Q: My neighbor’s dog bit me. What should I do?
You need immediate help from the Animal Control officers in the County where you were bitten. In Brevard County, the phone number to call is (321) 633-2024. Animal Control will investigate the attack and determine if the dog has been properly vaccinated. Animal Control will perform a thorough investigation and will most likely issue citations. Their written report will later be invaluable if litigation is to follow.
“Pictures” are crucial. Document your injuries by taking many photographs. If a family member or friend can photograph the dog and the scene where the attack occurred, these too may help.
A dog owner in Florida rarely has a defense in court. Dog owners are “strictly liable” for injuries caused by their dog which basically means they usually have no way to win the case. There are a few exceptions that might apply that need to be discussed with a lawyer (e.g. you were a “trespasser”).
I have handled countless dog bite cases. The single biggest challenge is in discovering “insurance” to pay for your damages. Oftentimes, the dog owner’s “Homeowner’s Insurance” will pay but not everyone carries Homeowner’s Insurance (or Renter’s Insurance). Further, many insurance policies today have specific “exclusions” for animal bites and will not cover a dog bite case like yours. Still others may cover animal bites in general but exclude coverage for certain “breeds” (e.g. Pit Bull, German Shepherd, etc.). It is critical that a lawyer carefully review any applicable policy of insurance.
My criterion for accepting a dog bite case is evidence of a serious injury (e.g. permanent scarring, surgery, infection, mental injury, etc.) and applicable insurance coverage insuring the dog’s owner. A free consultation is usually the best way to determine if your case is worth pursuing and remember that bites involving “minors” can be particularly challenging and require an experienced attorney to protect the child’s future if there is a monetary recovery.