Dog bites, like other animal attacks, fall under the legal concept of strict liability. For the uninitiated, these laws are tough to understand. Simply put, this means an owner can be liable for the actions of their dog, even if they took reasonable precautions to prevent a bite.
As a victim, you’re free to pursue a personal injury claim even if the owner of the dog wasn’t “at fault” in any way. For example, if you’re bitten by a dog at a public park, you can still seek compensation for your injuries, even if the dog was leashed. This stands even if the owner didn’t know his or her dog was dangerous.
How to Use Strict Liability as Grounds for a Suit
The rules of strict liability may seem like suing for a dog bite is a “slam dunk.” But you can’t file a personal injury claim against just anyone. Like any other case, dog bite cases require sufficient evidence and legwork. Generally speaking, you need to prove:
- You were injured. You can’t file a suit for being “almost bitten” by a dog.
- The dog was directly involved in your injuries. Medical records are often sufficient to prove a dog caused your injuries.
- You’re seeking a personal injury claim from the pet’s owner.
- You didn’t provoke the dog.
- You had a right to be in the place you were bitten (i.e., you weren’t trespassing).
The Dog Bite Statute in Missouri
In the past, pet owners were protected by the “one free bite” rule, meaning they couldn’t be liable for their dog’s actions if they didn’t know their dogs were dangerous. Most states, including Missouri, have moved beyond this. Now pet owners in Missouri can even face criminal penalties for dog bites if they knew their dog was dangerous. “Dangerous dogs” are those who have attacked before without provocation. Owners of dangerous dogs can be convicted of misdemeanors or even felonies if the injuries are serious enough.
Owners are NOT liable for their dog’s actions in the following circumstances:
- The victim was trespassing.
- The victim was in the course of committing a crime on the owner’s property.
- The victim provoked the animal.
Missouri law addresses more than just dog bites. Any injury caused by a dog can be justification for a personal injury suit. For example, you may seek compensation for your injuries if a dog knocks you to the ground.