Strict Liability vs Premises Liability For Dog Bites
Dogs can be beloved family pets and working animals, but sometimes, they can make bad decisions. Each year, many dogs are put down due to bite or attack incidents with people or other animals. However, there are two different legal theories that might be useful under which to bring a case. Depending on your situation, either strict liability or premises liability might be a good theory under which to sue the dog’s owner if you have been bitten.
Florida law recognizes two different ways for a dog bite victim to bring a civil suit against the owner. The state has a strict liability law that holds owners responsible for all damages that a bite victim might suffer as long as the bite occurs in public or when the victim is “lawfully in a private place.” It is possible for a dog owner to insulate themselves somewhat from liability, either by posting a clear “Beware of Dog” sign in an accessible place, or if it can be argued that the victim was contributorily negligent.
The other theory of liability is called premises liability, and it is used more often against landowners or landlords. At common law, landowners have a duty to exercise reasonable care toward those who might come onto their land, though ‘reasonable care’ does differ depending on the status of the person visiting the land (there are three statuses: invitee, licensee, or trespasser). For example, a mailman is an invitee – someone who visits the land for a purpose of the owner’s – and would be owed a warning about a dog on the property.
Owner vs Landlord
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your dog bite, it can be difficult to know who might be held liable for your injury if you suspect negligence. Generally in Florida, a landlord can be held liable for dog bite injuries if they knew or had reason to know that a dog was vicious, and they failed to take appropriate measures. It can be quite difficult to establish that a landlord knew a dog was vicious, however, especially if they do not visit the property often or have another way to acquire that knowledge. Owners, by comparison, can be held strictly liable, as was specified above.
Be advised that regardless of who you decide to file suit against, you do have a limited time frame in which to file suit if you do so based on premises liability. Florida law establishes a four-year statute of limitations for actions brought based on negligence, which can seem like a long time, but it can go by very quickly. If you have been injured, the sooner you are able to bring suit, the better.
Contact A Tampa Dog Bite Lawyer
Being bitten by a dog can be a traumatizing experience, and if it has happened to you, it can be hard to determine how best to proceed. The Tampa personal injury lawyers at the Rinaldo Law Group can help you understand your situation and to answer any questions you might have. Contact our offices today for a free consultation.