Dog Bite Cases

One of the most severe types of injury occurs when a dog bites a human.  These cases can cause more than skin lacerations.  In many instances, a dog bite will crush bones, permanently damage nerves, require multiple surgeries, cause bacterial infections, and cause multiple psychological and social problems associated with the trauma and aesthetic disfigurement.

When bites occur in the face, plastic surgeons will typically perform reconstructive surgery.  If the bite occurs in a part of the body other than the face, doctors may elect to avoid sewing it shut in order to reduce the probability of a Our experienced St. Louis dog bite lawyers help the clients through the proceedings.

Dog Bites and Children

One of the most heart-breaking injuries is a dog attack involving a child.  One Yale study indicates that children who suffer from a dog bite involving permanent facial scarring are significantly more likely to suffer later in life in the form of reduced earnings, drug or alcohol abuse, and other maladies.  

According to Sarah Hanly, a psychologist at Cardinal Glennon in St. Louis, between 5 and 25 percent of children who experience dog bites will develop post-traumatic stress disorder.  Hanley recommends that parents should openly acknowledge a child's fears and let the child talk openly about the fear of dogs after an attack.  Gradually, a child can be exposed to books and movies about dogs, and later even a visit to a pet store, in an effort to overcome their fears.

What if my dog bites another family member?  Alternatively, what if a family member's dog bites me or my kid?

The majority of dog bite cases referred to this office involve a dog biting a member of the owner's family.  While most people prefer not to sue family members, a standard homeowner's or renter's insurance policy will cover these damages.  In addition, the majority of dog bite cases are settled with insurance companies before trial or before filing suit.  So making a claim will usually involve negotiating a settlement with the insurance company.

Will a dog be euthanized or "put down" if it bites a person?

In Missouri, it is extremely rare when a dog/canine is ordered to be euthanized or "put down" as a result of the dog biting a person.  Most local ordinances require that the dog be observed for a period of time, usually one or more days, to ensure that the dog does not suffer from rabies.  A dog suffering from rabies is required to be be euthanized.  However, because rabies cases are extremely rare, the biting or attacking dog will almost certainly be returned to the owner. 

What is strict liability as it relates to dog bites? 

Typically, in order to recover damages from a person or his/her insurance company the injured party is required to prove negligence.  Dog bite cases are different in that the burden of proof is much lower.  A dog bite victim can recover under a strict liability statute (RS Mo. 273.036).  In Missouri, RSMo. 273.036, provides that the owner or possessor of any dog that bites, without provocation, any person while such person is on public property, or lawfully on private private property, is strictly liable for damages suffered by the person bitten.  In other words, the injured party need only meet the requirements of the statute as opposed to proving negligence. 

Does the plaintiff need to prove that the dog had a vicious propensity?

No.  One common misperception about dog bite cases is that "every dog gets two bites."  In other words, prior to the enactment of RSMo. 273.036, an owner would only have been liable after he or she knew that the dog had the propensity to bite people, and knew that the dog had already bitten at least one other person.  Now, that is no longer a requirement.  RSMo. 273.036 provides that the owner or possessor is liable "regardless of the former viciousness of the dog."

Insurance

Most homeowners insurance policies and renters policies cover injuries caused by the insured's animal.  This is true even if the dog attack occurs away from the property, in a park, public setting, or someone else's residence. 

What should I do if I'm attacked by a dog, or my family member is attacked by a dog?  

Seek medical attention immediately.  The effectiveness of medical treatment is often directly related to the speed with which you are able to see a doctor.  After your condition stabilizes, before talking with an insurance company, you should contact an attorney.  

More Information

If you have a question relating to a possible or pending dog attack case, please send a direct message or call our dog bite lawyers (314) 725-4400.  For more information on some of our recent cases, please visit our news page.  We also have an FAQ relating to personal injury, class action, and other issues.