As of 2009, Missouri law now makes it easier for dog bite victims to recover financial compensation for their injuries.
The old law required bite victims to prove that the dog’s owner or possessor knew or reasonably should have known that the dog was dangerous, based on past experience. For this reason, it was sometimes referred to as the “one bite rule”—dog owners essentially got one bite for free before they could be held liable. However, even in cases where the dog had a history of violence, in order to be compensated, the victim needed to prove that the owner or possessor was negligent in allowing the attack to occur.
That all changed when the legislature enacted the current Missouri dog bite statute in 2009.
Strict Liability for Dog Bite Owners
Under the new law, dog bite victims are no longer required to prove either (i) that the dog has bitten previously, or (ii) that the owner or possessor was negligent in the incident. Today, you are entitled to compensation for a dog bite injury if:
As long as you can establish these three facts, the burden then shifts to the owner or possessor to prove an “affirmative” defense in order to avoid liability. If there is no affirmative defense, you are entitled to money to cover your doctors’ bills, future medical expenses, lost wages and earning capacity, and other losses. Missouri law also allows recovery for pain and emotional trauma.
The Affirmative Defenses to Dog Bite Liability
Dog owners and possessors can avoid liability if they can prove that you are partially to blame for your injuries. The three most-common affirmative defenses are:
Since these are affirmative defenses, the dog’s owner or the person who was watching the dog at the time of the attack must present evidence to support them in court. This is unlike other personal injury cases, where the plaintiff carries the primary burden of proof. With a dog bite, you are entitled to compensation unless the defense proves otherwise.
Statute of Limitations
Another potential bar to recovery is Missouri’s statute of limitations. In dog bite cases, the limitations period is five years. If you fail to file your lawsuit within five years of the date of the attack, the court will likely refuse to hear your case.
The Law Offices of Kevin J. Roach, LLC represents dog bite victims throughout Missouri. If you’ve been injured in a dog attack, contact us to schedule your free consultation.