Regardless of which side of a dog bite claim you’re on, there’s some important information about how the law determines liability for such an incident. Understanding what the law provides and how it could apply to your situation can help you assess how your case may be affected.
While some might believe that owners are always 100 percent liable for dog bite incidents – even those that occur on their property – this isn’t so. Owners certainly can be held totally liable, but state law outlines the circumstances in which this would occur.
According to Missouri Revised Statutes section 273.036.1, dog owners are strictly liable for bites that occur when:
- The dog was not provoked, and
- The damaged party was on public property, or
- The damaged party was lawfully on private property
State law also mandates that someone who is held liable for a dog bite injury must also pay a fine of up to $1,000 in addition to any damages that may have been awarded to the plaintiff, such as medical bills.
What Limits a Dog Owner’s Liability?
Unfortunately for dog owners, attempting to prevent the attack by restraining the animal or shielding the victim doesn’t impact their liability if the attack still occurred. In other words, if someone is bit and you did everything you could to prevent it from happening, you can still be held totally responsible for the incident.
For answers about what limits the dog owner’s liability for a biting incident, let’s return to what Missouri’s law says about this matter:
“If it is determined that the damaged party had fault in the incident, any damages owed by the owner or possessor of the biting dog shall be reduced by the same percentage that the damaged party's fault contributed to the incident.” – RSMo Section 273.036.1
This means the court will take into consideration if the dog was provoked and if the damaged party was lawfully on the property where the attack occurred. A situation that could significantly reduce a dog owner’s fault is if the damaged party was a trespasser who harassed or attacked the dog. Even on public property, however, someone who provokes a dog into defending itself could share a decent amount of fault for the incident.
Negligence & Dog Bite Claims
Missouri law specifically addresses dog bites, but a dog can harm someone in other ways. For example, a dog that jumps on a person could cause them to fall and become injured. In such a scenario, the injured party would typically bring a negligence claim against the animals’ owner and need to prove that the owner failed to take reasonable care to prevent the behavior that resulted in injuries.
Are You Involved in a Dog Bite Incident?
If you have been injured by a dog, reach out to Bertram & Graf, L.L.C. for legal assistance. We can help you file suit to recover compensation for medical bills and other fair and just compensation. You don’t have to handle this all on your own – reach out to us today for help!