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How Insurance Companies Devalue or Deny Valid Dog Bite Claims

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Posted on March 28, 2023

Florida’s strict liability dog bite law states that a dog owner will be held liable (financially responsible) for damages suffered by persons bitten, even if the owner was not negligent. As a dog bite injury victim, you do not have to prove that the pet owner knew or reasonably should have known about the dog’s propensity for viciousness to qualify for compensation. You may, however, have to contend with one or more defenses. Choosing to hire a Tampa dog bite lawyer can help you prepare for whatever defenses the insurance company will bring.


Every property owner in Florida has a legal obligation to ensure the reasonable safety of his or her premises. The doctrine of premises liability law holds property owners and controllers responsible for injuries that occur on dangerous premises. However, trespassers – people who do not have permission to be on a property – are not owed any duties of care by property owners.

Florida’s dog bite statute (Florida Statutes Section 767.04) also has an exception for trespassers. It states that the strict dog bite liability doctrine will only apply while the person is “on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog.” If you did not have permission to enter a pet owner’s private property, this could be used as a defense to your dog bite claim.

Negligence on the Part of the Victim

The dog bite law also states that negligence on the part of the person bitten can reduce the pet owner’s liability if it is proven as a proximate cause of the biting incident. In this situation, the victim’s financial recovery can be reduced by an amount equivalent to the percentage of his or her comparative negligence. Florida Statutes Section 768.81 states that a claimant’s contributory fault diminishes his or her financial compensation proportionately but will not bar recovery.


The owner of the dog that bit you may allege that you provoked or instigated the attack. The pet owner may assert that you poked, prodded, injured or annoyed the dog, and that this was why you were bitten. This is a more common defense in dog bite injury claims that are based on negligence (the pet owner’s failure to use reasonable care to prevent the attack) than strict liability claims.

Assumption of Risk

Florida’s dog bite law includes a caveat to pet owner liability. It states that the owner is not liable in cases where the pet owner had a sign that included the words “Bad Dog” displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises at the time of the incident. This exception does not apply to an injured victim under the age of six or if the injuries were caused by a negligent act or omission by the dog owner.

Pubic Service Dog

The dog bite liability law in Florida only applies to private dogs, not service dogs working for the public. If the dog that bit you was performing tasks within its work as a police K-9 or law enforcement dog, the government may not be responsible for your medical bills and losses. However, it may be possible to prove that the police used unreasonable force in employing a police dog against you or that you were attacked as a non-suspect. A personal injury lawyer can help you protect your rights after being bitten by a police dog.

Injured in a Dog Attack? Get Help From an Attorney

Several defenses could be raised to fight liability for your dog bite injury claim in Tampa. The best way to preserve your rights is to hire a lawyer to represent you throughout the legal process. A lawyer will have knowledge of Florida’s dog bite laws and how to effectively navigate them. Your lawyer will also be prepared to argue against any defenses raised to liability for your injury by the dog owner or his or her attorney. Discuss how a lawyer can help with your particular case during a free consultation at Vanguard Attorneys.