The horrific attack and death of a young, professional woman in San Francisco in front of her apartment door by a pair dogs several years ago, brought national attention to the seriousness of dog attacks. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are 4.7 million dog bites in the United States each year. These bites cost a staggering $1 billion with the insurance industry paying $250 million through homeowner’s coverage.
Who is Responsible?
We know the law is on the side of the dog bite victim. At one time, the law provided dog owners with what was called “one free bite”. In other words, a dog owner was not responsible for injuries unless the dog had previously exhibited vicious tendencies.
Today, Florida law imposes liability on the owner for any injury caused by their dog, regardless of whether or not the owner had reason to suspect their dog might be dangerous. The liability for dog attacks covers both public spaces and the property of the dog owner. The owner can be held liable for the victim’s medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and, even in some cases, psychiatric therapy for a traumatized child.
Most dog attacks occur at private residences. Homeowner’s insurance policies provide liability coverage for negligent acts including dog bites, regardless of where they occur. For that reason, it is important to determine if the owner of the dog is covered by homeowner’s insurance, which is something we can help determine.
Many homeowner’s policies contain another type of insurance known as Medical Payments Coverage or Med-Pay. This type of coverage is automatically available to pay for the medical expenses incurred by a dog bite victim. Med-Pay normally provides a small amount of coverage. When Med-Pay has been exhausted, the homeowner’s liability coverage is responsible for compensating the injured party for his or her remaining damages.
Dog bite cases are governed by a four (4) year statute of limitations. With that in mind, Daytona Beach lawyers know there is no reason to resolve a dog bite case until the injured person has arrived at maximum medical improvement. It is then the true value of the case can be determined. Frequently dog bites leave scars. The speed with which we heal varies from person to person. As a general rule however, scars take at least six (6) months after the initial attack to mature. It is only then that a doctor can determine if the scar is permanent, whether or not additional care will be necessary and the cost of future care.
If a dog has bitten you or a loved one, you can expect to be contacted by an adjuster for the owner’s insurance company. Be careful! The adjuster’s job is to protect the insured and NOT the injured. If the adjuster requests a statement from you, it would be wise to contact Daytona Beach lawyers who specialize in personal injury claims before giving the statement. As a general rule, a lawyer should be present any time an injured person provides a statement to an insurance adjuster.
Many factors interact to determine the total compensation that a dog bite victim is entitled to. In most circumstances, dog bite cases are complex and require the assistance of Daytona Beach lawyers for a successful resolution.
Financial Protection for Dog Owners
As dog owners, we love our pets. Nevertheless, dogs can be unpredictable. That said, here are some considerations for protecting ourselves from liability if the unthinkable occurs.
It is wise to make arrangements to financially protect yourself. If you own a home, many homeowners’ policies cover dog bite liability. Those individuals in apartments should acquire a renters’ insurance policy that includes dog bit liability. Many insurance policies contain exclusionary language that essentially writes out coverage for dog bites. It would be wise to consult with your insurance agent to determine if your policy provides the coverage you seek.
If you own a dog, it is important to place others on notice of their presence on your property. Post warning signs prominently on your property. This is one way that under some conditions, you may insulate yourself from liability. If you have questions about liability for dog ownership, please feel free to call us.