Dog bite

Why You Need Legal Guidance and Representation After Suffering a Dog Bite Injury in Missouri

In America, a dog bites someone an average of every 75 seconds. When it’s your friend’s pet who bites you, though, this can leave you in a tough situation. You may be hesitant to sue them for damages. Even if the dog belongs to someone you trust, you still have the legal right to seek compensation for your injuries and trauma. You can maintain a valued friendship and pay for your medical bills at the same time. Consult a Kansas City dog bite lawyer who can help you handle the situation delicately without escalating tensions with your friend, neighbor, or family member.

Understand Your Rights to Fair Compensation

It makes sense that you don’t want an accidental dog bite to ruin your friendship. At the same time, this doesn’t take away from the fact that you are suffering as a result of that dog bite. You may have to pay for hospital bills and other expenses, not to mention any time you may be taking off from work due to your injuries.

Contrary to what some people might think, one of the main reasons to hire a Kansas City dog bite lawyer is to preserve your valued relationships. Talking to a lawyer does not mean you are pressing charges. 

Rather, you can treat a dog bite incident similarly to how you would handle a car accident. You are more likely to damage a friendship through an informal arrangement than to seek payment through official channels. In many cases, you would look for compensation for dog bite injuries through an insurance claim. An experienced lawyer will guide you through this process and explain your legal options. 

Missouri Dog Bite Liability Law Explained Simply

The Missouri Revised Statutes outline dog bite liability in Section 273.036. The state observes a “strict liability” doctrine for dog bites. In the past, Missouri had a “one bite” rule where victims had to prove the dog had an aggressive or vicious past. This is no longer the case. Today, as long as the attack is unprovoked and either on public property or lawfully on private property, dog bite victims can seek restitution for damages. The dog owner must also pay a $1,000 fine. 

An important legal term in this context is negligence. Just like with Kansas City car accidents, dog bite incidents are also governed by a doctrine of pure comparative negligence. If the dog bite victim is partially to blame for their injuries, the amount of money they ultimately receive is reduced by their percentage of responsibility. 

Potentially Serious Dog Bite Injuries

Some dog bites are relatively minor, while others can be severely life-threatening. Bacterial infections, including Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and Pasteurella, are a serious risk. Puncture wounds to the face, neck, or near vital organs can even prove fatal. Lacerations, fractures, disfigurement, and nerve damage are common dog bite injuries, as are psychological trauma. Dog bite injuries may require emergency care, surgery, and long-term rehabilitation. 

What to Do After a Kansas City Dog Bite Incident

Many steps you would take after a dog has bitten you are the same regardless of the dog’s owner. If they are a friend or other close acquaintance, you may make additional efforts to preserve this relationship and avoid harming it. Try to remain as calm as can be reasonably expected, but be mindful about protecting your legal rights, too.

Get the Medical Care You Need

The most important step is to take care of your medical needs. If you can, wash and treat the wound with a first aid kit. Even if the dog bite appears minor, it’s important to see a doctor or get other primary care. This can help avoid infections and permanent scarring. They may recommend a tetanus or rabies shot.

Report the Incident if Needed

In dog bite cases involving more serious injuries, you may need to call 911 to report the incident. An ambulance may arrive to assess your injuries, and law enforcement officers may complete a police report. You must report all Kansas City dog bites to the KC Pet Project (KCPP) Animal Services Division. You can do this by calling 311 or filling out the online report form. 

Seek Legal Counsel

When your friend’s dog bites you in Kansas City, it is important to seek the legal guidance of an experienced lawyer. They can help clarify common misconceptions about dog bite cases and work toward recovering the losses you incurred due to your injuries. Your friend may be liable for the harm their dog caused. In Missouri, the typical statute of limitations for dog bite cases is five years, but it is important to retain legal counsel as early as possible. 

Collect Valuable Evidence

Key to a successful claim for damages is gathering vital evidence for your dog bite case. Make a note of the dog’s breed, color, and size. You may make some observations about the dog’s general behavior and temperament, both before and at the time of the dog bite incident. 

Other evidence may include:

  • Your report of how the incident happened
  • Medical records documenting the severity and nature of your injuries
  • Treatment records for any medical attention you’ve received
  • Photos and videos of the dog, injuries, and where the incident happened
  • Witness contact information and/or statements
  • Confirmation that your friend is the dog’s owner, including their contact information
  • Official reports to authorities, like the police or the KC Pet Project
  • Personal property damaged in the incident, like torn clothing
  • If the dog has any history of biting or aggressive behavior 

File a Claim for Damages

The next step to recovering damages is to file a claim. Your attorney can help review whether the insurance company is offering a fair settlement. They can also handle any communication you have with insurance adjusters on your behalf, including negotiations. 

Seeking Payment for Injuries From Insurance Companies

You may hesitate to hire a Kansas City dog bite lawyer because you worry about how it may affect your relationship with your friend. It may feel uncomfortable at first, and justifiably so. In most cases, though, your friend will not have to pay out of pocket. Rather, insurance companies usually pay for damages after a dog bite injury

More specifically, homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies usually have liability coverage for personal injuries, including from dog bites. The amount of coverage can vary widely, as can the specific terms of the insurance policy. Your lawyer can help look up this information if your friend cannot or does not want to provide it. 

It is in the insurance company’s best interest to minimize payments and reduce liability. Even if your friend disagrees, the insurance company may try to argue that the dog attack was provoked. They may also try to downplay the extent of your injuries. Retaining an attorney can improve the chances your legal rights to fair compensation are well protected.

Possible Damages You May Recover

The amount of compensation you may be entitled to receive can vary based on the severity of your injuries and how they impact your daily life. Recoverable damages from dog bite cases in Kansas City are similar to other personal injury cases. They may include:

  • Lost income and employment benefits
  • Reduced earning potential
  • Medical bills, including rehabilitation and medications
  • Cosmetic surgery and other treatments
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma and loss of enjoyment
  • Punitive damages

Explore Your Legal Options With a KC Dog Bite Lawyer

If you’ve been bitten by your friend’s dog, a Kansas City dog bite lawyer can offer a compassionate and professional approach to a difficult situation. You have a legal right to seek fair compensation for your injuries. Your attorney will formulate strategies for your dog bite case that make sense, given the circumstances. The legal team at Foster Wallace will always keep your best interests at heart, treating you with the respect and dignity you deserve. 

Brian Wallace
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Kansas City Personal Injury Attorney