When Is the Dog Bite Victim Liable for the Attack?

It goes without saying that Missouri dog owners should try to have as much control over their pets as they can. Dogs that go out of their way to attack anyone that doesn’t hold their leash could put victims at risk for severe injuries or deadly infections. If the owner is found guilty of keeping a dangerous dog that has attacked victims more than once, they could receive misdemeanor or felony charges dependent on how severe the wounds are.

However, the state is aware that not all dog bite attacks are completely the owner’s fault. Missouri statute 273.036 states that if the damaged party was also responsible for the incident, then the court will determine how much contributory negligence they have to reduce the damages owed by the owner. Both victims and dog owners should know which common defenses are available in the event of an attack.

Private or public?

Statute 273.036 also states that the owner is liable if the dog bites the victim on public property or lawfully on private property. If the owner proves that the victim was knowingly trespassing on private property, they could turn the case around.

Most of the times, “private property” is typically the owner’s front or back yard. The court is more accepting of the defense if the yard is covered with a fence and has warnings to stay off the property because of the dog. If the yard lacks both of these, the court will have to judge based off the victim’s proximity to the area when the attack occurred.

Was there provocation?

The statute also mentions that the dog must attack without provocation to make the owner liable. This can end up as a contentious defense as it may depend on if the victim was knowingly provoking the canine or not.

If the victim was causing some obvious disturbances such as loud noises, stepping on the dog’s tail or doing something that the owner was repeatedly warning them not to do, then there is a better chance the owner’s fee could decrease. If it is simply from walking too close to it and there is no physical warning from the owner, then there is little proof that the victim was at fault.

Devastating injuries and overwhelming medical bills can arise quickly from one attack. If Missouri dog owners have a pet that’s proven to be dangerous in their possession, then they must provide proper warnings to any neighbors or pedestrians in their area. Victims and their families should seek out a personal injury attorney to help them recover from damages.


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