accident lawyersThousands of individuals are injured from an animal bite every year.  Domesticated dogs (our family pets) are the most common culprits.  Usually, victims of dog bites have the right to file a lawsuit in order to recover the damages to which they are entitled.  You can seek recovery, through the help of accident lawyers, from the animal’s owner and possibly other parties as well.

Whose insurance coverage pays for dog bite injuries?

In most cases, the damages from a dog bite are paid by the homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies of the dog owner.  In fact, with the increase in dog bite incidents, insurance companies are reporting a similar increase in dog bite insurance claims.  Part of the job of accident lawyers is to determine whether the dog owner has liability insurance with adequate coverage to meet your claim.

Exclusions and limitations in dog bite coverage

One issue that some victims face is certain policy exclusions that affect dog bite claims.  Some insurance companies include breed specific canine exclusions, based on the belief of that some breeds are more dangerous and more likely to bite than others.  For example, Farmer’s Insurance reportedly changed typical homeowner’s coverage to exclude coverage for three dog breeds: Pitt Bulls, Rottweiler’s and Wolf hybrids.  The purpose of these exclusions is to reduce liability for the insurance company.  Insurance companies also try to reduce their exposure by limiting the amount and type of coverage for dog bite attacks.

Owner Liability for Dog Bites

Generally speaking, the owner of the animal is the first person to consider in determining liability.  There are different types of liability, and each state has chosen to follow one of those theories of liability.  Some states follow what is known as “strict liability.” Under that theory, the owner is legally responsible for the injuries, regardless of whether the owner did anything wrong by failing to protect others from their dog. In other states, liability is only imposed on an owner if it can be shown that he or she knew the dog had “dangerous propensities.”

The dog bite laws in Arkansas and Missouri

In Arkansas, unlike most states, there is no specific law pertaining to liability for dog bites. However, Arkansas has common law liability that can be enforced. If an individual in Arkansas is injured by a dog attack, he or she can recover money damages from the owner if negligence is proven.
In Missouri, there is a dog bite statute, passed in 2009, which imposes strict liability on dog owners for dog bites, regardless of whether the dog bit anyone in the past. Missouri law also allows dog bite victims to recover in cases of negligence and negligence per se.

Individuals other than the owner can be liable

Animal owners are undoubtedly not the only individuals who can be held liable for dog bites. Here are a few examples of others who may potentially be responsible, as well:

  • Animal Keepers: Anyone who is responsible for the care or custody of an animal, including kennels, an animal shelter, 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. This is true 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

Damages that may be recovered following a dog bite

Dog bite cases are basically a specific type of personal injury claim. The most common types of damages that can be recovered in personal injury cases are medical expenses, lost wages, property damage and pain and suffering. The amount of damages to which you are entitled depends on the seriousness of your injuries and the amount of your monetary losses.

What you should do if you suffer a dog bite

The very first thing you should do if you are bitten by a dog is to seek medical attention immediately. Otherwise, you run the risk of serious infection if you are not treated quickly.  That could lead to other complications.  If you have questions regarding dog bite injuries or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. 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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