Who is liable for a dog bite case?

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People love dogs and most times, dogs love them back. But every so often, dogs can be prone to aggression and can attack animals, furniture, and in the most serious cases, other people. If you have been bit by a dog and injured, one of the first things you may be asking your dog bite injury lawyer is: who is liable for my dog bite injuries in Missouri, and how might they be punished?

Dog bite liability in Missouri

Missouri's statues regarding dog bites, and who could be liable for injuries, have changed quite a bit in recent years. Prior to 2009, Missouri was what is called a "one bite" state. This meant that if a dog had never previously shown signs of being dangerous, the owner was not at fault if it attacked a stranger. In practice, this meant that dogs got one free bite before victims could sue for their dog bite injuries and the dog's owner could be deemed negligent. Currently, twenty states follow this rule for dog bite liability.

But in 2009, the Missouri General Assembly passed a new standard for dog bite liability. Officially Missouri RS 273.036, this law changed Missouri's standard for dog bite lawsuits to a "strict liability" standard. Missouri is now one of 30 states (plus the District of Columbia) that uses strict liability for dog bites. The new law states that any dog owner is liable if their dog bites anyone without provocation, either on public property or if the victim was lawfully on private property, and causes an injury as a result of their bite. This is regardless of whether their dog had ever bit anyone or anything before this incident. On top of potential civil damages their owner must pay out, the statute in Missouri also requires liable owners to pay a fine of no more than $1,000.

What if the dog that bit me has bit other people before?

In Missouri, if a dog has bit someone and the owner has had to pay the resulting fine and damages, as of 2017 it is now classified as a "dangerous dog", Missouri RS 578.024 is the law that defines the concept and outlines penalties for what happens if a person is bit by a dangerous dog.

If you are bit by a dog and your dog bite injury lawyer finds out that this is not the first time this dog has attacked someone, their owner is now liable for criminal penalties as well as any civil damages. This is because most local jurisdictions require owners to properly secure, leash, and/or muzzle dangerous dogs. These penalties differ by the severity of the dog bite injury:

  • If a dog bite caused a non-serious injury, the owner faces a class B misdemeanor (punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000)
  • If a dog bite causes a serious injury, the owner faces a class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000)
  • If a dog bite causes a serious injury and a previous dog bite had also caused a serious injury, the owner could be subject to a Class E felony (punishable by up to four years in prison)
  • If a dog bite results in death, the owner can be charged with a Class D felony and face up to seven years in prison.

Furthermore, dogs deemed dangerous must be impounded by the local county sheriff or animal control authority after they have bit someone. The dog's owner must file an appeal for the dog to be released. If a court denies that appeal, or if the appeal is not filed within ten days, the dog must be put down and the owner is on the hook for costs related to the dog's care and feeding during its time in custody.

A Missouri Dog Bite Injury Lawyer Can Help Your Case

Being bit by a dog can be a traumatic experience. If you have been bit by a dog, have been injured, and want to know what damages you may be able to recover, talking to a top dog bite injury attorney in St. Louis is important. Attorney Gene Hou is a top personal injury lawyer with experience litigating dog bite injury cases. Contact us today for a free consultation about your case.

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