A Dog Bit Me. Can I Sue the Owner?

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We get this question a lot. Animal attacks are common. These incidents account for about a third of homeowners’ insurance claims in Missouri. Furthermore, dog bites are costly, both physically and emotionally. These attacks usually involve a variety of serious injuries, which could mean tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Additionally, many victims, especially children, often experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms after an attack.

The injuries are complex in dog bite claims, and so are the legal implications. Therefore, only the most experienced St. Louis personal injury attorney should handle these matters. Animal attack victims often have several legal options. Each one features some significant pros and cons.

Liability Theories

Missorui, like many other states, has a limited strict liability law. Owners are legally responsible for bite injuries, even if they didn’t know the animal was potentially vicious.

Frequently, the knockdown causes as much physical and emotional damage as the bite, especially if a large dog lunges at a small victim. It’s not easy to separate bite from non-bite injuries, from a medical and legal standpoint. Furthermore, many St. Louis County jurors, particularly if they one pets, consider strict liability laws financial penalties.

Now for the good news. Strict liability claims are relatively easy to prove in court. Additionally, defendants have limited options in terms of defenses. More on that below.

Scienter (knowledge) is another option in many cases. Owners are liable for all attack injuries if they knew their animals were dangerous. Evidence on this point normally includes pre-attack behavior, such as:

  • Aggressive barking,
  • Sudden lunging,
  • Vicious growling, and
  • Baring of teeth.

Even pet owners are willing to punish owners who fail to control their animals. In fact, these jurors often hold these owners to a higher moral standard. Obviously, however, scienter is only available in some situations. Furthermore, a negligence claim like scienter is vulnerable to the full array of negligence defenses.

Possible Defenses

The provocation defense is available in both kids of claims. In this context, provocation is an intentional and extreme action. Victims cannot accidentally provoke dogs, perhaps by moving fast. Additionally, provocation is more than teasing. Instead, the victim must practically torture the animal.

Other negligence defenses include assumption of the risk. Displaying a warning sign, like “Beware of Dog,” does not automatically immunize owners. Additionally, they must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the victim saw the sign, could read it, and understood what it meant.

Dog bite victims are usually entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in St. Louis, contact Schultz & Myers, Personal Injury Lawyers. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available. 

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