Five Steps to Take After a Dog Bite
Florida is a “strict liability” state when it comes to dog bites. Florida Statute 767.04 provides that subject to certain exceptions, the dog’s owner is liable for damages and injuries suffered by any victim bitten on public property, or when the victim is lawfully on a privately owned property. This applies even if the dog had no history of viciousness, and the owner had no knowledge of the dog’s viciousness. If you’ve been bitten by a dog in Florida, you might be in a lot of pain and confused about what to do. At Earnhart Law, we help south Florida dog bite victims get the compensation they deserve.
Visit the Doctor
You probably don’t know based on your physical observation whether a dog bite is serious. Although some bites only puncture the skin in one or two places, the dog itself might have rabies or another disease. Once bitten, you can treat the wound by washing it with soap and water and covering it with a towel. Visit the emergency room promptly so that a doctor can look at the bite.
The faster you receive treatment, the better. A serious wound might require surgery and stitches, while a minor wound might only need antibiotic treatment and a sterilized bandage. A doctor might also give you a tetanus shot to protect against tetanus bacteria in the dog’s saliva that can get into your bloodstream.
Obtain Information about the Dog
You might not know the dog owner, especially if the dog came onto your property and bit you, or you ran into the dog on the sidewalk. Nevertheless, ask a friend or family member to gather the following information as soon as possible:
- The name of the dog’s owner. Look on the dog tag or follow the dog back home. If necessary, call the police so they can investigate.
- The name of the person responsible for the dog when it bit you. This might not be the owner.
- The address of the dog’s home.
- The names and contact information for any eyewitness. Get their home phone number and email address.
- Insurance information from the owner.
Don’t worry if you can’t get this information easily. At Earnhart Law, we have experience ferreting out evidence from secretive owners.
Hold onto Medical Records and Bills
In some situations, you can sue the dog owner for the bite. Owners are usually strictly liable for any dog bites, which means they are legally responsible regardless of how carefully they handled their dog or whether they knew the dog had a tendency to bite people. Strict liability attaches when the dog is in a public place or the victim has a legal right to be on the dog owner’s property.
In other situations—especially if the owners had a sign warning people of their dog’s presence—the owner might only be responsible if they were negligent in restraining their dog, such as by letting them wander off-leash or by not fixing loose boards in their fence.
Your medical bills and records are important pieces of evidence, so be sure to hold onto them. Medical records will show the severity of your injuries, and the bills are proof of economic losses you can receive compensation for. For example, you can be reimbursed for:
- Doctor’s visits
- Hospital stays
- Prescription drugs
- Equipment like bandages, braces, crutches, and wheelchairs
Keep everything in a big folder or scan the documents so you have digital copies. Your lawyer will want to see this information.
Take Pictures of Your Injuries
If you bring a lawsuit, a year might pass before you ever get to court. By that time, your wounds might have healed and bruising will have faded. Vivid color photographs will impress on the jury that you have suffered a serious injury. Ask a friend to take pictures from many different angles.
Contact a Dog Bite Lawyer
Dog bite law is complicated, and only an experienced attorney can analyze the circumstances and advise you of your rights. The Florida attorneys at Earnhart Law are here to help.