Get the specifics on Florida’s statute of limitations deadline for filing dog bite cases in court.
If you think you may end up being involved in a dog bite lawsuit in Florida, you need to understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your situation. This is true for anyone who has been injured by a dog — whether by a bite, by getting knocked down, or through some other act of aggression. And dog owners may be interested in this law too, if they’re worried that they might be slapped with a lawsuit over an incident involving their dog.
A little bit of background: A statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit on your right to bring a case to court. Every state has these kinds of laws on the books, and there are different deadlines depending on the kind of case you’re filing.
The statute of limitations for dog bite lawsuits in Florida is found in Florida Statutes Annotated section 95.11, which sets a four year deadline for the filing of “an action founded on negligence” and for “an action founded on a statutory liability.” Either could apply to a dog bite case, since a dog owner’s negligence could lead to a bite or other injury, and since Florida has passed a statute creating near-automatic liability for dog owners whose animals injure someone. Under Florida Statutes Annotated section 767.01 and section 767.04, owners are strictly liable for bites or other injuries caused by their dog, regardless of whether or not the owner was negligent or otherwise did anything wrong. (Learn more about Strict Liability: Dog Bite Statutes.)
The four-year “clock” starts running on the day the dog bite occurs, and only in very rare circumstances will the clock pause or “toll” under Florida law. Talk to an attorney for the details on when the statute of limitations deadline might be extended in Florida.
If you try to file your lawsuit after the deadline set by the statute of limitations has passed, the dog owner will almost certainly point this out in a motion asking the court to dismiss the case. The court will grant the dismissal, except in rare cases where an exemption from the deadline applies. If your case is dismissed, you’re left without a legal remedy for your dog bite injuries. So, even if you’re pretty sure your case will settle (maybe you’re negotiating a claim with the dog owner’s homeowners’ insurance carrier), you want to still leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit if you need to.