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Dog Bite Liability: The Basics

Missouri, like many states, has specific statutes that address liability for dog bites. The owner may be liable in certain circumstances. However, there are situations where no one is liable for the bite. The specific facts of your case will determine whether you have a personal injury claim for a dog bite in Missouri.

When is the Owner Liable for a Dog Bite?

When a dog bites someone else, the owner may be liable to the victim. This is true if the following factors apply:

  1. The injury was caused by the dog bite;

  2. The victim was either on public property or was permitted to be on private property; and

  3. The victim did not provoke the dog to bite or react.

The owner will not be liable if their dog bites someone who is trespassing or in situations where the dog is defending the property against intruders. The owner will also avoid liability if the person harmed provoked the dog, and that provocation led to the eventual bite.

An owner would be liable even if he or she took measures to keep the dog away from others, such as using a rope or a fence to restrain the dog. In fact, the law does not even care about warnings that you gave to passersby or visitors. If the dog harmed someone and the above requirements are met, the owner will likely be liable.

If the owner is liable, he or she must also pay a fine of $1,000.00. This penalty is in addition to compensating for any damages that the victim may have sustained. These costs may include medical bills, property damage, and pain and suffering.

Dog-Related Harm and Negligence

The statute regarding dog bites refers explicitly to bites, not any other harm that a dog could inflict. Dogs can also harm others by jumping on people or knocking people over. If the dog hurts someone in another way, other than a bite, traditional negligence law applies.

That means that how the dog is restrained will matter in that type of claim. The victim must show that the dog owner failed to use reasonable care to control the dog. The victim must also prove that the failure led to the injuries alleged.

Criminal Charges Related to Dog Bites

In Missouri, you can be criminally charged related to a dog bite. The criminal charges can apply in addition to any civil liability that may be imposed.

If the dog causes injury, the dog owner can be convicted of a Class B misdemeanor. The charge is related to keeping a “dangerous dog.” A “dangerous dog” is defined by law as a dog that has bitten someone else previously without provocation.

If the dog inflicts serious injuries, the charge may be increased to a Class A misdemeanor. If both the first and the second bites cause serious injuries, the charge can grow to a Class E felony. In addition, the charge can be enhanced to a Class D felony if the dog kills a person.

Getting Help with Your Dog Bite Claim

If you or a loved one has been harmed by a dog bite or dog action, you may have a legal claim. Contact Noland Law Firm to set up a free case evaluation.

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