Florida Keys Legal

If a dog bites a person, is the owner liable for doctor’s bills?

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If a dog bites a person, is the owner liable for doctor’s bills?

In general, the answer to this question is “yes.” An owner of a dog or any animal may be held liable for the injuries that his or her animal causes to others. However, the ease with which a plaintiff can win a “dog-bite” lawsuit differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction depends on the legal theory of recovery in the plaintiff’s location. Some jurisdictions require plaintiffs to show that the animal owner knew, or should have known, that the animal was inclined to attack or bite. In other jurisdictions, the plaintiff may only need to show negligence on the part of the owner in order to recover money for injuries. If a wild animal, such as a lion, bear or monkey, injures the plaintiff, the animal’s owner may be held accountable under a theory of strict liability for plaintiff’s injuries regardless of the plaintiff’s conduct.

Some states have “dog-bite” statutes designed to address these matters. In additional, some municipalities may have their own statutes to address the responsibility of pet owners to answer for the actions of their pets.

If the plaintiff is an adult, the owner of an animal may offer as a defense to the plaintiff’s claim that the injured party provoked the animal. Where the plaintiff has been given clear warning that an animal should not be approached, petted or talked to, and still proceeds with that action, the owner may be able to avoid responsibility if the animal thereafter attacks the plaintiff. This defense is not available, however, if the plaintiff is a child.

When the plaintiff has established that the animal owner is liable for his or her injuries, the plaintiff must also establish the amount of his or her damages. The plaintiff should introduce evidence, such as doctor and hospital bills, showing the costs to treat the injury. In addition, the plaintiff may be able to recover lost wages if the injury kept the plaintiff out of work. The plaintiff is entitled to compensation for any permanent disability caused by the injury, as well as compensation for pain and suffering.