A dog is man's best friend. But that doesn't mean a dog is friends with everyone.
Dog bites occur more than four million times every year. 800,000 bites require medical intervention.
Not all dog bites lead to court proceedings. But laws around dog bites are becoming more lenient. Regardless of whether you own a dog, you need to be familiar with dog bite laws.
Here are five surprising facts about dog bite laws in Missouri.
1. Dog Bite Laws in Missouri Used to Have "One Bite"
Dog owners in Missouri used to have strong legal protections. Dog bite laws in Missouri fell under the "one-bite rule," in which an owner was only liable if they knew their dog was violent. The injured party had to show a pattern of previous attacks, regardless of how much they were injured.
But in 2009, the Missouri legislature adopted the "strict liability" standard. This means that a defendant is liable for injuries even if they weren't at fault. The owner of a dog is liable if their dog wasn't provoked, and if the injured person was lawfully on public or private property.
2. A Dog Bite Can Cost You Thousands of Dollars
The legal code sets the fine up to $1,000. But this is just in criminal court. A person can file a civil suit, which can cost thousands depending on medical bills and damages.
If your dog harms other domestic animals, you will have to put the dog down. If you don't, you must pay a fine of one dollar every day.
3. A Dog Bite Can Send You to Jail
One dog bite in and of itself does not lead to imprisonment. But a pattern of bites can put you in jail.
The court can charge someone who keeps a dog that attacks two or more people with a class B misdemeanor. A class B misdemeanor can result in a six-month prison sentence.
If the attack results in serious injury, the court can charge an owner with a class A misdemeanor, which can lead to a one-year prison sentence. The death of a person triggers a class D felony, which can lead to a seven-year prison sentence.
4. Owners Can Still Defend Themselves
There are two common defenses for owners. The first is a provocation. If the injured person startles or harms the dog before the bite, the owner can claim provocation.
The second is trespassing. The bite needs to occur on the owner's private property. If the injured person had no good reason to be there, the owner can claim a trespassing defense.
5. Owners Can Claim Negligence
Negligence does not provide a complete defense. But it can reduce culpability.
If an owner can prove the injured person was partly responsible, the damages will be reduced. If the injured person was more than fifty percent responsible for their injury, they cannot recover any damages.
Injured people can defend against negligence. A dog bite lawyer will investigate the attack and determine who was responsible. They can talk to insurance companies about rates, determining the exact amount a person can claim.
Learn the Law After a Dog Attack in Missouri
The dog days are over. Dog bite laws in Missouri clarify penalties after an attack.
The "one-bite law" gave owners a strong defense. But the laws now fall under strict liability, which sides with injured people. Dog owners face thousands of dollars in damages and possible prison sentences.
But owners can defend themselves or claim negligence. Our St Louis personal injury lawyers determine the outcome of many dog bite cases.
If you have been attacked by a dog in Missouri, you can receive help. If your dog attacks someone, you can also receive help. Contact The Bruning Law Firm today!