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Proving Liability in a Missouri Dog Bite Case: Key Factors and Evidence

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Man’s Best Friend?

Dogs can be part of the family and are loved similarly to our own family members. But what happens when a dog bites you, or your dog bites another person, and the injury is significant? Educating yourself on how Missouri law handles dog bites can be imperative to navigating the aftermath of a dog bite. Read on to learn more.

History of the One Bite Law

Several states follow the One Bite Law, meaning that the person who sustained injuries following a bite may have little to no recourse against the dog’s owner if it was the first time the dog had bitten anyone. The One Bite Law also places the burden of proof on the victim, forcing them to provide evidence that the dog had bitten others in the past to have a legal strategy for recourse or damages.

Missouri no longer follows the One Bite Law, making pursuing damages in a dog bite case easier, depending on the surrounding circumstances. It’s important to note that proving liability in a dog bite case must mean that the victim didn’t provoke the dog in any way before the bite and that the victim was legally on the owner’s property rather than trespassing when the incident occurred.

Typical Injuries From a Dog Bite

Depending on the dog’s size, injuries sustained from a dog bite can range from minor puncture wounds, lacerations, or abrasions to permanent damage to limbs or muscles.

Large dogs can potentially create permanent damage if their bites tear muscles or tendons or remove parts of limbs, fingers, etc. Even small breeds can sometimes create permanent damage for adults or children.

Intangible Injuries From a Dog Bite

Regardless of the level of physical injuries that one may sustain following a dog bite, there can be intangible injuries as a result as well. Dog bites can be a traumatic experience for anyone, no matter their age. It can create a permanent fear of dogs or public places where dogs typically are, which can be crippling and intrusive in our daily lives.

Pain and suffering or trauma are common after a dog bite. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is also common after a dog bite and can seriously impact the daily needs or duties of the victim.

What is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is the rule that Missouri follows when determining liability for injuries or other damages. What this can mean for a dog bite victim is that liability or negligence can be distributed to the owner of the dog and the victim, depending on the circumstances.

For example, suppose it’s proven that the victim wasn’t on the property legally or wasn’t aware that the property they were on was private, and they were bitten. The owner may be liable due to not properly restraining the dog through a fence or not having posted a sign that warns of the dog or no trespassing. In this case, both parties may be assigned a percentage of fault for the dog bite, and the victim may have their damages reduced proportionate to the percentage of fault.

In the above example, if the total damages awarded were $10,000 and the victim was found to be 20% at fault for the dog bite occurring, their total damages would be reduced to $8,000.

How To Establish Fault in Dog Bite Cases

There are several things you should do immediately following a dog bite incident. The first is to seek medical attention for your injuries if they are severe.

It is ideal to delegate to a friend or family member to take pictures of the scene, the dog, and any other relevant information. If the incident occurred on public property, such as at a park, there may be video surveillance of the incident, which would be beneficial to obtain.

If your injuries aren’t severe, you can gather this information before seeking medical treatment.

If there were any witnesses to the incident, it’s important to gather their contact information to be used at a later date if necessary.

Report the incident to the police and animal control. A report will be generated detailing what occurred that you can utilize should you choose to pursue damages.

You can interview neighbors who may live next to the dog’s owner to determine if the dog was habitually aggressive, whether it was disobedient, or was a habitual problem within the neighborhood with other dogs or people.

How Can My Attorney Help Me?

In addition to the critical steps listed above, your experienced attorney can manage communication with the dog owner and thoroughly investigate them. Suppose it is proven that the dog’s owner acted negligently. In that case, it can impact your case by establishing liability and helping you obtain more of the damages that you may rightfully deserve.

Additionally, if it is found that the dog should have been documented as dangerous, this can affect the amount of damage you pursue and more. A dog owner is required to register their dog as a dangerous dog if they have a history of aggression or attacks, and they are required to restrain their dog differently than those that aren’t labeled a dangerous dog.

Contact our office today at (314) 347-3567 to learn more about your options. We offer a free initial consultation to help you understand how you may obtain compensation for your injuries. Let our team help protect you, get you the legal recourse you deserve, and get on to the next chapter of your life.

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