Dog Bites

Florida is a strict liability state as it pertains to dog bites. That is to say Florida’s dog bite statute (Fla.Stat. §767.04) holds a dog owner liable for injuries sustained as a result of their dog biting another person without the person bitten having to show that the owner acted negligently. Compare this to other states that have some variation of what is called the “One-Bite Rule”. While the “One-Bite Rule” in its simplest sense allows a dog owner one free bite before they are held liable for their dog, Florida does not afford such a bite. The first bite almost always results in liability.

This statute does come with some, albeit few, exceptions. The owner is only liable for the bite if the person bitten is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place. So, even if the bite occurred on the dog owner’s own property, as long as the person bitten is not a trespasser, the dog owner will likely be held strictly liable for the bite. Any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is deemed to have caused the bite can be a bar to recovery for the person bitten, or it can reduce the liability of the dog owner. A reduction of liability is determined by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the bite.

Notice those exceptions do not mention whether the dog owner knew of their dog’s propensity to bite someone. That is because in Florida it does not matter. Regardless of the dog’s breed, color, weight, and most importantly, history, the owner of the dog will be held liable for a bite if it does not fall within an exception. Just as ignorance of the law is no excuse, ignorance of your dog is no excuse.