Dogs are great companion animals, but they can become aggressive and attack others in some situations. A dog bite can be a traumatic experience, leading to severe injuries and extensive damages. In Missouri, dog owners are strictly liable for the harm their pets cause. Injured parties can pursue compensation for damages they sustained, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Victims can turn to a personal injury attorney for help building a solid legal strategy.
The Effects of a Dog Bite
Dog bites can range in severity. Although many of them are minor, a dog attack can lead to serious injuries.
Wounds can be deep and large, causing severe pain, swelling, and deformity. Even if the dog’s teeth barely break the skin, the possibility of infection exists because of the bacteria in the animal’s mouth.
Treatment for dog bites can be costly, and the incident can emotionally strain victims and their families.
Understanding Missouri’s Strict Liability Law
Under Missouri Revised Statutes § 273.036, dog owners are strictly liable for damages caused by their pets. That means if someone is injured in an attack when they were on public property or lawfully on private property, they may be able to seek compensation from the owner.
Strict liability means that the owner is responsible for the harm their dog caused, even if they took steps to mitigate the attack. For example, the owner might have restrained their dog or tried to intervene when the animal went after the victim.
Additionally, the law applies regardless of whether the dog had previously shown aggression or if the owner had no idea that the animal would bite someone.
What Damages Can a Person Recover After a Dog Bite Injury
Missouri law gives people the right to seek compensation for damages they suffered in a dog attack. Damages are the expenses and losses arising from the incident.
Medical expenses are often the primary types of damages people recover. Depending on the severity, a dog bite wound can be treated in various ways. Determining the kind of care needed requires thoroughly assessing the injury. The doctor would need to order X-rays to see if the victim suffered broken bones or whether debris or other materials were in the wound. The victim might need stitches, antibiotics, and other treatments to facilitate healing.
Medical tests and procedures can be expensive. However, because the incident resulted from an attack by someone else’s dog, the victim should not have to shoulder the financial burden. They can pursue compensation from the dog’s owner.
In addition to receiving compensation for medical expenses, dog bite victims might also be compensated for the following:
- Rehabilitative services
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
The purpose of compensation is to help the victim to return to whole – or as whole as possible – after going through such a traumatic experience. It also sends a message to the dog owner that consequences exist for their pet’s aggressive behavior.
Steps to Take If Injured by a Dog
Bringing a case against a dog owner can allow the victim to receive the compensation they need. Still, the injured party can’t just claim that they are owed financial recovery. They must back up their arguments with facts and evidence.
Thus, after being bitten by a dog, it’s important that victims:
- Identify the owner: The individual needs to know who to file a claim against.
- Note when and where the incident happened: This information helps demonstrate that the victim was in a location they were lawfully allowed to be. In other words, they were not trespassing.
- Note the force of the bite: How hard the dog bit the victim can establish the severity of the injury.
How an Attorney Can Help in a Dog Bite Case
Hiring a personal injury lawyer is vital in cases where victims suffer serious injuries. Recovering damages requires filing a claim against the owner. Even though the owner might be strictly liable, the injured party must still prove that they are owed compensation. The owner might try to refute the claims and say that the victim was trespassing, provoked the dog, or raise other arguments to lessen their liability.
An attorney can be instrumental in building the legal strategy. They can also negotiate with the insurance company and/or represent the injured party in court to seek justice.