Relevant Evidence in a Dog Bite CaseDog bites can vary in severity depending on the breed of the dog and the number of dogs involved in an attack. However, national statistics show that most dog bite injuries result in severe physical damage, increased hospitalizations, and significant financial costs. In a startling number of cases, dog attacks have been fatal.

Consider these alarming statistics reported by various government bodies, medical researchers, and insurance or miscellaneous nonprofit organizations involving various aspects of dog bites and dog attacks:

Statistics

  • Dog bites occur every 75 seconds in the United States
  • Up to 5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States
  • Adults with more than one dog in the home are 5 times more likely to be bitten than those without a dog
  • Parents are present in more than 43 percent of dog bite cases
  • In 53% of dog bite injuries, the dog belongs to the family of the victim; Pit bulls were most commonly responsible for family-related dog bite injuries

Cost

  • On average, a dog bite-related hospitalization costs 50% more ($18,200) than hospital stays related to other injuries
  • Dog attack victims suffer more than $2 billion in monetary losses each year
  • In 2018, homeowners insurers paid $675 million in liability claims related to dog bite injuries
  • Between 2003 and 2018, the average cost per claim has risen more than 103 percent

Injury

  • More than 1,000 people a day receive emergency medical care to treat injuries from dog bites
  • Nearly 1 out of 5 bites becomes infected
  • Approximately 27,000 people a year undergo reconstructive surgery as a result of dog bites
  • In the United States, between 1993 and 2008, dog bite-related hospitalizations increased by 86%
  • Pit bulls were the most commonly identified breed involved in major dog bite injuries

Fatality

  • Between 2005 and 2018, 27% of all dog bite fatalities were children between 0-2 years old, with infants under 1 year old accounting for almost half (61) of these fatalities
  • In 2018, 78% (28 of 36) of dog bite fatality victims were female (the highest count on record)
  • From 2015 to 2018, 60% of victims killed by dogs were children under 10 years old
  • Between 2005 and 2009, rescue dogs inflicted 2% of dog bite fatalities. Between 2015 and 2018, this number rose by 600%
  • Between 2005 and 2018, 47% of fatal attacks involved 2 or more dogs—an increase of nearly 60% since 1994
  • The most commonly identified breed for dog bite fatalities is the Pit bull

Pit Bull-Specific Statistics

  • From 2005 to 2018, Pit bulls killed a total of 311 Americans—approximately one person every 16 days; Rottweilers killed one person every 109 days
  • Between 2005 and 2018, Pit bulls inflicted half of the infant deaths (children less than 1 year old) resulting from dog bites (30 of 61)
  • Between 2005 and 2012, Pit bulls caused 60% of all dog attack fatalities (152 of 253)
  • Between 2013 and 2018, pit bulls caused 73% of fatal dog attacks (159 of 218)
  • Pit bull breeds are more than 2.5 times more likely than other breeds to bite multiple body parts in an attack
  • Pit bulls are 3 times more likely than any other breed to inflict injuries that require surgery
  • Pit bull are responsible for 60% of all injuries, and 63% of all eye injuries, in attacks on unfamiliar victims
  • Pit bulls are over 8 times more likely than any other breed to attack its primary owner. Between 2005 and 2018, 54 fatalities involved a dog killing its primary owner, with Pit bulls involved in 63% of these deaths
  • Pit bull terriers are more likely than any other breed to attack an unknown individual (+31%), and without provocation (+48%)
  • From 2005 to 2017, there were 97 fatal attacks involving more than 2 dogs; a fatality is 16 times more likely to occur when more than one of the dogs is a Pit bull
  • It is projected that by 2022, pit bulls will have killed more than 545 Americans since 1980
  • Pit bull attacks are associated with higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of death than attacks by any other breed of dog

Given these alarming statistics, if you are involved in a dog bite case, you need an attorney who knows and understands the laws involving dog bites. At Foster Wallace, we have experience handling dog bite cases and will help you recover the maximum damages you deserve.

What Are the Dog Bite Laws in Missouri and Kansas?

Missouri and Kansas take different approaches to dog bite liability. In Missouri, a dog owner is “strictly liable” for dog bites inflicted by a dog, whereas Kansas applies a “one bite” rule.

Strict Liability in Missouri

Missouri’s dog bite law (Mo. Stat. § 273.036) provides as follows:

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.

This means that an owner of a dog is responsible for any injuries caused by a dog that attacks someone, without being provoked by that person, even if they had no reason to suspect that the dog was vicious or was inclined to bite or attack. Thus, in Missouri, to recover under this statute, the victim does not have to show that the owner was negligent in preventing the dog from biting. If injuries are caused by a dog attacking but not biting (such as by being knocked down), then the victim would have to set out a normal claim for negligence on the part of the owner.

Under the “one bite” rule in Kansas, however, a victim must show that the owner knew or had reason to know that the dog had a propensity to bite. Thus, it is said that a dog gets “one free bite,” after which the owner knows that the dog is inclined to bite. However, an owner could be held to have knowledge of a dog’s propensity for dangerousness even if the dog has never bitten before. For example, if the dog has exhibited dangerous tendencies, such as:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Growling, barking, and snarling at people
  • Charging people

If the owner is aware of these tendencies, then the owner may be sufficiently on notice and, therefore, strictly liable for a bite, even though the dog has never bitten before.

In Kansas, the victim may also show that the owner was negligent in preventing the dog from attacking, biting, or injuring another person, such as by not having the dog on a leash or failing to sufficiently enclose the dog when not on a leash, or failing to control the dog’s behavior around other people.

Are There Defenses to Liability for Dog Bites?

In both Missouri and Kansas, a dog owner may have a defense to a claim of liability for a dog bite if either:

  • The owner’s dog bit the victim when the victim was trespassing on the owner’s property
  • The victim provoked the animal, thereby causing the animal to bite the victim

However, even if the owner may raise one of these defenses, the victim may still recover. Missouri applies a pure comparative negligence theory of liability, which means that the victim’s award may be reduced by the percentage to which the victim was at fault for the dog bite. For example, if the victim is determined to be 60% at fault for the attack, then the victim may recover 40% of their damages.

Kansas, however, applies a modified theory of comparative liability, which provides that the victim’s award may be reduced by the percentage of fault imposed by the victim, but if the victim is determined to be more than 50% at fault, then the victim may not recover. Thus, although a victim who was more than 50% at fault may recover in Missouri, the same victim would be barred from recovery in Kansas.

Contact Foster Wallace for a Lawyer with Experience in Dog Bite Cases in Missouri & Kansas

If you or your child have been bitten by someone else’s dog in Missouri or Kansas, you will need a dog bite lawyer with experience in dog bite cases and who understands the dog bite laws in your state. Contact Foster Wallace for a free consultation to assess your case and to help you receive the compensation you deserve for your dog bite injuries.

Brian Wallace
Kansas City Personal Injury Attorney