Whether you have been the victim of a dog bite, or your dog has unfortunately injured someone else, understand the laws in your state is important. Each state has its own rules and procedures regarding handling a dog bite claim, and your personal injury attorney can assist you in handling a dog bite claim.
Dog bite statutes in Missouri
Like most states, Missouri has a specific law that governs dog bite injuries. The law provides that an individual injured by a dog bite can hold the dog’s owner liable if the following conditions are met:
- the injury was caused by a dog bite,
- the person who was bitten was on public property or lawfully on private property, and
- the person bitten did not provoke the dog.
Someone injured by a dog is allowed to seek damages from the dog’s owner, even when the owner was unaware that the dog was likely to bite someone, and even if the dog owner was not negligent in some way. This is known as the “strict liability” theory.
Deadlines for Filing a Dog Bite Claim in Missouri
Civil lawsuits have a legal deadline for filing the claim in court, known as the “statute of limitations.” This is true for personal injury claims involving dog bites, as well. In Missouri, the deadline for filing a personal injury claim, based on a dog bite, is five (5) years from the date of the injury. If this deadline is missed, you will likely be barred from bringing your lawsuit.
Defending Against a Dog Bite Claim in Missouri
Generally, there are three defenses against dog bite claims, which dog owners commonly use in responding to a lawsuit: provocation, trespassing and comparative negligence. These defenses are also provided by Missouri law.
If the dog was provoked by the person who was ultimately bitten, the dog’s owner is not responsible for the injuries. For example, if someone walking by your yard begins poking your dog with a stick, and the dog bites the person in response, the owner will likely not be held liable. If the victim was bitten while trespassing on your property, you may not be liable either, because of the limited duty owed to trespassers in general.
Comparative negligence in dog bite cases
The final defense recognized by Missouri law is that the victim was either partly or completely responsible for his or her injury. This doctrine is referred to as “comparative negligence.” It simply means that the victim’s negligence can reduce or eliminate the amount of fault assigned to the dog owner.
Different states follow different versions of this doctrine. In Missouri, a “pure” comparative negligence rule is followed. This means that the damages are reduced based on the percentage of fault assigned to the person who was injured, regardless of the amount. So, if the person who was injured is found to be 80% responsible for the injury, the total damage award he will receive will be reduced by 80%.
If you have questions regarding dog bite injuries and liability, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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