Take a stroll through any South Florida residential neighborhood, and it won’t be long before you come across a “BAD DOG” sign posted in a homeowner’s front yard. As a South Florida personal injury attorney representing the victims of dog bites for over twenty-two years, I know the importance of posting such signs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Humane Society, there are 4.7 million dog bites every year in the United States, resulting in approximately 16 fatalities. Worse, between 1993 and 2008, the number of victims admitted to the hospital because of dog bites increased by 86%. On average, 866 dog bite victims were forced to take a trip to the emergency room daily.
Common injuries resulting from dog bites include laceration of the legs or arms, head, neck, torso, bone fractures and even blood poisoning. More than half of all victims admitted to emergency rooms for dog bites required procedures ranging from wound debridement and sutures to skin grafts. Dog bites are not only expensive for the victims emotionally, but financially cost hospital an average of $18,200 per patent and $54 million overall.
As a Florida dog owner, you are at risk of being sued should your dog bite somebody else. Florida Statute § 767 outlines a dog owner’ liability for damages to dog bite victims. In Florida, “[o]wners of dogs shall be liable for any damage done by their dogs to a person…” (Fla Stat. § 767.01). To victims of dog bites, the owner of ANY dog that bites ANY person, on public or private property, will be found liable for the damages suffered by the victim. This is regardless of the viciousness or known viciousness of the dog. (Fla Stat. § 767.01).
However, an owner can escape liability if their dog bites a victim in one clear circumstance – when the dog owner had “displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words ‘Bad Dog.'” (Fla. Stat. §767.04). Thus, if you are the owner of a dog in South Florida, displaying a “Bad Dog” sign could save you a lawsuit. Given the verdict in Philbin, Pro Ami v. Curtis, you may want to consider displaying the Bad Dog sign sooner rather than later.
In Philbin, a fourteen-year old male suffered paralysis of the left side of his face as well as the loss of hearing in his left ear as a result of a dog bite. The plaintiff argued that he tried to run to escape the owner defendant’s dog, albeit unsuccessfully. Subsequently, he was awarded a $2.3 million dollar verdict, $1.5 in punitive damages alone.
If you are the victim of a dog bite, it is important you know your rights. After immediately seeking medical attention, contact an experienced Miami dog bite attorney. Our Miami and Ft. Lauderdale personal injury attorneys have been representing victims of “Bad Dogs,” for over 22 years.