Animal Bites

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Missouri Dog Bite Law

Missouri is considered a “Strict Liability” state when it comes to dog bites. In other words, dog owners are held liable for dog bites regardless of whether their dog has ever bitten anyone in the past. Missouri Revised Statutes section 273.036 embodies Missouri’s dog bite law. In pertinent part it states:

273.036. 1. The owner or possessor of any dog that bites, without provocation, any person while such person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner or possessor of the dog, is strictly liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner's or possessor's knowledge of such viciousness...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…

Missouri also allows victims of dog bites to recover damages on a negligence theory. To succeed on a negligence claim, a victim must satisfy the elements of a negligence cause of action: (1) the existence of a duty on the part of the owner or custodian of the dog to protect the victim from injury, (2) breach of that duty and (3) proximate cause of damages. In a case where a dog is off leash and there is no leash law, for example, the owner or custodian is considered to have a duty to protect the victim if he or she knew or should have known that the dog could cause harm to others if it were allowed to run at large.

Other Potential Responsible Parties:

Animal owners are not the only people who can be held responsible for animal bites. Here are a few common scenarios where someone other than the animal's owner could be held liable for an animal bite:

• Animal Keepers: Anyone who is responsible for the care or custody of an animal may be considered an owner or keeper and can be held responsible for an animal bite. Examples include kennels, a pound, or an animal sitter.
• Parents of Minors: Even if a person under 18 years of age owns the animal at issue, in many states an injured person can bring a legal claim against the minor's parents, even if the parents had no direct involvement with the animal.
• Property Owners: A property owner can be liable for injuries caused by an animal that the property owner allowed onto his or her property.
• Landlords: If an apartment landlord knew (or should have known) that a tenant owned a dangerous animal, the landlord may also be liable for animal bite injuries.

What Damages Can You Recover?

Depending on the seriousness of injuries resulting from an animal attack, you may be entitled to recover for:
• Medical expenses
• Lost wages
• Pain and suffering
• Property damage

In some instances, you may also be entitled to punitive damages, which are awarded to punish someone for his or her behavior. To justify an award of punitive damages, the wrongdoer's conduct usually must be more than negligent, such as reckless or intentional conduct. For example, if a dog owner knew his dog was very dangerous, yet repeatedly allowed the dog to run free near a school, and the dog eventually attacked a child, a jury could conclude that punitive damages were appropriate.

What Should I do if I am the Victim of a Dog Bite?

The most important thing to do is to seek medical attention immediately. Animal bites that go untreated by a medical professional may have a high risk for developing infections or causing other more serious medical problems.  

After seeking medical treatment, you should contact an attorney who has experience handling animal bite claims. An experienced attorney, like those at Boehmer law, can explain what type of case you may have, who may be liable for your injuries and what type of compensation you may be entitled to.  

Suffering an animal bite can be a traumatic experience. If you, or someone you know, have been bitten by a dog, or other animal, call Boehmer Law at 636-896-4020 and allow us to assist you in this difficult time. 

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