West Palm Beach Dog Bite Attorneys
Like citizens all across the nation, those in West Palm Beach enjoy spending time with their dogs; there are currently over 90 million dogs living in homes with their human owners in the United States.
The beach accesses in West Palm Beach do not provide the dog-friendly access of Boca Raton or Jupiter. Still, the city has four off-leash dog parks for use by residents and those on vacation with their pets, as well as another four close to West Palm Beach.
Whether a dog attacked you while enjoying time with your own dog at Dreher Park, at one of the many dog-friendly shops, or a private residence in West Palm Beach, we don’t need to tell you how expensive and traumatic this type of injury is. What we can tell you, however, is that dog bite victims can seek compensation for the financial and psychological impacts of their injury.
An experienced West Palm Beach dog bite lawyer from Shiner Law Group can help. Focused 100 percent on helping the victims of all types of personal injury accidents, we pride ourselves on the quality and dedication we provide to our clients. At Shiner Law Group, we love our canine companions; we also understand, however, that a negligent dog owner puts the rest of our community at risk.
Contact us for a free case evaluation to learn more about the process of obtaining compensation after being bitten by a dog in West Palm Beach.
A Bit of Information About Dog Bites
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 4.5 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year. Of those bites, approximately 800,000 will require medical care. In Florida, dog bites injure more than 1,200 people each year.
This means that for every 100,000 people living in Florida, six will file a claim seeking compensation for injuries incurred by a biting dog in any given year. This makes dog bites a relatively common injury in Florida. Dogs injure more people in Florida than in other highly populated states like California or Texas. That figure is still less than the national average of 6.8 people filing dog bite injury claims out of every 100,000 residents.
The average cost of a dog bite claim in Florida is around $43,893. While this is lower than the average cost of a claim in the state a few years ago, it is several thousand dollars more than the national average for dog bite claims.
In all, homeowners’ insurance pays about $797 million on claims in the U.S. each year to compensate individuals for dog bite injuries. About half of all dog bites occur at home and the victims are either owners or children who live in the home with the dog or are very familiar with the dog.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of dog bites in the U.S. increased about 300 percent over normal levels. Some reasons for this dramatic increase include children being home all day and around family pets, and pets experiencing some of the stress that their owners went through.
Why Do Dogs Bite?
You have probably heard the statement: Any dog will bite under some circumstances.
Dogs bite people because:
- They are under stress.
- The dog feels scared or threatened.
- The dog is trying to protect itself, its owners, or its puppies.
- The dog isn’t feeling well or it has been startled.
- The dog is used to engaging in rough play, including nipping or biting.
- The dog has not been neutered, which is known to reduce aggression in male dogs.
- The dog was chained outdoors. Chained dogs account for about a quarter of all dog bites.
While much is made about certain breeds of dogs biting more than other breeds, the truth is that in about 20 percent of all dog bite cases, individuals and officials could not identify the breed of the dog.
Who Are Dogs Most Likely to Bite in West Palm Beach?
Children under the age of 10 are the most common victims of dog bites, and boys are more likely to be bitten than girls. There are several reasons for this, mostly involving the inability of a child to understand what constitutes rough play or how to properly pet or approach dogs in a manner that will not be startling or threatening to the dog.
Often, dogs bite children with unsupervised access to the animal. Dogs will commonly bite the same child in a household more than once, with the aggression of the attack increasing with each incident.
Postal employees also are often the victims of biting dogs. There are more than 5,000 postal employees bitten by dogs each year.
The Types of Injuries Caused by Animal Attacks
Damage to the skin is one of the most common injuries in an animal attack, including punctures, areas where the skin is completely torn away, cuts, scrapes, and bruises. Where these injuries occur depends on the size of the person and their position when the attack occurred.
Children most often suffer injuries to the head or neck area, as their smaller size places those areas of the body closest to the dog’s face. Dogs commonly bite individuals who are sitting or lying down in the face or neck. This can damage the eyes or teeth.
Other injuries that occur from a dog bite include:
- Muscle strains and sprains and other soft tissue injuries.
- Broken bones.
- Psychological effects from the trauma of the attack.
- Nerve damage that can result in mobility issues and other permanent deficits.
Common Complications from Dog Bites
While scarring and disfigurement are always a concern after a serious bite, particularly for wounds involving the face, the most serious complication that can arise from a dog bite is infection. About half of all dog bites introduce dangerous bacteria into the skin, including tetanus, staphylococcus, streptococcus and pasteurella, and capnocytophaga. Unvaccinated dogs leave victims at increased risk of rabies, a fatal viral infection that causes inflammation of the brain.
A medical professional should evaluate:
- Redness or swelling around the wound.
- Pain that lasts longer than 24 hours.
- Drainage from the wound.
- Difficulty moving the affected part of the body.
- The skin around the wound is warm to the touch.
- Fever, shaking, or night sweats.
Untreated infections resulting from dog bites can cause a potentially fatal condition known as sepsis. Signs of sepsis include:
- A higher or lower than normal body temperature.
- Confusion or disorientation.
- Extreme sleepiness during the day or after the individual has obtained ample amounts of sleep.
- Severe pain or discomfort.
Can People Die from Dog Bite Injuries?
Yes. A 13-year study in the U.S. looked at 433 dog bite fatalities. Of those cases, more than half involved a victim under the age of 10 and about 48 percent were under the age of 9, showing the higher risk that children face when dealing with potentially dangerous dogs. Of the dogs involved in these fatal attacks, pit bulls were the breed most commonly associated. Rottweilers were the second-leading cause of fatal dog bites to children.
About 75 percent of the bites involved unneutered dogs. Most fatal dog bites involve more than one dog.
About one in five dog owners whose animals were involved in a fatal attack will face criminal charges related to the attack. In Florida, dog owners are less likely to be criminally charged if their dog fatally injures a person than the national average.
Florida Laws Regarding Dog Bites
All states in the U.S. create and enforce different dog bite laws. There are two common ways of addressing liability (legal responsibility) in a dog bite case: the one-bite rule, or strict liability. The one-bite rule holds a dog owner liable for the injuries caused by his or her dog only if he or she knew or had reason to know that the dog was capable of aggression. The simplest way to know this is if the dog had bitten someone before, which is why it is called the one-bite rule.
Strict liability, which is the doctrine that Florida follows in our dog bite laws, holds that the owner of the animal must pay for injuries to others that the animal caused, regardless of whether he or she knew or had reason to know that the animal would bite.
In Florida, dogs that have bitten and seriously injured people are dangerous. During an investigation into whether the classification is appropriate for the animal in question, law enforcement will either impound the dog or the owner must house the dog in a secure, enclosed area.
If the classification is given, the dog owner must house the dog permanently in a properly secured structure, register the dog with the city, and prove they kept the dog up-to-date on its vaccinations. Additionally, if the dog is sold, given away, or dies, the owner must furnish this information—along with contact information for the new owner, if applicable.
Florida’s dog attack laws only cover bites. However, if a dog injures you in another, manner such as knocking you down, you may seek compensation from a negligent dog owner who failed to properly restrain the dog.
Potential Defenses to West Palm Beach Dog Bite Claims
Dog owners in Florida are not strictly liable for a bite in all circumstances.
Property owners, through their homeowner’s insurance policy carriers, may plead:
- Trespassing: For the owner to bear liability for injuries the dog caused, the victim must not have been on the dog owner’s property without permission.
- The victim did something to cause the dog to bite, such as he or she teased or tormented the animal.
- The owner prominently placed a “beware of dog” sign near the dog. While this sign will not alleviate liability in dog bites involving a child under the age of six, the warning sign will make it difficult to find a dog owner liable for bites occurring to adults and children who are old enough to read and understand the sign.
If You Suffered a Dog Bite in West Palm Beach
Did a dog bite you in West Palm Beach? If so, an experienced dog bite attorney from Shiner Law Group can explain how you can obtain compensation for the expenses and quality-of-life impacts of your injury, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more.
Generally, you must file your lawsuit paperwork in court within four years of the date on which your bite occurred. You may recover your compensation through settlement or litigation.
Read on for answers to some of the questions our West Palm Beach clients ask most frequently about dog bite lawsuits in Florida. Direct questions about your specific case to our attorney during your free case evaluation.
Frequently Asked Questions About West Palm Beach Dog Bite Cases
The legal process of obtaining compensation after any accident commonly creates confusion for victims. Here are some points about Florida’s dog bite laws that you should know.
What do I have to prove to obtain compensation for my dog bite injuries?
Because dog bites in Florida are generally strict liability cases, you usually do not have to prove negligence as you would in other types of cases. However, you will have to show that you were on the property legally when the bite occurred and that you did not do anything to intentionally anger or provoke the dog.
Who pays dog bite claims?
The dog owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy compensates most dog bite victims. These policies generally cover dog bite claims up to the limits of the policy.
Most homeowner’s policies have limits of $100,000-300,000. Because of the expense of these claims, many insurance companies will not provide coverage for certain types of breeds, including pit bulls or Rottweilers. After a dog bite, the homeowner can expect the premiums he or she pays for insurance coverage to increase.
The average costs of dog bite claims in the nation have increased by more than 12 percent since the beginning of the century, mostly due to increases in the cost of medical care, more generous settlements, and larger jury awards for victims who file claims.
What can I recover after suffering a West Palm Beach dog bite?
Florida allows dog bite victims to seek both economic and non-economic damages. Recovering damages means obtaining compensation for the harm you suffered from the bite.
Economic damages refer to compensation for the expenses you incurred because of your injury, while non-economic damages refer to compensation you can obtain for the impacts that your injury has had on your quality of life.
Some common economic and non-economic damages to be recovered through a dog bite claim in West Palm Beach include:
- Medical expenses, such as the cost of your emergency treatment, ambulance transport, diagnostic testing, hospitalization, services provided by your physician or surgeon, physical therapy, and rehabilitation.
- Lost wages if your injury requires you to miss work.
- Loss of future earning capacity from permanent deficits that prevent you from earning what you did before the dog bite.
- Property damage related to the dog bite.
- Physical pain and suffering because of your injuries or the treatments they require.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life.
A vicious dog killed my child in West Palm Beach. Is there compensation available?
Individuals who have lost loved ones because of dog attacks in West Palm Beach can seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of their loss through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Generally, wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within two years after the death occurs and must be filed by a personal representative of the estate on behalf of the beneficiaries. The damages a wrongful death lawsuit can recover after a dog bite resulting in death include:
- Medical expenses that the family member or the estate paid to treat the deceased’s final injury.
- Reasonable funeral and burial or cremation expenses incurred directly by family members or by the estate.
- The loss of support and services that the deceased provided to his or her family members.
- The loss of the deceased’s companionship or protection.
- Mental pain and suffering.
- The loss of a parent’s companionship, instruction, and guidance.
- Lost wages and benefits that the estate would have accrued from the time of the injury to the time of death.
- The value of earnings and benefits the deceased would have reasonably earned had he or she not died.
After a dog bit my child, he or she became very fearful of animals. Can we get compensation?
It’s possible. Often, you can seek the recovery of non-economic damages, which refer to a payment made in compensation for the quality-of-life impacts the victim experienced because of the attack. Non-economic damages, though sometimes confusing to claimants because they do not come with an objective price tag, often make up a major part of dog bite claims.
Are certain breeds outlawed in West Palm Beach?
Palm Beach County’s Animal Care and Control division deals with between 2,000 and 2,500 animal complaints a year. However, unlike many places in the U.S. where selling specific dog breeds such as pit bulls is outlawed, Florida passed legislation in the 1990s that specifically prohibits the state’s counties and municipalities from enacting laws that target certain animal breeds.
Miami-Dade enacted a pit bull restriction before the state law prohibiting county and city governments from restricting breeds was on the books. It survived the state legislation and remains in place.
Does West Palm Beach require that dogs in public be muzzled or kept on a leash?
In 2015, Palm Beach County enacted leash laws that require dog owners in the county to keep their dogs on a leash in public except when the dog is at a dog park or a beach in which he or she is allowed to be off-leash. Hunting dogs are also exempt from the county regulations.
My friend’s dog bit me. If I file a lawsuit, will I have to testify against him or her in court?
We talk with many individuals who are reluctant to file a dog bite claim against a friend or family member who owns the dog. One important thought to include in your consideration of whether to file a claim is that you are not actually filing it against a neighbor or acquaintance personally, but against his or her homeowner’s insurance policy.
Your friend purchased this policy for just this situation: to pay for the harm that occurred because of an unmitigated hazard—in this case, an animal—that he or she was legally responsible for. It also helps many clients to understand that most dog bite cases in Florida involve strict liability, meaning you do not need to testify about your friend’s negligence in court.
In which cases must you prove that negligence resulted in a dog bite?
Florida does not usually hold owners strictly liable for harm caused by their dog if the victim of the bite was unlawfully on the property, provoking the dog, or the dog had perceived a threat to itself or others in its immediate vicinity. You may be required to prove negligence to prove liability for the expenses and impacts of your injury.
You prove negligence by establishing:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care refers to how a reasonable person would react in a given set of circumstances. A reasonable dog owner, for example, would keep his or her dog current on vaccinations, keep it in a secure environment, secured on a leash in all areas outside of the property that require leashes, and comply with all other state and local regulations concerning dog ownership.
- There was a breach in the duty of care. The breach refers to the actions that the at-fault party took that resulted in the dog biting you. For example, if a dog ran loose in your neighborhood and bit you, this would breach the duty of care, as Palm Beach County requires owners to restrain dogs with a leash when off their owner’s property.
- The breach resulted in the dog bite, which caused you to incur financial and psychological impacts.
Will I have to pay taxes on my dog bite settlement?
For the most part, no. According to the Internal Revenue Service, compensation for personal injury is not income and not taxable.
The exception to this rule is punitive damages. Florida courts may award punitive damages to punish a defendant for particularly egregious behavior. This includes when a dog owner intentionally caused or compelled his or her dog to bite someone.
Because punitive damages are not associated with the actual expenses or impacts that the victim incurred because of their injury, this portion of the award can be considered income and subject to tax.
If you deduct some or all of your expenses on your income tax return and later obtain compensation for medical expenses, you must repay the IRS what you deducted.
I can’t afford an attorney. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to file my claim on my own?
Many times, people who fear the cost of an attorney decide that they will avoid those costs by pursuing compensation on their own. Often, they will endure the stress of understanding the legal process, dealing directly with an insurance adjuster, and potentially losing thousands of dollars of compensation that they either don’t realize they deserve or that they don’t know how to prove.
An experienced dog bite attorney not only understands the seriousness of injuries suffered in dog attacks and the dire importance of being compensated for the expenses and impacts those injuries cause, but also the process of seeking compensation through either settlement negotiations or litigation.
We ensure access to legal counsel for everyone, regardless of finances.
- A free case evaluation, when you meet an attorney and obtain answers to your legal questions as well as learning more about the process of filing a claim.
- A contingency fee payment arrangement. You do not pay for your attorney’s representation unless there is a positive outcome to your case.
We can help you recover damages from a West Palm Beach dog bite injury through:
- Determining all sources of liability and all applicable insurance policies that can provide compensation.
- Establishing a value to your case based on the expenses and psychological impacts you have already incurred because of your injury as well as those you will likely face.
- Skilled negotiations with the at-fault party’s insurance provider in an attempt to obtain a fair settlement offer.
- The collection of evidence and witness testimony to prove your claim in court.
- Litigating your case.
- Assistance collecting your settlement or award.