Anyone who has been injured or bitten by a dog needs to be aware of his or her rights. In the state of Missouri, dog owners have strict liability, regardless of their dog’s history. Dog owners are responsible for any damage done to a person by their pets, as well as any property damage done by the animal. If a dog owner is found liable for damages, they face a fine of up to $1,000, as well as any damages that may result from a lawsuit, including property damage, medical bills, and pain and suffering compensation.
Dog bite incidents affect roughly 885,000 people, or 1.5% of the American population annually and those numbers are rising as more people are adopting dogs. Many people think of some breeds, such as pit bull terriers and Rottweilers, as dangerous breeds, but a dog’s disposition largely depends on its environment, its lifestyle, and its owner. A dog of any breed may bite someone if it has been neglected or has grown to mistrust humans because of abuse. Ultimately, dog owners are responsible for the actions of their pets.
In some situations, dog bite victims may be partially responsible for their injuries. For example, if someone provoking or abusing a dog results in the dog lashing out in self-defense to a perceived threat, it may reduce the victim’s amount of claimable damages. To prove negligence on the part of the dog’s owner, the plaintiff or victim must establish several facts:
- The dog’s owner had a duty to act with reasonable care in protecting the public from any potential harm their dog may cause. If the injured person was on public property or lawfully present on private property, the dog owner must exercise reasonable care, especially if the dog has a history of violence or previous attacks.
- The owner violated their duty of care. This may include an unleashed dog in an area bound by leash laws or failing to warn the victim beforehand of an aggressive dog’s demeanor or possible safety risks if they were aware of the potential danger.
- The dog was not provoked into biting, and the damage done by the dog was the direct result of the owner’s failure to exercise reasonable care.
Possible Penalties for Owners in Bolivar & Springfield, MO
If a dog’s owner was aware of his or her pet’s history of unprovoked bites in the past and did nothing to prevent further incidents, they could face misdemeanor charges for a subsequent attack. A dog bite that results in the victim’s death could result in felony charges for the owner. In these situations, the owner is not only facing criminal charges, but also the possibility of a civil suit for damages caused by the attack.
If an owner keeps a dog classified as “dangerous,” he or she may also be susceptible to criminal charges. A dangerous dog is any dog that has two recorded instances of unprovoked attacks. If both previous attacks caused serious injury to the victims, subsequent attacks may result in felony charges against the owner.
Defenses against a Dog Bite Lawsuit
There are two common defenses that dog owners may use in strict liability states such as Missouri – trespassing and provocation. If the victim was unlawfully trespassing on private property when the dog bit them, the dog’s owner may be able to successful deflect a lawsuit. The same logic applies to a victim who was deliberately provoking the dog in any way.
On either side of the table, if you’ve been involved with a dog bite incident in any way, the right legal team can make a world of difference in the outcome of your case. The legal professionals of Douglas, Haun & Heidemann have been dedicated to providing comprehensive, high-quality legal counsel in the state of Missouri for more than 100 years. Since 1912, our firm has provided competent legal representation for a wide range of cases, so reach out to our team if you have any questions about Missouri dog bite laws, or want to start reviewing a case in Springfield.