Florida Dog Bite Injury Laws & Owner Liability Rules

Can the dog owner be sued? Florida laws on personal injury claims arising out of a dog bite or dog attack.

In this article, we'll take a look at some key points of Florida's dog bite laws. We'll start with the deadline for filing a Florida dog bite lawsuit in court after an injury. Then, we'll look at Florida's dog bite statute and its status as a "strict liability" state for dog bite injuries. Finally, we'll talk about some defenses against a Florida dog bite claim and when a dog owner might raise them.

Deadlines to File a Lawsuit

Florida has a  statute of limitations  that limits the amount of time an injured person has to file a lawsuit after a dog bite injury. The statute of limitations requires an injured person to get their lawsuit filed in Florida's civil court system within  four years  of the date of a dog bite. If you miss the four-year deadline, the court will likely throw your case out instead of hearing it. To ensure your case will be heard, make sure it is filed before the deadline passes.

Florida's Dog Bite Statute

Florida's dog bite statute,  FLSA 767.04, states that a dog owner is liable for injuries if:

  • the dog bites another person, and
  • the person is in a public place or lawfully in a private place.

This statute only covers injuries caused by dog bites. However, a person who is injured by a dog in another way may be able to prove the owner is liable if the injured person can show the owner's  negligence, or failure to use reasonable care, resulted in the injury. For instance, a person who is knocked down and injured by a dog may be able to hold the owner liable for failing to use a leash and properly restraining the dog.

Florida is a "Strict Liability" Dog Bite State

Florida is a "strict liability" state when it comes to dog bites. In other words, a Florida dog owner may be held liable if his or her dog bites someone, even if the owner had no prior knowledge or warning that the dog might bite. The injured person does not have to prove that a lack of reasonable care caused the bite. Learn more about  strict liability dog bite laws.

Defenses to a Florida Dog Bite Claim

A Florida dog owner has two defenses to a dog bite claim: trespassing and comparative negligence. Florida's dog bite law requires an injured person to be "lawfully" in the place where the bite occurred in order to recover damages. A person who is trespassing on private property without permission is not "lawfully" on the private property. Therefore, a dog bite owner could argue that the injured person was trespassing and is therefore not entitled to collect damages.  

One partial defense a dog owner might raise is the defense of comparative negligence. Under Florida's dog bite law, if a dog bite injury victim's own negligence is partly the cause of the dog bite, the amount of damages a liable owner must pay will be reduced by a percentage equal to the percentage of blame assigned to the injured person.

Here's an example of how Florida's comparative negligence rule for dog bites works. Suppose that you visit a friend's house for his birthday party. You're so busy talking to your friend as you walk through the kitchen that you don't notice where you're going and you accidentally step on the tail of your friend's dog, who bites you. In court, the jury finds that you are 30 percent responsible for the bite and your friend is 70 percent responsible, and that your damages total $1,000. Under Florida's dog bite law, your $1,000 total would be reduced by $300, or 30 percent, because this was the percentage of fault assigned to you. You would receive a total of $700 in damages.

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