, you will not be eligible for any damages if you teased, tormented, or otherwise provoked the animal or if the dog was defending someone from a possible attack.
Damages – what you can expect
An essential aspect of hiring a Tampa dog bite lawyer is the damages you may or may not be entitled to. For many people, it's worth assessing potential gains against losses (since you need to consider the cost of the trial itself).
You are first eligible for economic damages if a dog has bitten you. The value of monetary damages will vary from case to case, depending mainly on the seriousness of the dog bite.
On the bright side, economic damages are easy to calculate – you must prove all the expenses incurred by the dog bite. This is why your Tampa dog bite lawyer will insist that you keep all bills, receipts, and payslips resulting from the incident. These will help us determine why the dog owner needs to pay you that specific amount.
Your lawyer may also be able to obtain compensation for lost wages resulting directly from your injury. If the dog bite were so severe that it left you unable to work, you would be compensated for that.
It would be best if you also were compensated in case of a permanent disability resulting from the dog attack. This is called lost future earnings, and you and your lawyer will agree upon the general estimate.
Economic damages will cover medical expenses, money lost directly due to the attack, and time spent in the hospital.
How are damages calculated?
At Ryan Hughes Law, as your legal representation, we typically use two main methods to calculate the damages we can ask for. Of course, the more severe the dog bite, the higher the sum we can sue for.
Your Tampa dog bite lawyer will likely use the multiplier method of severe injuries. The multiplier method means you reach a total sum of damages with your lawyer, then multiply it by a factor between 1 and 5. The higher the element, the more money you get.
This is influenced by how serious the bite is and how skilled your lawyer is. It's the lawyer's job to convince the jury (or the insurance adjuster) that the higher multiplier is appropriate.
If you sustain a less severe injury, it's more likely your lawyer will opt for the per diem method. If a minor injury (like a sprain, tear, broken bone, etc.) temporarily hinders you, you will be compensated accordingly.
You will receive compensation after your lawyer has proven the amount you lose daily because of your injury, multiplied by how long the wound takes to heal.
But what about the pain?
This is what is known in the legal world as special damages. While economic damages cover the medical aspect of the attack, special damages cover the more personal stuff.
Unfortunately, a dog bite can leave you with emotional and physical scars.
Often, a dog attack can lead to stress, anxiety, and even PTSD in some cases. The mental and emotional damage sustained by a victim also needs to be compensated.
As mentioned above, your Tampa dog bite lawyer can draw up a rough estimate of these damages based on the severity of the bite.
Lastly, your Florida legal team will also consider the emotional effects. For instance, if you are left with scars, these may cause you shame, which will be compensated.
Unfortunately, you don't get a medical bill for your emotional or mental health. This is where a skilled Tampa dog bite lawyer comes in – they can assess the damage the attack caused and go for suitable compensation.
Statute of limitations
As we mentioned before, time is of the essence, thanks to Florida's statute of limitations. The law of rules in any state is technically the expiration date on your legal claims.
In Florida, dog bites have a four-year statute of limitations from when the bite occurred.
You must contact a Tampa dog bite lawyer immediately after the edge occurs because the clock has already started ticking. Remember that a court case can take months and even years to be built up and played out.
All of that needs to fall within that 4-year statute of limitations. Otherwise, you may not be compensated.
However, there are two exceptions to Florida's statute of limitations. For one, the law can be paused if the dog owner has left the state or is hiding.
The other way to go around the statute of limitations is if the bite caused damages that only surfaced later. For example, a Tampa dog bites your calf. Perhaps at the time of the assault, you thought you were okay and healing.
A year later, however, you have trouble walking, and your calf always hurts. In such cases, Florida allows the statute of limitations to be extended for two additional years from the date of discovery.
Still, bear in mind that these cases are rare, and more often than not, if you don't act with haste, you may lose all rights to compensatory damages.
Bottom Line: Call a Tampa dog bite lawyer today.
Hopefully, this extensive article has given you a better understanding of what constitutes a personal injury case and how you can be rewarded for a dog bite attack in Tampa, Florida.
It's natural to have questions still. While this is a comprehensive general article, only a qualified Tampa dog bite lawyer like Ryan Hughes can answer your specific questions.
Likewise, only a skilled personal injury lawyer in Florida knows the intricacies of Florida law and how best to work around them to get you the compensation you deserve.
While nothing can compensate for an animal attack's trauma, a successful dog bite case can offer some financial peace.
Get in touch with a Tampa personal injury lawyer today, so you can get closer to getting what you're owed. Our team is on-call to answer your questions and schedule a consultation.