Animal lovers can’t resist petting dogs, even dogs that aren’t theirs. Most dogs welcome the attention, and are happy to see you. Occasionally, there’s a dog that isn’t, but any dog can be a bite risk, regardless of its breed or size. The CDC reports that one in five people bitten by dogs require medical attention, including hospitalization.
Perhaps the dog isn’t properly socialized, or it’s just been adopted and in a new, unfamiliar environment. If you have a dog yourself, the dog smells another animal on you, sees you as a threat and becomes territorial.
(Cat owners who encounter other cats and animals understand this situation when they experience angry hissing upon arriving home.) Whatever the reason, you’ve been bitten by this dog, and need to see a doctor right away.
Who’s responsible? What do you do next?
In this situation, there are two sets of laws involved: dog bite laws, and premises liability. Here, we’ll explain them and how they work together.
Missouri’s Dog Bite Laws
Missouri Revised Statutes section 273.036.1 says that where a dog owner's animal bites someone else, the owner is liable for the resulting injuries if:
- The dog bite resulted in the injury
- You (the injured person) were on public property or on private property lawfully (such as visiting someone’s home or business)
- You didn’t provoke the dog to bite or attack
The statute also states that a dog owner will be required to pay a $1,000 fine, in addition to any other damages incurred like medical bills or property damage (such as a broken smartphone.)
This is a strict liability law, meaning that a dog does not get “one free bite.” As a bite victim, you will have to prove that the owner knew, or should have known, of the dog’s bite possibility, and should have taken steps to prevent harm.
The statute refers only to bites, not other injuries that a dog might cause, such as knocking someone over or chasing them on a bicycle and causing a crash. Bigger dogs may be able to knock someone over by jumping on them; smaller dogs may trip someone, which may be more of a “slip and fall” or other type of premises liability accident.
This part of the law refers to injuries that occur on property, such as a retail store, hospital, restaurant, nightclub or other place where people come and go. Property owners and tenants are required to keep their property safe for visitors, employees, clients and others who may visit.
The property should be kept free from dangerous conditions such as wet or slick floors, broken stairs, torn carpet, broken floors or flooring, or other conditions that could cause an injury. Owners, managers and employees have a duty of care to warn visitors of a potential danger, such as putting up signs or safety cones to warn them away from an unsafe condition. Premises liability cases include slip and falls, inadequate security, chemical exposure and other conditions that result in an injury.
Dog bites are a part of premises liability, especially if it happens at a private home. A homeowner is responsible for keeping the property in good condition for visitors, or giving them warning of an unsafe condition. This includes putting up a sign (or signs) warning visitors to “BEWARE OF DOG.” This warning doesn’t always indicate a dangerous dog, but indicates the presence of a dog and the possibility that a dog could, potentially, bite.
The owner is also responsible for preventing any injury inflicted by a dog, including a bite, as mentioned previously. Because the dog owner failed to prevent harm, he or she will be required to pay a fine if it bites someone. And because the dog bite happened on private property, not on public property, the owner is responsible for injuries that happened on their property, the same as any other personal injury, such as a slip and fall.
This part of the law addresses the responsibility you have in relation to your accident. In a slip-and-fall case, comparative negligence could mean that you weren’t paying attention to where you were going, or you were somewhere you weren’t supposed to be, such as an “employees only” area in a retail store, at the time of the accident. You were partly responsible for your injuries, and will likely be assigned a percentage of responsibility.
In the case of dog bites, three defenses that can be raised are:
- You provoked the dog into biting/attacking
- You were trespassing on someone else’s property
- You were breaking the law at the time of the bite/attack
If you were in any way responsible for your dog bite injury, this will come into play during negotiations, and certainly if the case goes to trial. Most cases are settled long before court, but if you are found to be 50% or more responsible for your injury, you won’t be able to receive compensation at all, under Missouri’s Comparative Negligence rules.
The Statute Of Limitations
This is the time frame in which you have to file a lawsuit. Missouri allows five years under the Missouri Revised Statutes section 516.0120 for any personal injury case due to someone else’s negligence, including dog bites and premises liability.
If you miss the deadline for any reason, your suit will be dismissed. If your case seems to be stalled or at a standstill, it may be time to contact a personal injury attorney who can help with a dog bite case.
Dog Bite? Call Kansas City’s Premier PI Law Firm
Dog bites can be severe and dangerous—so the first thing you need is medical treatment. Then it’s time to call The Popham Law Firm. Call us at (816) 221-2288 today or use our contact form. We’ll schedule an appointment and talk with you about how we can help you recover damages after a dog bite or any premises liability injury case.