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Dogs make wonderful companions. We might feel as though dogs are our best friends, but they are still animals and often subject to instincts we can’t fully understand. Missouri was once a “one-bite” state, which didn’t hold dog owners liable for the first time their dog caused injury under the premise that the owner couldn’t know the dog would bite if no biting history existed. Beginning in 2009, the Missouri legislature ended the one-bite allowance and implemented strict liability laws for dog owners. In Missouri, from the moment a pet owner takes on responsibility for a dog, they are accountable for the dog’s actions regardless of whether or not the dog has ever bitten anyone before.
If you’ve been injured by a dog, you understand the pain, terror, and trauma of an unexpected animal attack, especially when it comes from man’s best friend. The St. Louis personal injury attorneys at Miller & Hine have decades of experience defending clients who’ve been significantly harmed by dog bites. We have compassion for the pain and distress that this type of injury causes and the expenses that go along with it. We believe in holding negligent dog owners responsible when their pet attacks.
Call or contact our St. Louis dog bite law firm today for a free consultation so we can begin strategizing the legal options for your recovery.
Investigating Dog Bites in St. Louis
Nearly 1,000 dog attacks with injuries occur each day in the United States, resulting in payouts of over $1,136 million dollars in liability claims from home insurers in 2022 alone. Because the circumstances of every dog attack are unique, the dog bite lawyers at Miller & Hine will diligently investigate your dog bite incident to craft a compelling case for full compensation for your damages. Your St. Louis dog bite attorney will:
- Identify the dog owner
- Uncover the appropriate insurance policies to provide the maximum compensation
- Talk to any witnesses about the attack that led to your injuries
- Work together with law enforcement and animal control to determine the dog’s status and history
- Speak with neighbors and witnesses about the dog’s history and propensity for attack
- Talk to expert witnesses about the dog’s breed and any typical inclinations associated with the breed
- Speak to medical experts to determine your likely costs for the future as well as review any medical costs you’ve already incurred
You don’t have to go through any of this alone. At Miller & Hine, we have deep compassion for dog-bite victims and can navigate both state liability laws and local ordinances regarding unique dog breeds and your local leash laws to maximize your compensation.
Why Do Dogs Attack?
If you’ve endured the terrifying experience of having man’s best friend turn on you, you may be wondering why it happened. Sometimes an attack appears completely unprovoked, but only because we don’t fully understand a dog’s instincts. According to experts, dogs most commonly attack due to the following:
- Feeling startled or overwhelmed
- Protecting or guarding something they don’t want to share
- Protecting food, a favorite toy, or their space
- Protecting puppies
- Feeling sick or injured
- Redirected aggression
- Owner teaching, training, or encouraging aggressiveness in the dog
- Triggered predator instincts
Sometimes a dog misinterprets ordinary human behavior as aggression or as prey-like behavior. Dogs may attack out of fear, protective instincts, or because they mistakenly see you as prey. When dogs run in packs, or even groups as small as two or three together, they are more likely to take on predatory behaviors toward individuals.
Common Dog Bite Injuries in St. Louis
Dogs have very sharp teeth and claws. Dog attacks frequently result in punctures, tears, and bruises. Dog bites also leave significant scars, since their teeth can tear flesh and leave jagged edges. Dog bites on the face can cause serious disfigurement and eye injuries. Sadly, facial bites are more common in young children who are closer to a dog’s eye level, something some dogs misinterpret as aggressive eye contact. A dog’s instincts may also tell them that they are dominant over a child due to the child’s small size.
Dogs sometimes shake their heads from side to side while biting, leaving catastrophic damage to muscles and ligaments as well as severe bruising. Common injuries from dog attacks include:
- Punctures and lacerations
- Broken skin and tissue damage
- Torn muscles and ligaments
- Broken bones
- Head and neck injuries
- Facial injuries
- Eye injuries
- Nerve damage
Dog bites are also prone to infection and may require rounds of antibiotics and other preventative treatments. Typically, animal control will quarantine a dog after an attack and test the dog for rabies. If a dog has rabies, you will have to undergo preventative treatment.
What to Do After a Dog Bite
A dog attack is serious and traumatic. If your injuries are severe, you may be able to do little except wait for help. If you are able to use your phone, call 911 to report your attack. The local law enforcement agency will typically contact animal control. If you are able to use your phone or ask someone else to use it for you, take the following steps to protect yourself:
- Take photos of the dog
- Photograph your injuries
- Take photos of any other contributing factors such as an open or broken gate, fence, or dog leash
- Collect the contact information of the dog owner if they are present
- Gather the contact information of any eyewitnesses to the attack
- Accept emergency transportation to the hospital or go to a hospital emergency room as soon as possible
- Undergo a thorough medical evaluation
- Ask for a detailed medical report with your prognosis and treatment recommendations
- Keep all of your medical bills
- Ask for a copy of the police/animal control report
- Contact the St. Louis dog bite lawyers at Miller & Hine for a consultation
Dog bite injuries quickly become expensive, with medical treatment, antibiotics, and possibly reconstructive surgeries on the horizon to repair damaged fingers, limbs, or facial features. A successful dog bite claim in St. Louis can help you recover your losses.
What Can I Get for a Dog Bite Claim in St. Louis?
When you’ve been attacked by a dog, you’re likely to miss time from work while you recover. If your injuries were serious, you may have to undergo reconstructive surgery on damaged limbs or even your face and scalp. Costs quickly add up. A successful personal injury claim for dog bite injuries can result in compensation for the following damages:
- Medical expenses
- Future medical expenses if you require further procedures or treatments
- Lost wages
- Future lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma, PTSD, anxiety
Dog bite injuries often result in emotional trauma as well as physical injuries. Dog bite victims may experience sleeplessness, flashbacks, fear, and avoidance behaviors. If you choose to seek counseling for emotional disturbances due to your attack, your compensation should cover those damages as well as your medical costs.
Proving Liability for a Dog Bite Injury
Missouri’s strict liability law for dog bites means the owner of the dog that attacked you is liable for damages, typically covered through their homeowner’s or renter’s liability insurance. A pet owner is liable for any harm caused by their pet, regardless of the dog’s history. Proving liability in a dog bite case requires demonstrating the following:
- That the dog’s owner had a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent injury
- That they breached this duty by acting negligently
- That the breach directly caused your injuries
- That you’ve suffered significant damages from your injuries
Once a claim meets these legal requirements for liability, your attorney will draft a strong demand letter to the appropriate insurance company seeking the maximum compensation for your damages.
What if the Dog Bite Occurred on the Owner’s Property?
Unless you are trespassing on private property or engaged in committing a crime when the dog bite occurred, an owner is liable for your injuries even if you were on their property. Whether you were an invited guest or approaching the front facade of a home on legitimate business, the owner is liable for any damages. A property owner or renter should reasonably assume that others will approach their home and take measures to prevent their dog from causing harm to those on their property besides invited visitors and guests. This includes:
- Postal workers
- Delivery people
- Religious solicitors
Unless the property is fenced, gated, and hung with no trespassing signs, anyone entering a property for a non-criminal purpose should have a reasonable expectation of safety.
Exceptions to Dog Bite Liability in Missouri
Trespassers on a property marked with no-trespassing signs and/or “beware of dog” signs may not be able to make a successful claim for a dog bite injury. Even on private property without fences and signs, a person who enters the property from the backyard or side of a home rather than the front of the home (the home’s curtilage) could be considered a trespasser on the property.
Another exception to dog bite liability occurs if the bite victim was purposely provoking, hurting, or tormenting the dog; however, it’s important to note that in most cases, children are not considered either trespassers or purposely provoking a dog. A dog owner is always liable if their dog attacks a young child and causes harm.
Does Missouri Have a Time Limit for Filing a Dog Bite Lawsuit?
All states impose time limits—statutes of limitations—for filing personal injury lawsuits, including dog bite cases. This type of time limit serves to ensure that evidence is easily available and witness testimony is fresh when a case comes to court. Missouri has a particularly generous statute of limitations of 5 years from the date of the injury in which to file a lawsuit. It’s important to understand that a lawsuit is not the same as a personal injury claim against an insurance company. In most cases, your Missouri dog bite attorney will file a claim against the dog owner’s insurance policy and seek a settlement. Only if you can’t reach an acceptable settlement agreement does the case proceed to a lawsuit.
The best time to file a claim is after your doctor evaluates your injuries and you have a clear understanding of your prognosis and the treatment, surgeries, procedures, and time away from work you’ll require to maximize your recovery. By filing your claim in a timely manner, you allow enough time to follow through with a lawsuit if the insurance company denies or seriously undervalues your claim.
Will I Have to Go to Court for a Dog Bite Claim?
The vast majority of personal injury claims resolve with an ample out-of-court settlement. While it’s unlikely that you’ll have to go to court for a dog bite claim, your attorney from Miller & Hine is more than ready to advocate aggressively for your right to compensation before a judge and jury if required.
Our compassionate team understands the pain and trauma associated with a dog attack. Dog owners must be held accountable and you shouldn’t have to pay for the resulting damages from this type of preventable injury. Whether through a settlement or court award, you deserve both compensation and justice. At Miller & Hine, we deliver both for our clients.
How Can a St. Louis Dog Bite Attorney Help?
No one should go it alone when it comes to making a claim to recover damages from a serious injury like a dog bite. At the St. Louis dog bite law firm of Miller & Hine, we have over 50 combined years of experience that can positively impact the outcome of your case. Our knowledgeable lawyers understand the best way to investigate the circumstances of the dog attack, demonstrate owner liability, and calculate your damages to maximize your compensation. We have access to expert medical witnesses and strong local resources as well as the legal skills required to ensure all paperwork is complete and filed in a timely manner in the correct jurisdiction.
By choosing Miller & Hine for your dog bite case in St. Louis, you’re taking the first big step toward recovering your economic damages plus gaining compensation for your pain, suffering, and trauma.
Call our St. Louis law office today or contact us through email so we can hear about your case in a free consultation. Let us focus on your financial recovery while you focus on your physical recovery.