Florida is one of the states with the highest number of deadly dog attacks, according to a recent report in the Tampa Sun-Times. Five people in Florida died as a result of injuries sustained by dog attack in 2014, according to the website Dogbite.org. Only Texas reported a higher number of fatal attacks involving dogs.
More than 500 Florida residents are bitten severely enough by dogs to require medical treatment each year, according to an article published by The Florida Bar Journal. Many of the victims of dog attacks are children, particularly young boys, who try to play with dogs and do not recognize the animal’s signs of aggression, fear or agitation.
Earlier this year, an 18-month-old toddler playing on the porch of his grandparents’ home in Hernando County was mauled to death by two family dogs, the Tampa Bay Times reported. His grandfather tried to pull the dogs away, but the boy died of his injuries.
Injuries caused by dog attacks account for approximately a third of all homeowners’ insurance claims. A newly released analysis of claims data by the Insurance Information Institute found that the average cost of a dog bite claim paid out was $32,072 in 2014, a 15 percent increase from the previous year.
The average cost per claim has risen 67 percent from 2003 to 2014 because of higher medical costs, the size of the settlements, judgments and jury awards given to those who have been harmed, the Insurance Information Institute says.
In addition to causing puncture wounds, dogs may knock down a child, an elderly person or a cyclist, causing them to sustain a fracture or broken bone that increase the severity of their losses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 885,000 people require medical treatment for dog bites each year and more than half are children. Two thirds of dog bite injuries to children occur to the head and neck, the American Humane Association reports.
The most dangerous dogs are those bred to foster viciousness and animals that are poorly trained or mistreated. But any dog can bite.
Florida holds dog owners legally responsible for injuries inflicted by their animal in public and on their own property, even if the dog has not shown vicious tendencies previously. A dog owner’s responsibility may be reduced if the owner had posted an easily visible “Dangerous Dog” warning sign on their property or the bite victim provoked the animal into attacking.
In Florida, posting a sign that says “Beware of Dog” or “Dangerous Dog” does not relieve a dog owner of liability when the victim of the dog bite or attack is a under the age of six.
Dog attacks may leave serious injuries and require surgery including plastic surgery to repair the damage. In 2014, approximately 28,500 reconstructive surgeries were performed to repair injuries caused by dog attacks, according to the American Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery. Some victims suffer post-traumatic stress disorder after a dog attack and require ongoing therapy even after their physical wounds have healed.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a dog owned by another person, it’s important to talk to a Tampa dog bite lawyer about your legal rights. You may be entitled to compensation from the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance to cover your medical bills and other expenses.