If you went through the traumatizing experience of a dog attack, you have plenty to worry about without dealing with paperwork or legal claims. You should be able to focus on recovering from your injuries. More importantly, you have the right to hire a Port Richey dog bite lawyer that will protect your legal rights.
If you wait too long to file a claim, file improperly, or file against the wrong defendant or under the wrong insurance policy, you can receive a denial. This could prevent you from getting the compensation that you legally deserve.
The sooner you hire an injury lawyer to fight on your side, the better protected your legal rights will be. The experienced Port Richey dog bite lawyers at Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers are here to answer all your questions about dog attacks.
When To Contact a Lawyer About a Dog Bite in Port Richey?
The sooner you have a lawyer on your side, the better! Anything you say - even at the accident scene - can be used against you by the insurance company. Once they receive notification that you have a lawyer, they are no longer allowed to contact you about the accident. All communications must go through your attorney’s office.
Your attorney also takes other important steps to protect your legal rights. Dog bite lawyers preserve critical evidence, such as veterinary records or surveillance footage that might otherwise disappear. There are many things a lawyer does to protect your legal rights. If you wait to hire an attorney, it could be too late, and you could miss out on the compensation that you deserve. The best Port Richey dog bite lawyers are right here at the Nicoletti Law Firm.
What Law Says About Dog Bites in Port Richey
In any injury case, you must prove that the defendant is legally responsible (liable) for causing your injuries. For example, a car accident case usually depends on proving a driver’s negligence. You must prove which driver is at fault for the accident to determine which driver must pay for the others’ injuries. In a dog bite case, the victim generally files an injury claim against the dog owner.
There are four main methods of proving liability in a dog bite case:
Some states require dog bite victims to prove that the owner should have known the dog was likely to bite, and refer to these as one free bite laws. The first time a dog bites, the owner has no prior knowledge of this tendency, so the first dog bite victim has a hard time proving their case. It is only the second time that the owner “should have known” the dog was likely to bite.
The Florida dog bite statute does not follow this rule. Dog bite victims can hold owners liable regardless of whether a dog has ever bitten before. This is known as a “strict liability” rule. If the bite occurs in a public place, or if the victim was lawfully on private property when the dog bit, the owner is liable for the victim’s damages.
The Florida statute does allow owners to get around the “strict liability” rule by posting a sign on their property. If the words “bad dog” are clearly readable, then the owner is not strictly liable for dog bite injuries (unless the victim is under the age of six). But even if the owner has posted a “bad dog” sign, he or she can still be liable for dog bite injuries. The victim must prove that the owner committed some act of negligence.
For example, an owner might leave a backyard gate open, and the dog can escape and bite the victim. These acts of negligence allow a dog bite victim to hold an owner liable for their injuries - even when the strict liability rule does not apply.
Negligence Per Se
Negligence per se occurs when a person violates a safety law. In dog bite cases, this could mean that the owner did not leash the dog where required, or failed to get the dog’s mandatory shots, or broke some other rule that aims to protect others from the dog. Evidence that a dog owner broke a safety rule (or law) makes a strong dog bite case.
Though not common, there are some cases where dog owners intentionally inflict injury on a victim. The owner might train a dog to attack on command. The owner might purposely provoke the dog to attack someone they do not like. These intentional actions are “intentional torts.”
If you can prove that a dog owner intentionally caused an attack, you have a very strong case. There are not many defenses a dog owner can raise that will excuse the choice to intentionally cause harm to a victim.
The Losses You Suffer From a Dog Bite in Port Richey
A liable dog owner must compensate you for all the losses you suffer - both financial and emotional - as a result of a dog bite. Many losses might not even occur to you. Our Port Richey dog bite lawyers know how to prove the fair value of all the losses you suffer after being bitten by a dog. Here are some of the most common:
If you miss any time from work due to your dog bite, you have the right to be paid for your lost wages. This includes bonuses, overtime, commissions, and other forms of employment compensation. If you earn wages at an hourly rate, your employer can provide documentation of the number of hours missed and what your hourly rate of pay is. Multiplying these numbers gives you the value of your lost wages. (If you receive a salary, you can prorate your pay based on a forty-hour workweek.)
You could also lose employment benefits if you are out of work for an extended period. You might also seek compensation for your employer’s contributions to health insurance premiums, retirement accounts, and other benefits that are part of your overall compensation.
There are many different medical bills you could incur as a result of dog bite injuries. Ambulance bills, emergency room bills, inpatient hospitalization and surgery, consultations with specialists, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and follow-up visits with your primary care doctor are all related to your dog bites. In some cases, these bills go on for years. It could take a long time to address your pain and discomfort in physical therapy. You might also have to go back for skin grafts, cosmetic procedures, or orthopedic surgery to reset broken bones. All of these bills are related to your injuries.
Pain and Suffering
It might surprise you to learn that pain and suffering is the largest component of most personal injury awards. You are entitled to compensation for all the intangible ways in which your injuries affect your life. Perhaps you are no longer able to do your normal exercise routine. Maybe you have to give up a beloved hobby - if you were an avid outdoorsman, you might have to spend more time indoors after receiving skin grafts.
In addition to lost wages, being unable to work has emotional losses, as well. You lose a sense of pride in a job well done and a sense of accomplishment in advancing your career. Then there are the more immediate losses. If, for example, your injuries are so painful that you cannot sleep, it can affect your life in many ways. You will be tired and irritable. This, in turn, can affect your relationships with friends and family members. All of these are very real losses.
Insurance companies fight back hard against pain and suffering awards. They often claim that your losses aren’t “that bad” or that others with your injuries do not get very much compensation for pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is incredibly subjective. Each person experiences it differently, and no two cases are the same. You are entitled to compensation for your unique losses. Our skilled injury lawyers know how to document and prove all your losses - even the intangible ones that are difficult to value with a dollar amount.
Like all personal injury claims, dog bite claims have a statute of limitations. This means that you might not finish with your medical treatment by the time your case resolves. You should still receive compensation for all the losses you will suffer in the future due to your injuries.
Our legal team works with experts to make accurate estimates of your future medical expenses. Your ongoing pain and suffering might be difficult to value, but you deserve compensation for the years of ongoing discomfort you could suffer because of your injuries. If the insurance company refuses to make a fair settlement offer for this pain and suffering, you have the right to let a jury decide what it is fairly worth.
You can also demand compensation for your future lost wages. This might be for a specific time frame—for example, if your doctors estimate that you may to go back to work one year after your case resolves, then your attorney will prove the value of one years’ worth of income. In the case of permanent injuries, your lost wages might be a permanent decrease in your future earning capacity.
If, for instance, you are only able to work part-time after the accident, then you should get compensation for the difference between your part-time wages and your full-time wages. If you are permanently unable to return to any type of gainful employment, then you deserve compensation for all the wages you would have earned between the time of the accident and the time of your expected date of retirement.
Special Rules for Child Victims
Children are especially vulnerable to dog bite injuries. Young children often do not understand that their behavior can provoke a dog and cause it to act aggressively. They are unable to read warning signs and unable to protect themselves the way that adults can.
Florida dog bite law has special provisions for injury victims who are under the age of six:
Children under the age of six cannot be negligent in dog bite cases.
Florida is a comparative negligence state. This means that each party pays for only the damages that he or she causes. For example, in a car accident, a driver and a bike rider might each be fifty percent negligent in causing a crash. If the biker suffers injuries, he may only collect fifty percent of his total damages from the driver because that was the amount of the driver’s fault. This rule applies in dog bite injury cases, too.
Suppose a jury found that an owner was fifty percent liable for failing to control her dog, but the injury victim was fifty percent liable for provoking the dog to bite. In this case, the injury victim would only be able to recover half of the total value of his losses from the owner.
Florida case law sets out that children under the age of six are not capable of committing the acts of negligence that lead to dog bites. This means that insurance companies and juries cannot apportion any fault to them. If the child is over the age of six, it is up to a jury to determine whether the child could understand the risk and avoid it. In dog bite cases, a child’s parent can also be partly at fault for failing to properly supervise the child. This, too, reduces the damages that a victim can recover from the owner. Owners are only liable for the portion of damages that they cause.
“Beware of Dog” signs do not prevent liability if the victim is younger than six.
As we have seen, a dog owner can avoid strict liability by posting a “bad dog” sign on his or her property. But this does not help young children who cannot read the sign and who are likely too young to understand the danger anyway. Dog owners still face strict liability when their pets bite children under the age of six - regardless of whether they have posted a “bad dog” sign. This law encourages dog owners to take extra precautions to prevent their pets from biting small children.
Port Richey Dog Bite FAQs
It can be difficult to know what to do after a dog bite. Once you deal with police and first responders, you will have to deal with medical staff, only to later have to deal with the insurance company. The experienced Port Richey dog bite lawyers at Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers handle all the paperwork and fight for your legal rights.
Below, our attorneys provide answers to some of the most common questions we get about dog bite cases. Understanding dog bite cases will help you feel less overwhelmed and better prepared for what will happen with your injury claim. Learn more about Florida dog bite cases:
What If the Dog Has Never Bit Someone Before?
Different states address this issue in different ways. In some states, a dog owner cannot be liable for a dog bite if the dog has never had a bite incident before because the owner did not know about the dog’s dangerous tendencies. These are sometimes called “one free bite” states. After a single bite, the owner knows that his or her dog does bite and must prevent it from happening again.
Florida follows a stricter rule. Dog owners do not get “one free bite” - the first time a dog bites, its owner can be held liable for the injuries it causes. Your lawyer will not have to provide evidence that the dog has bitten before or that it has dangerous tendencies. The owner can be found negligent simply for letting the dog bite even once. This makes it easier for dog bite victims to file injuries claims and get fair compensation for all the losses they suffer.
What if the Owner Accuses Me of Provoking the Dog?
Florida injury laws follow rules of “comparative negligence.” This means that each party to an accident case is liable for the portion of the damage that he or she caused. For example, in a car accident case, two drivers could each be equally at fault for causing the crash, and each person shares fault 50/50. This means that each driver can only recover half of the total value of their losses from the other driver’s insurance company.
So how does this work in dog bite cases? If a person provokes a dog before it bites, they could be at fault for causing their own injuries. If the injury victim was one hundred percent at fault, he or she would not be able to get any compensation from the dog’s owner. But if the injury victim was only twenty percent at fault, they could still recover compensation from the dog’s owner. The owner would be liable for his or her portion of fault (in this example, eighty percent of the total value).
Insurance companies often try to blame the victim to get out of paying claims. Just because a dog owner or claims adjuster says you were at fault does not make it so. An experienced dog bite lawyer knows how to prove exactly who was at fault. In some cases, this might be a matter of proving that the owner was entirely liable. In other cases, your lawyer might agree that you were partly at fault for provoking the dog, but negotiate your liability down to a smaller portion. There are many different legal strategies for addressing this complex issue.
What if the Dog Owner Claims You Were Trespassing?
Trespassing is another defense to dog bite cases. A trespasser can be found one hundred percent at fault for their dog bite injuries if they were trespassing at the time of the bite incident. Even in this case, it is still important to consult with an injury lawyer about your case. Many circumstances can still allow you to receive compensation.
What if the owner did not clearly mark his property line? What if the owner specifically trained the dog to go after people in a violent manner? What if the vicious dog was off the property, and you initially entered the property to avoid it? These are just some of the many circumstances that could still allow you to claim compensation for dog bite injuries, even if you were technically trespassing at the time.
What if the Owner Has a “Bad Dog” Sign?
The Florida dog bite statute allows dog owners to avoid liability for bites in certain cases by posting a sign on their property. The sign must clearly read “bad dog.” The sign will not prevent liability if the victim is a child under the age of six (who is most likely unable to read the warning). Dog owners can still be liable if they are negligent in other ways. If, for example, an owner allowed his dog to wander into neighboring yards, this would be negligent, and the warning on the owners’ property would be unhelpful. Be sure to advise your dog bite lawyer if you ever saw a “bad dog” notice on the owner’s property.
Can a Landlord Be Liable if a Tenant’s Dog Bites?
Dog bites are a common problem in crowded apartment complexes. The proximity can cause dogs to become territorial and bite other tenants. In certain cases, the landlord can also be liable for these bites, in addition to the dog’s owner.
Here are some situations that can lead to landlord liability for dog bites:
- The landlord knows that a tenant has a dangerous dog and fails to take reasonable precautions to protect other tenants from it. (For example, by posting warning signs, or requiring the owner to leash the dog any time it is outdoors.)
- The landlord prohibits pets in written lease agreements, but fails to enforce this rule and is aware that there are dogs on his property.
- The landlord fails to intervene after being notified of a prior dog bite incident.
It is important to find every potential defendant in a personal injury case. If you do not find all the people who are legally responsible for your injuries, you could miss out on the compensation that you need and deserve.
What If I have Permanent Disabilities As a Result of a Dog Bite?
Some dog bites cause very serious injuries.
Not all injuries heal completely:
- Irreversible nerve damage can lead to paralysis.
- Very serious infections - a common complication of dog bites - can lead to amputation.
- Even relatively minor dog bites can lead to soft tissue damage that can limit your range of motion or leave you in pain for years after the initial bite.
You should seek compensation for these permanent injuries. Fair compensation includes the value of all your future medical care. It also includes any decreases in your future earning capacity. If, for example, you can only work part-time after the accident, then you have the right to receive the difference between your part-time wages and your full-time wages. If you are unable to ever work again, you should receive compensation for all the wages you would have earned between the time of the accident and your expected date of retirement.
These tangible financial losses are not the only losses a person suffers as a result of a permanent injury. There is a lifetime of pain and suffering that your claim should account for. If, for example, you have paralysis due to an attack, you will miss out on everything from your favorite sports to dancing at a child’s wedding. If you lose a limb, you might be unable to play your beloved piano or hold your own children in your arms.
These are very real and very painful losses. Insurance companies tend to devalue pain and suffering and dismiss it as intangible. The reality is that juries understand these painful losses. A fair settlement offer must account for the value of your future pain and suffering, in addition to the pain and suffering you have already endured.
What If I Have Permanent Scars or Other Disfigurements?
Dog bite injuries almost always cause damage to the skin. Even if the bite was not very deep and you do not have any internal injuries, the bite is likely to cause some amount of scarring and possibly even disfigurement. You should seek compensation for this damage.
The value of scarring and disfigurement in a personal injury claim varies greatly. Scarring could permanently damage your job opportunities. But even people whose work is not affected by dog bite scars still deserve compensation.
A scar is a permanent change that you have to live with. Every time you see it, it serves as a reminder of a traumatizing accident. It can make you feel insecure or self-conscious. These are very real losses, and insurance companies should fully compensate for them in a personal injury claim.
What Is the Fair Value of My Port Richey Dog Bite Injury Case?
So what is the fair value of a Port Richey dog bite injury case? This depends on how much a jury is likely to award you after a trial. Insurance companies make settlement offers to avoid litigation. A fair settlement offer should, therefore, be comparable to what a jury would likely award you.
Many factors can affect the “trial value” of your case. Some of the most common are:
- How egregious the defendant’s conduct was
- How visible your injuries are
- How painful your injuries were
- How much your life changed due to your injuries
- How sympathetic each party appears
- How reasonable each party appears
- Where the accident occurred
- Where the jurors are from
- Each juror’s individual feelings about dogs
As you can see, many things affect a jury’s opinions on your case. Many of these factors are not under your control. You will not, for example, be able to exclude all dog lovers from your jury. This lack of control means that you take a risk when you decide to reject a settlement and take your case to trial.
If the settlement offer seems better than the risk you face at trial, your attorney will likely recommend that you take a settlement offer. This cost-benefit analysis is different in every case. Get an opinion from our experienced Port Richey dog bite lawyers about the unique circumstances of your case.
Will I Have to Go to Court for my Port Richey Dog Bite Injury Case?
The vast majority of personal injury cases in the United States settle out of court. While it is not likely that your case will have to proceed all the way to trial, it is still possible, and your lawyer will thoroughly prepare you for any court appearances that are required. It is also important to understand that filing a lawsuit against the dog owner does not automatically mean that you will have to appear in court.
Sometimes, the mere act of filing a complaint is enough to get the insurance company to make a fair settlement offer. Whether you have to go to court or not, your Port Richey dog bite lawyer will be sure to prepare you for what is happening at every step of your case.
Contact Our Experienced Port Richey Dog Bite Lawyers
The best Port Richey dog bite lawyers are right here at Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers. Our Port Richey personal injury attorneys have years of experience, and we fight hard after you suffer dog bite injuries. You deserve fair compensation for all of your injuries and losses. Clients across Florida trust our legal team to protect their important legal rights.
Call (727) 845-5972 or contact us online for your free consultation. Don’t delay—the sooner you have an experienced Port Richey dog bite lawyer on your side, the better we can protect your legal rights.
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