New Missouri Dog Bite Law Makes Recovery Easier

While most dogs are trusted family pets, in unfortunate circumstances, these animals injure unsuspecting victims through bites or other aggressive behavior.  In many cases, these victims are children who sustain significant injuries from the bites.

In Missouri, up until recently, a victim of a dog bite could recover under a number of legal theories, including negligence for not monitoring a dog with “vicious propensities”; failure to monitor a dangerous condition, i.e. the dog, on the property and others including leash law violations.

However, a recently enacted law makes a dog owner strictly liable for injuries sustained from a bite.  

Section 273.036 provides “1. The owner or possessor of any dog that bites, without provocation, any person while such person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner or possessor of the dog, is strictly liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner's or possessor's knowledge of such viciousness. Owners and possessors of dogs shall also be strictly liable for any damage to property or livestock proximately caused by their dogs. If it is determined that the damaged party had fault in the incident, any damages owed by the owner or possessor of the biting dog shall be reduced by the same percentage that the damaged party's fault contributed to the incident. The provisions of this section shall not apply to dogs killing or maiming sheep or other domestic animals under section 273.020.
2. Any person who is held liable under the provisions of subsection 1 of this section shall pay a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars. The remedies provided by this section are in addition to and cumulative with any other remedy provided by statute or common law.”

Therefore, under Missouri law, where a victim in the past had to prove the negligence of the dog owner typically by establishing the vicious propensity of the animal (often, yet incorrectly, referred to as the one free bite rule), this statute makes the owner or possessor of the dog liable for the injuries regardless of the prior behavior of the animal.  Now, to make a claim for compensation that is typically paid under a homeowner’s policy, a victim need only establish her damages from the bite.  This statute will make it significantly less of a burden to obtain just recovery for injuries sustained from a dog bite.

Under Illinois law, victims of dog bites have a similar remedy.

For more information, please contact dog bite attorney Mike Sudekum.
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