Bit by a Dog? Now What?
As humans, we all love dogs. They provide us unconditional love and are always there for us. Unfortunately, dogs have teeth and sometimes they use them. As a dog owner or someone who was bitten by a dog, it is important to understand the state laws regarding dog bites and how to handle such incidents.
First, if you were bitten by a dog, make sure that you seek proper medical care. If you believe that you need immediate medical attention, call 911.
Once you are safe and recuperated from the incident, you might want to document what happened with pictures of the bite, the dog, and the location where the attack occurred, along with names of the dog or owner. If you happen to find yourself in a lawsuit about the dog bite, having photo evidence is always a plus. You can never be too prepared. At the very least you have a picture of a dog you know that you should not be around.
After the incident and with evidence, you might decide you want to sue the owner based on how serious your injuries(damages) are. If you do, it is important to know what the state laws are regarding dog bites (this is also important for dog owners). There are two types of state laws regarding dog bite laws that differ depending on the state the bit occurred in: One is “One Bite” and the other is “Strict Liability”.
In a “One Bite” state, the owner of the dog will have a free pass if it is the dog’s first documented bite. However, if the owner should have known that their dog was vicious and capable of biting someone, they can still be held liable.
In a “Strict Liable” state, such as Missouri, the dog owner is liable for the action if,
- The dog bites without provocation and,
- The victim is on public property or lawfully on private property.
It does not matter if the dog did not appear to be vicious prior to the incident in a strict liability state. As such, owners need to be aware of their state laws so they know the liability they have concerning their dogs. While owners should never want their dogs to bite anyone, an owner should take extra caution in strict liability states as there is no “free pass.”
So, if you were injured due to a dog bite, first make sure you are alright. Then, begin to document what happened. If you live in a strict liability state, like Missouri, and you want to sue for damages, you have a relatively low bar to meet in order to recover for your damages. However, you must be able to identify the dog and the dog’s owner and the location where the bite occurred. If you live in a one bite state, the bar is raised slightly higher and you might not be able to recover damages if the dog was previously docile and never bit anyone.
On the other hand, if you are the owner or possessor of the dog that bit someone, you might want to hire an attorney depending on the situation. If you believe that your dog was provoked or that the victim was on your property without consent, then you might have a good defense to any claims made by the injured party. Just like the injured party, document what you can with notes and pictures. Your dog can also be taken by animal control to determine its fate depending on the situation. This is called the “Bite Hold”. If this happens and you do not have an attorney already, you might want to hire one to help you get your dog back.
Either way, if you were bitten by a vicious dog or believe that you and your dog are not at fault, you might want to hire an attorney. While located in Florissant, Missouri, Fortman Law practices personal injury and many other types of law across the state of Missouri. Give us a free call, stop by, or send us an email and we will see what we can do for you.