Compassionate Yet Aggressive Representation For Dog Bite Cases
Every year there are at least 5 million dog bites reported in the United States, with over 2 million of these resulting in injuries. On average, there is a dog bite every 75 seconds in the United States. In 2007 alone, there were 35 fatal dog attacks. Injuries from a dog bite can range from mild to severe to life-altering. Bruising, punctures, lacerations, nerve and muscle damage, facial and other disfigurements such as scars, infections, as well as emotional and psychological trauma are some of the injures that can result from such an attack. Injuries from a dog bite can be particularly traumatic for a young child who may have to spend years with a disfigurement until he or she is fully grown and can undergo the proper corrective surgery.
Missouri was once a “one bite state” when it came to aggressive dogs. To seek compensation, you had to prove that the dog was vicious and the owner knew of its propensities. Bite victims no longer have that complicated burden of proof thrust upon them. Now the state’s dog bite statute calls for strict owner liability.
According to Missouri Revised Statutes section 273.036.1, the dog’s owner may be held liable for your bite injuries if you were on public property (or legally on private property) and did not provoke the animal to attack. This rule applies even if the owner took reasonable steps to restrain the animal and otherwise prevent the bite.
The statute also states that in addition to paying a $1,000 fine, the owner of a dog that bites someone else is liable for any damages proven in a personal injury lawsuit, such as medical costs, lost wages, and property damage. They may even face criminal charges: if someone negligently keeps a dog with a known bite history, they can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor and compelled to pay a fine or spend up to six months in jail. The offense may be escalated to a felony charge depending on the severity of your injuries.
The Missouri statute does not cover other injuries a dog might inflict, such as jumping on a person and knocking them over. To determine if you are entitled to damages in this type of case, you first must classify your status as either a business invitee, licensee, or trespasser.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many dog bites are there a year in the United States?
According to the most recent information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 5 million dog bites each year with about 800,000 bites requiring medical attention.
Which breeds are most prone to cause injury?
While any dog or animal can bite and cause injury, the combination of pit bulls, rottweilers, and wolf hybrids account for 77 percent of the attacks causing bodily harm.
How many fatal dog attacks occur in the United States each year?
In 2007, there were 35 fatal dog attacks in the United States.
What can I do to prevent a dog bite to myself or children?
Dog bites most often result from negligent owners. Most dog bites can be avoided if the owners take certain precautions. However, never:
- insert yourself into a dog fight
- never leave a child or toddler alone with a dog
- never approach a chained dog
- never pet a dog without first letting him see you
- never lean your face close to a dog
- never tease a dog, especially when chained
- never bother or harass a dog that is eating
- never turn your back on a dog and run away
What should I do if I think a dog attack is imminent?
- do not scream and run
- do not move but leave your hands at your sides
- avoid eye contact with the dog
- if the dog looks away, slowly back away until the dog is out of sight
- if the dog attacks, give him an object, such as your jacket, purse, or anything else that you can put between the dog and yourself
- if you are knocked to the ground, put yourself into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless
- do not scream or roll around
If I am bitten by a dog or animal what should I do?
- wash the wound with soap and warm water
- immediately contact your physician for additional care
- report the bite to your local animal control or care agency
- try to gather information on the dog’s breed, color, and size, as well as the owner
Once I’ve received medical treatment, should I attempt to negotiate with the dog owner or his insurance company for compensation?
You may think that you can net more money by not hiring an attorney and by negotiating directly with the insurance company adjuster. Ryan R. Cox & Associates will not take a case unless Mr. Cox reasonably believes his firm can get you more compensation, even after attorney’s fees, than you otherwise would have received negotiating the claim on your own. At Ryan R. Cox & Associates, an aggressive and compassionate lawyer will work to achieve maximum recovery for your injuries. When you negotiate on your own, you may make negotiating errors that can lessen the value of your case. For more information, please see my section in the Personal Injury Information Center for “What You Need To Know About Insurance Companies.”
What must I prove in Missouri to recover for my injuries from a dog bite?
In Missouri, you can recover on theories of strict liability, premises liability, and/or negligence per se. Under a strict liability theory, you must prove that the owner of the dog knew it to be of a ferocious and mischievous disposition and had knowledge of the dog’s vicious or dangerous propensities. Under a premises liability theory, you must prove that the dog rendered the owner’s premises not reasonably safe and that the owner knew or by using ordinary care could have known of this dangerous condition, but failed to use ordinary care to make the area reasonably safe. This is a novel theory of recovery which Ryan R. Cox and Associates has used with success. Under a negligence per se theory, Ryan R. Cox and Associates will look for any ordinances or statutes that have been violated, such as running at large or harboring a particular breed of dog that has been outlawed. If such an ordinance or statute has been violated, this usually automatically constitutes negligence in itself.
How much is my case worth?
Many factors affect the value of your personal injury claim. These factors include the nature and extent of your injuries; the amount of your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and other financial losses; pain and suffering; and present and future disability. Even when those factors are considered, there can be significant variations in the value of a claim based on the amount of insurance available or the assets of the defendant, any comparative fault, and more. Unfortunately, there is no mathematical formula that computes the value of your case. However, when your damages become reasonably certain, Mr. Cox will discuss potential values with you.
Terms You Should Know About Non-Bite Attacks
A business patron is typically classified as an invitee. For example, if you go to a business and you are hurt on their premises, you are classified as a business invitee. To recover in Missouri, you must prove that:
- A dangerous condition existed on the premises (in this case, the dog)
- The possessor or owner of the dog knew, or, through the use of ordinary care, should have known of the condition
- The possessor or owner failed to use ordinary care to remove, remedy, or warn of the danger
- As a result of all of these elements, you were injured
A social guest is typically classified as a licensee. For example, if you are invited to a friend’s house for a social gathering you are referred to as a licensee. To recover in Missouri for any injuries you sustain as a licensee you must prove that:
- A dangerous condition existed on the premises (the dog)
- The possessor or owner of the premises had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition
- You lacked knowledge of the condition and could not have discovered it in the exercise of ordinary care
- The possessor or owner knew or in the exercise of ordinary care, should have known that you were unaware of the condition and could not discover it
- The possessor or owner failed to use ordinary care to remove, remedy, or warn of the condition
If you are injured on property and you have not been invited on the property, you can be classified as a trespasser. The general rule in Missouri is that the owner of the property on which you are injured is not liable for harm caused by the owner’s failure to put his property in a reasonably safe condition. However, if you can prove that:
- A dangerous condition existed on the premises
- The owner of the premises had actual knowledge of the condition
- The owner had actual knowledge of the presence of the trespasser, or of the applicability of some other exception to the general rule, you may be entitled to damages under Missouri law
If you were injured by a domestic animal attack in Missouri, let Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC, help you get the compensation you need to recover and resume your life. We will investigate the circumstances leading up to the attack and work to hold the owner liable.
Get The Representation You Need
If you or a loved one has been bitten by an animal, it is essential that you speak with an experienced personal injury attorney right away. Ryan R. Cox has helped hundreds of people from Saint Louis and the surrounding areas with these types of cases, and he is ready to help you too. Please contact us at 636-946-6886 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.