Dog knocking his owner over while playing

Dog bites commonly result in legal consequences for the dog owner. But did you know that dogs cause people injury often by knocking them down? If you were knocked over by an overly friendly, boisterous, out-of-control dog, and suffered broken bones, concussion, or other types of injury, you need legal advice, and potentially, a personal injury lawyer.

Pam Olsen Law, a local Ocala, FL dog bite lawyer can help sort out what happened. Attorney Olsen will determine whether the dog’s owner can likely be held liable for damages.

You Can File a Claim if Knocked Down by a Dog in Florida

Were you aware that even if a dog is simply being friendly and jumps up, but accidentally knocks you down, causing injury, you can likely sue and receive payment for damages? That’s the case, thanks to the way Florida law relative to dog-related incidents is set up.

The owner of the dog would, in many cases, automatically be considered guilty of negligence for failing to control the animal. Actual dog attacks that result in injury aren’t the only actions involving dogs that may result in lawsuits to recover damages. Here are a couple of other examples.

  • A dog is exhibiting unruly behavior, and trips or knocks you down.
  • If you suffer some sort of injury, perhaps break your wrist, elbow, or shoulder, in an effort to lessen the impact of your fall, a scenario that happens often, the injuries would, in most cases, be covered by most insurance companies, as the incident would be considered an animal attack.

Children are Particularly Vulnerable to Dog Knockdowns

Children are frequent victims of dog attacks. They behave differently than adults, and they’re smaller and move more quickly, which might trigger some dogs to momentarily view them as prey animals. Not only the potential of a bite, but the sheer size of many dogs make them a potential danger to children. Many people fail to consider the fact that even if a medium-sized dog jumps up on a child, significant injury may result.

Often dogs knock down children when the child is riding a bicycle or runs down the neighborhood sidewalk past a neighbor’s house. The neighbor’s dog escapes his chain or squeezes through a gap in the fence, tripping the child, knocking over the bicycle, or inflicting a bite. This is another, rather common situation for which the dog’s owner may be held strictly liable.

Strict liability, as defined by Justia:

“. . . is a theory that imposes legal responsibility for damages or injuries even if the person who was found strictly liable did not act with fault or negligence. This theory usually applies in three types of situations: animal bites (in certain states), manufacturing defects, and abnormally dangerous activities.”

So, even though the dog owner did not intentionally endanger the child, the referenced neighbor would be strictly liable. A lawsuit to gain compensation for the child’s injury would be feasible.

Dogs Knock Over Mail Delivery and Utility Workers

Some dogs are happy to see the mail delivery person each day. The same goes for the people who come to the home to read the gas meter or repair the stove or washing machine.

Other dogs, however, view the people who step onto the porch each day as intruders. Whether the dog intended to be playful or protective, jumping on these visitors can cause injuries. Owners should train their dogs not to jump up on people, keep them on a leash, or be confined in an enclosure they can’t escape when outside or when visitors enter the house. Otherwise, they could easily face charges if their dog causes injury in any way.

Under Florida Law, the Dog Owner is Negligent

To prove someone was negligent in some states, you have to provide evidence. You must prove that the person accused of negligence did not provide the caution and care due to the person who was injured, which would have prevented the incident and resulting injury, in this case, from being knocked down by a dog.

But Florida is a “strict liability” state, which means, unlike in states that have a one-bite rule – meaning that only persons with knowledge of a dog’s attack history or previously attempted bites can be held liable for damages – an owner in Florida can be held liable for a dog-related injury, even if they were not previously aware of the aggressive nature of the animal.  Most importantly, in reference to being simply knocked down by a dog, Florida law does not require the victim to prove their injuries were a result of an owner’s negligence.

Winning compensation as a dog-related injury victim is made easier by the fact that, since the Florida dog bite statute imposes strict liability on the part of the dog owner, there cannot be comparative negligence on the victim’s part unless the victim made a serious, intentional action which triggered the dog’s behavior.

No Comparative Negligence Favors Dog Injury Victims

A common claim by dog owners when charged with negligence due to a dog bite or an injury caused by a dog knocking the victim down is that the injured person provoked the dog.

But in Florida, unless the owner has to prove that the victim intentionally did something extreme that he or she knew would provoke the dog, like physically beating the animal.

Here is an excerpt from a precedent-setting case:

“In a dog injury case, it is no defense that a plaintiff acted unreasonably (was contributorily negligent) unless his behavior was so blatant as to supersede the dog’s behavior as the legal or proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries. In view of F.S. §§ 767.01 and 767.04, F.S.A. making an owner of a dog virtually an insurer of the dog’s conduct, the conduct on the plaintiff’s part superseding the behavior of the dog would have to be shown to be more than a mistake on the plaintiff’s part as to the intention of the dog to bite or attack him.” Smith v. Allison, ___ So.2d ___ (Fla. Court of Appeal, 1976).

Types of Damages That May be Received

Even if a dog doesn’t bite, it can do serious damage by knocking a person to the ground. A person injured by a dog is entitled to compensation for some specific types of damages.

  • Medical bills are the most obvious.

But there are others, including:

  • Rehabilitation expenses.
  • Transportation to medical and related appointments.
  • Counseling for mental anguish.
  • Diminished quality of life.
  • Compensation for pain and suffering.
  • Compensation for lost time from work.

Whatever the reason for your injury from a dog, you deserve to be compensated for all types of losses. A caring and concerned Florida dog injury attorney can help you determine the best course of action if you’ve received injuries due to being knocked down by a dog without provocation, whatever the reason.

A consultation can determine your chances of success in receiving compensation for damages, should you press charges. Most cases of this type are settled out of court, so it’s not likely you would need to testify in person.

What Should You Do First if Knocked Down by a Dog?

If you or a family member suffer an injury from a dog, whether from a bite or from being knocked down, the first step that should be taken is to have the injuries treated.

If possible, take photos of the injuries and the dog if you can do so safely. Your next step should be to contact a lawyer familiar with Florida dog bite laws and all laws pertaining to every type of injury resulting from encounters with dogs.

The Florida Statute Relating Dog Knockdowns

Florida has a statute that translates to making a dog owner liable for “any damage” to a person or domestic animal. This means compensation can be obtained even for a non-bite injury.

Section 767.01 states that: “Owners of dogs shall be liable for any damage done by their dogs to a person or to any animal included in the definitions of “domestic animal” and “livestock” as provided by s. 585.01.”

The Florida definition of “domestic animal” is defined in section 585.01 subd. (10): “Domestic animal” shall include any equine or bovine animal, goat, sheep, swine, domestic cat, dog, poultry, ostrich, emu, rhea, or other domesticated beast or bird. The term “animal,” as used in this chapter, shall include wild or game animals whenever necessary to effectively control or eradicate dangerous transmissible diseases or pests which threaten the agricultural interests of the state.”

The state of Florida permits an injured victim who was knocked down by a dog to file a personal injury lawsuit and receive compensation.

If you were injured by a dog in any manner, you can count on Pam Olsen Esq. and staff to act in your best interests. If we agree to take your case, we will devote our full efforts to obtaining fair compensation for your injuries and damages.  Contact us for a free consultation.

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About the Author

Pam Olsen

Ms. Olsen has practiced law since 1992. During her law school education and throughout career she knew, if it is not about people, she is not interested. Everything about people interests Ms. Olsen from the simple details of living to the most profound. She began her law career in a skyscraper in downtown Miami representing corporate interests. Within a VERY short time, Pam knew that side of the things in the world was not for her.

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