Luckily for victims of dog attacks, in Florida, dog owners are generally strictly liable for injuries inflicted by their animals, as well as damage to property caused by their dogs. §767.01, Florida Statutes, very plainly states:
In addition, the Florida Legislature passed §767.04, which states:
If a dog bites someone in a public place, the dog owner is strictly liable for any damage the dog causes – regardless of the owners’ knowledge or lack of knowledge of the dog’s propensity to bite. Strict liability means that the victim does not have to prove that the dog owner was negligent. An example of this kind of liability would be if a jogger was jogging down his street and a dog ran out of someone’s yard and bit the jogger, the owner of the dog would be responsible for the any damages suffered by the jogger – from medical bills, to lost wages, to pain and suffering. The only defense available to the dog owner is if the dog owner can prove that the jogger was somehow negligent in his interaction with dog – for example, if the jogger somehow provoked the dog.
The law changes slightly if the dog bite occurs on private property. Dog owners are not strictly liable on private property, as long as the dog owner has previously posted a “Bad Dog” sign somewhere on his property. A “Bad Dog” sign does not totally absolve the dog owner, however. The dog owner can still be held liable if the victim can show that the dog owner was somehow negligent in the handling of the dog. For example, a dog owner would be negligent if she knew that her dog had bitten several mail carriers in the past, but still let her dog run loose on the property during time that the mail was due to arrive.
If a dog owner has actual knowledge of his dog’s dangerous propensities, the dog owner can even face criminal liability, and the dog may face permanent quarantine or worse. See §767.13, Florida Statutes.