What Do You Do if You're Attacked by an Animal?

In Florida, the vast majority of animal attacks involve dogs. Unfortunately, although many pets will never attack someone, chances are that you know someone who was attacked and bitten by a dog or other pet. And, unlike car accidents, the law places added responsibility on pet owners to hold them accountable for their actions.

Here are three things you should do if you’ve been attacked by an animal.

Find out who the owner is / who is responsible for the animal.

In Florida (with few exceptions), under Section 767.04, Florida Statutes, dog owners are strictly liable (responsible) if their dog attacks you. So if you are at a local park and a dog attacks you, the owner is responsible.

If you have been attacked, it is important that you find out who is watching the animal as well as who the owner is, as you could potentially have claims against both; the owner because he or she is strictly liable for their pet; and the person in charge of the animal for allowing it to attack you in the first place.

Seek medical treatment.

Seeking medical treatment immediately should be your first priority due to the risk of infection. If you do not have health insurance, the animal owner’s homeowner’s insurance may have medical payments coverage (usually several thousand dollars) that can reimburse you for the treatment you receive.

Keep in mind, if the homeowner’s insurance does have medical payments coverage available, it will only reimburse you after you have received the medical treatment and not before. Emergency rooms cannot turn you away, but follow-up treatment with a specialist will have to be paid by you or your own health insurance before you can seek reimbursement from the homeowner’s insurance.

Bring a claim against the responsible party or their homeowners insurance.

If you have been attacked by an animal, you can bring a claim against the animal’s owner to compensate you for any medical bills you have incurred, as well as a claim for pain and suffering caused by your injuries. Obviously, this will vary greatly depending on the severity of your injuries. If the attack leaves you with permanent injuries or scars, you will also be entitled to bring a claim for future medical treatment.

Unfortunately, many home owners’ insurance policies specifically exclude coverage for injuries caused by dogs. In these circumstances, no matter how severe your injuries may be, there will be no insurance coverage available to compensate you or help pay your medical bills. That will leave you with no other option than to pursue a claim directly against the owner.

What will happen to the animal?

Even if there is no insurance to compensate you for your injuries, Florida law does take steps to ensure that an animal who has attacked someone is classified and monitored to help reduce the chances that such an attack can occur again. Under Section 767.12, Florida Statutes, once a dog has been reported for attacking someone, a lengthy process takes place whereby the State may determine that a dog is considered dangerous. Any dog that is considered dangerous will need to be registered and properly controlled from then on.

If you or a loved one have been attacked by an animal, call the attorneys at Michles & Booth for a free consultation.


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