Who is Liable for Bites and Other Animal-Related Injuries?

Animals can cause serious injuries to people. Every day, people are attacked by wild animals as well as domesticated pets, such as dogs. If you’re one of these people, your rights and responsibilities are determined by the state you live in, as well as the circumstances of the attack.

Dog bites

While dogs are beloved pets to many, their bites can have serious, sometimes life-threatening, complications. Bites and scratches from a dog can lead to serious infections, including fatal ones such as rabies. The victim of a dog bite may have to get an emergency rabies vaccination.

Dog bites are probably the most well-known type of injury caused by animals. They are common enough that most states, including Florida, have passed legislation specifically covering dog bites and owner liability.

Many states have what is known as a “one bite rule,” which means that owners are only liable for dog bites if the dog was known to be aggressive. Florida makes things easier for the victims of dog bites by imposing a “strict liability” statute on dog owners. This means that when a dog bites someone, the owner is responsible by default.

Exceptions exist to the strict liability statute. An owner may not be held responsible, or may be only partially responsible, if the victim provoked the dog or was attacked while trespassing. Posting a sign that reads “Bad Dog” in a prominent place can further reduce liability.

Attacks by wild animals

The case gets more complicated when the injuries are caused by a wild animal. If there is technically no owner, then liability is less clear. And depending on the circumstances of the attack, proving negligence may be very difficult.

In most cases, the owner of the property would likely be the target of a personal injury lawsuit. However, the laws governing dog bites do not apply to property owners. Instead, the owner would only be liable if the accident had been preventable, and the owner had the responsibility to prevent it.

For example, a homeowner who keeps a wild animal as a pet would be liable for injuries that the animal caused. A person is less responsible for wild animals that occasionally wander onto their property, but they may face liability if they ignore the problem.

If the property is open to the public, there’s more opportunity for legal action. Someone visiting a zoo could file a lawsuit if an animal escaped the cage and attacked them, and the penalties could be greater if the zoo was found to be negligent. Even the government may be sued if visitors to a national park are attacked by wild animals.

If you’ve been injured by a wild animal or someone’s pet, you have the right to seek compensation. Contact our offices for a free consultation, and we’ll help you understand the law as it pertains to your own case. We can easily be reached by phone, email, or even text message. Reach out today!