When it comes to liability for a dog bite injury, laws can differ depending on which state law is applicable.
Basically, liability depends on whether the owner of the dog had actual or constructive knowledge that the dog would bite someone. That means, did the dog owner know or should the dog owner have known that the dog was dangerous a likely to bite? In the majority of states, one of two theories of liability is followed: strict liability or what is referred to as the “one bite” rule.
Understanding which law applies in the state where you live or where you are injured is important. Let our Rogers personal injury law firm explain the differences between the laws in the two states where we practice: Arkansas and Missouri.
How are the dog bite laws in Missouri and Arkansas different?
Arkansas is different from most states in that it does not have a specific dog bite statute. Arkansas courts determine the law based on prior decisions of the court on various dog bite claims. This means that the decision will typically depend on the specific facts of each case. The majority of Arkansas cases apply the “one bite” rule or some type of negligence theory.
On the other hand, Missouri does not follow the “one bite” rule but instead enforces strict liability when there is an actual dog bite. This is not true for cases of injuries caused by a dog jumping on or chasing someone. Those cases are decided based on general negligence.
How is strict liability applied to dog bite cases
The most common rule followed in dog bite cases is strict liability. This theory of liability basically says that a dog owner is liable for dog bite injuries to another person regardless of any knowledge they had or did not have that the dog was likely to bite.
Liability is also imposed regardless of whether the victim could have done anything to prevent the injury. All that is necessary is to show that the victim was not trespassing when the dog bite injury occurred and the dog was not provoked by the victim.
If, on the other hand, the victim was not lawfully on the premises, the dog owner may not be liable. If you question whether strict liability applies to your situation, consult with our Rogers personal injury law firm.
How does the “one bite” rule work?
Historically, dog owners were typically not held liable for their dog biting someone unless the owner had a reason to suspect that the dog might bite. The theory is referred to as the “one bite” rule because dogs were basically allowed to bite someone only once before the owner would be held responsible. Once the dog bit one person, the owner was then on notice of the dog’s propensity to bite someone.
Presently, the rule is not that simply applied in that not every dog is allowed “one bite.” If it can be shown that the owner had reason to suspect that the dog might be aggressive and bite, liability may still be imposed. For example, certain breeds of dogs or dogs that have received certain types of training could be more prone to biting. Some dogs also exhibit certain personality traits or characteristics that would put a reasonable owner on notice that it might become aggressive and bite someone. Actually biting someone is not required in some situations.
Usually, in these cases, it will require circumstantial evidence to establish the required knowledge. Let our Rogers personal injury law firm help.
Missouri’s Comparative Negligence Doctrine
Although under Missouri’s dog bite law strict liability is applied, a dog owner can always argue that the victim was in some way responsible for his or her injury to some degree. This is referred to as comparative negligence because the court will consider whether to reduce or eliminate damages in accordance with the amount of fault that can be fairly assigned to the victim.
In Missouri, a “pure” comparative negligence rule is applied, which reduces damages based entirely on the percentage of fault. For instance, if the victim is determined to be 75% responsible for the injury, the court will reduce the total award of damages by 75%, leaving the injured person with only 25% of his or her damages.
If you have questions regarding dog bite injuries or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.