A dog bite can be a terrifying moment. As the victim rushes to a hospital, liability is likely far from his or her mind. But the owners of aggressive dogs – even if their pets are provoked – immediately fear expensive lawsuits and liability punishments. Who is responsible for such a situation? Many laws in Missouri govern dog bites, and what initially seems like a straightforward claim, may prove complicated. The Kansas City personal injury attorneys at Dickerson Oxton will walk you through the legalities to this situation.
Dog Bite Attorneys in Missouri
According to Missouri law, the dog owner is responsible for any injuries under the following conditions:
- The dog bites without provocation. A dog who is antagonized or otherwise encouraged into aggressive behavior by the plaintiff cannot be held liable.
- The victim is on public property. Dog owners must keep their pets safely contained and controlled. When a wandering canine bites a person in a public area, the owner is responsible for any damages.
- The victim is lawfully on private property. The law protects the owners of dogs who bite a trespasser. However, if someone is invited to a person’s home, the pet owner must keep the guest safe from a dog bite.
In addition to these requirements, the victim must demonstrate that his or her injury was caused by the dog bite. This can be documented through witness testimony, medical records, and photographs. Furthermore, whether or not the owner knew the dog was capable of biting a person is not a factor, neither is the victim’s understanding of potentially aggressive behavior. These laws also extend to live stock and personal property; the owner is responsible for any damage a canine causes in these areas.
Missouri Dog Bite Penalties
A pet owner may face criminal and civil charges in light of a dog bite. When assigning a penalty, the state considers whether or not the owner is keeping a “dangerous dog” and the animal’s bite history. These factors affect the consequences an owner may face, which include the following:
- Class B misdemeanor: owners who keep a dangerous dog – one with a history of bites. The first and second bites must have occurred without provocation. Penalties include up to six months in jail and/or a fine up to $500.
- Class A misdemeanor: a serious attack that leads to extensive damages. Owners who keep a dangerous dog whose second attack causes serious injury are penalized with up to one year in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000.
- Class E felony: first and second bites that cause serious injury. This results in a mandatory prison term up to four years and additional fines.
- Class D felony: a dog bites and kills a person. This results in a mandatory prison term up to seven years and additional fines.
The liable party will pay an additional fine up to $1,000 in addition to compensation for damages. This is, however, limited specifically to dog bites. Any other damages, caused by issues like scratching or jumping, are not regulated under Missouri’s dog bite laws. An additional civil suit for damage could include compensation for pain and suffering, missed work, recovery costs, and long-term treatments.
Work with an Attorney to Protect Your Rights
Whether you are the pet owner or were bitten by a neighborhood dog, it’s important to stand up for your rights. Contact a Kansas City dog bite lawyer for an in-depth look at your claim. These professionals will carefully analyze the circumstances leading to the attack, consider whether or not the dog was provoked, and if owner negligence contributed to the problem.
For a comprehensive look at your claim, contact Dickerson Oxton, LLC. Our team has years of experience successfully arguing dog bite cases, and we can ensure the best possible outcome for you. Get started with a free consultation today.