Dogs truly are man’s best friends, but it’s important to recognize that they are also animals, with motives and instincts that may be unfathomable to humans. When a dog attacks and bites, it’s a terrifying experience, often even more so than if the attack came from a wild animal because we think of our own dogs as family members and are naturally drawn to other dogs. With over 400,000 dogs registered as pets in Missouri, it’s clear that Missouri residents love and value their dogs, but each year injury victims report thousands of dog bite cases in Missouri requiring medical treatment. But is there ever a time when a person bitten by a dog may be held responsible instead of the dog’s owner? According to Missouri law, the answer is yes. If the court determines that a person provoked a dog, the owner may not be held liable for the damages to the victim.
Strict Liability vs One-Bite Rule for Dog Bite Claims
In the majority of dog bite claims in Missouri, the dog’s owner is liable for damages. Missouri has what’s known as a “Strict Liability Law” for dog bite claims. This type of law holds dog owners accountable for their pet’s actions from the moment they take ownership of the pet. A handful of states allow a “single bite” rule for dog owners allowing the dog to bite or act aggressively one time before an owner is liable for further bites due to negligence. This type of law assumes a dog owner becomes negligent only if they are aware that the dog is capable of biting because it’s bitten once before. Missouri, however, isn’t a “one-bite rule” state. Instead, Missouri holds dog owners responsible for damages to a victim even the first time a dog bites except under two circumstances:
- The person bitten was trespassing or in the process of committing a crime on the dog owner’s property
- The dog-bite victim was provoking the dog
What Is “Provoking” a Dog Under Missouri Law?
In dog bite liability claims, Missouri courts categorize dog bites as either unprovoked or provoked. Provoked dog bites include both purposeful and accidental provocation including:
- Hitting a dog
- Kicking a dog
- Teasing a dog
- Taunting or acting aggressively toward the dog
Examples of accidental provocation in Missouri dog bite claims occur when an individual’s actions aren’t intended to injure or tease, such as when a person trips over a dog, a child grabs a dog’s tail, or an unfamiliar individual approaches a mother dog protecting her puppies.
In some cases, a dog’s owner can deny liability for a person’s injury by arguing that the bite victim provoked the dog whether or not the provocation was intentional.
How Can a Dog Bite Victim Recover Damages in a Missouri Dog Bite Claim?
While some claims of provocation in Missouri dog bite cases are valid, in other instances, a dog’s owner may wrongfully blame the victim by claiming they provoked the dog. A dog bite attorney in Missouri can help defend bite victims from wrongful accusations of provoking the dog attack. If you or your child or other close family member was injured by a dog bite in Missouri, a successful claim for damages can result in compensation including for:
- Medical expenses
- Future medical expenses for treatment against infection or to correct scarring or disfigurement
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Disfigurement compensation
You can receive compensation by showing that you were bitten by a dog while on public property or lawfully on private property, that you suffered economic and non-economic damages from the bite, and that you didn’t provoke the dog. A skilled St. Louis dog bite attorney can help document the necessary evidence to prove your claim.