Missouri law dictates that a dog owner is liable for any resulting injuries when their dog bites another person so long as the injured person was on public property or legally on private property and the injured person did not provoke the dog prior to the attack.
Missouri’s Dog Bite Law
Fortunately for victims of dog bite injuries, Missouri’s dog bite statute, RSMo 273.036, is what is called a “strict liability” statute. This means that it does not matter if the dog’s owner took reasonable care to prevent the attack or restrain their dog, they are still responsible for injuries caused to you by a bite from their dog. The statute requires the owner to pay a fine in the amount of $1,000 in addition to paying any other damages proved by the injured party. This may include significant medical bills or property damage.
Law Revised to Benefit Victims
This standard for proving liability for a dog bite was changed in 2009 to benefit victims of dog bites. Previously, victims were required to prove either that the dog’s owner was in violation of local leash ordinance or that the dog in question had a propensity for violence and that the dog’s owner knew that their dog was vicious. This was often extremely difficult for victims to do because of the random nature of dog bites. They commonly had no prior exposure to or knowledge of the dog or his behavioral history and understandably the dog’s owners were unmotivated to cooperate. Because dog bites can cause significant and sometimes fatal injuries, the Missouri legislature revised the dog bite statute in recognition of the seriousness of these incidents.
Thankfully, in the state of Missouri, victims of dog attacks are no longer required to prove that the dog had a history of aggressive behavior. It is enough to simply show that you were bitten by a dog in an unprovoked attack in a place you were legally permitted to be. While the statute in Missouri specifically refers to dog bites, you may file claims against dog owners for other injuries caused by a dog such as those resulting when a dog jumps on you. In these types of cases you will need to file a claim for negligence against the dog’s owner and this means that you must also show that the owner did not use reasonable care to prevent the injury.
Provocation and Trespassing
In a civil claim for damages against a dog owner, the owner may raise several legal defenses against the claim, the two most common of which are provocation and trespassing. The Missouri strict liability dog bite statute only allows a person to recover for their injuries if they did not provoke the dog into the attack against them and if they were legally present in the location of the attack. Therefore, if the dog owner can prove that the injured party was trespassing at the time the attack took place or that they were provoking the dog into the attack, the claimant will be prevented from recovering for their damages. In a negligence claim for injuries, such as those caused by a jumping dog, dog owners will commonly raise a defense called “comparative negligence.” This is when the defendant attempts to show that the injured person was at least partially responsible for their injuries. If they can do this, it will seriously limit the amount that the injured person can recover, even making it possible that there is no recovery at all.
If you were injured in a dog attack please call Griggs Injury Law, LLC to discuss your claim. We will provide a free evaluation of your case and assist you in recovering for your injuries to the fullest extent of the law.