Dog Bite Liability Under Missouri Law

dog bite attorney kansas city

Have you been bitten by a dog and need help? You may be able to recover damages against the dog's owner. In fact, sometimes one who keeps or harbors dogs, although not the owner, may be liable for your injuries and pain and suffering as well.

In Missouri, if you were the victim of a dog bite, there are three causes of action you may be entitled to file against the owner or dog harborer could potentially be:

  • Negligence. One who possesses a dog that he or she does not know to be abnormally dangerous, is subject to liability for the harm done by the dog if: (a) he intentionally caused the dog to harm someone, or (b) he was negligent in failing to prevent the harm. To show negligence, you will have to prove you were owed a duty, the dog owner breached that duty to you, and you were damaged because of that breach.
  • Premises Liability. This cause of action may be available only in rare cases.
  • Strict Liability. In an action against a dog owner, the plaintiff must establish that the animal had vicious propensity; and the defendant’s owner had knowledge of the animal’s vicious propensity. You cannot prevail, however, on a strict liability theory if you are a trespasser.

Punitive damages are available to people who have been injured by dogs or other animals in cases where the defendant’s conduct was outrageous.

Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Dog Bite in Missouri?

Missouri follows the “strict liability” doctrine when it comes to dog bites, which means that the owner or harborer of a dog is held responsible if their dog bites someone, regardless of whether the dog has a history of biting or aggressive behavior.

Under Missouri’s dog bite law (section 273.036 of the Missouri Revised Statutes), a dog owner is liable if:

  • The injury was caused by a dog bite.
  • The person who was bitten was on public property or lawfully on private property.
  • The person who was bitten did not provoke the dog.

So, generally, the owner of the dog is the one who can be held responsible for a dog bite in Missouri. In certain circumstances, however, someone other than the dog's owner could be held responsible for a dog bite. This could include:

  • Keepers or Handlers: If a person other than the owner was in control of the dog or was responsible for its care at the time of the bite, they could potentially be held liable. This might include a dog sitter, dog walker, or a kennel.
  • Landlords: Generally, a landlord would not be liable for a tenant’s dog in Missouri. However, in some rare exceptions, if the landlord knew that a tenant's dog was dangerous and didn't take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of other tenants when it knew the dog was an issue but turned a blind eye, there is the potential the landlord could be liable. This is very fact-intensive though.

Can I Sue For a Dog Bite in Missouri?

The statute of limitations for an injury following a dog (or any animal for that matter) is five years in Missouri. R.S.Mo. 516.120. This means the victim (or his or her dog bite lawyer) must file a lawsuit within five years from when they were bit (unless they were a minor when the bite occured). Cases involving dog bites in Missouri can be resolved for compensation without filing a lawsuit a lot of the time if the insurance company sees that your dog bite lawyers are serious about your claim and will take the case to trial if need be. 

There are several common defenses that may be raised in a Missouri dog bite case, which can make it more difficult to prove liability and recover damages. Some of the most common defenses include:

  • "Provocation" defense: This defense argues that the victim’s actions contributed to or provoked the dog bite. For example, if the victim was taunting or teasing the dog, the defense may argue that the victim was at least partially responsible for the bite.

  • "Trespasser" defense: This defense argues that the victim was on the dog owner’s property without permission and therefore the owner cannot be held liable for the bite.

  • "Assumption of risk" defense: This defense argues that the victim was aware of the risk of being bitten by the dog and voluntarily assumed that risk.

If you have been attacked by a dog in Missouri, you need to speak with an experienced dog bite lawyer as soon as possible.

What Are the Dog Bite Laws in Kansas City?

Kansas has no dog bite statute. Instead, it uses the common law one-bite rule. Under this rule, the owner of a dog is not held liable for personal injuries caused by a bite unless the owner either knew or should have known that the dog was predisposed to bite people. A Kansas dog owner might also argue that an injured person was trespassing and that therefore, the owner should not be liable for damages. Homeowner liability for trespasser injuries is limited in many contexts, including dog bite law. To overcome these defenses, it is important to gather and present evidence that the dog owner knew or should have known that their dog was dangerous and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the bite. This could include evidence of previous aggressive behavior, a history of biting, or a failure to properly train or supervise the dog. Additionally, showing that the dog owner was negligent in their care of the dog can also help to overcome these defenses. You should quickly discuss your matter with a Kansas dog bite lawyer so potential evidence can be retrieved. 

In Kansas, you have two years to file an action based on a dog bite so you need to make sure you get all your injuries examined quickly after the dog bites and talk to a dog bite lawyer quickly after the attack to put the dog owners on notice of your claim. A lot of the time, cases involving dog bites can be settled for compensation before a lawsuit is filed by your lawyer.

Does Missouri Have a One-Bite Rule?

The "one bite rule" is an old legal principle that holds that the owner of a dog is not liable for injuries caused by the dog's first bite, because the owner had no reason to know that the dog was dangerous. This rule is based on the idea that a dog gets "one free bite" before it is considered dangerous. This is the rule in Kansas.

However, many states, including Missouri, have moved away from this principle and instead use "strict liability" laws for dog bites. Under Missouri's dog bite law (section 273.036 of the Missouri Revised Statutes), a dog owner (or harborer) is liable if their dog bites someone, regardless of whether the dog has bitten anyone before or whether the owner had any reason to believe the dog was dangerous. The law applies if the person who was bitten was on public property or lawfully on private property, and the person who was bitten did not provoke the dog.

Read One Client's Experience Following Injuries Caused By a Dog Bite

Michael assisted me with a dog bite claim. He always kept me up to date throughout the process and made sure I was on the same page. Gave good advice. Would recommend to anyone.
Written by: Thatcher Murdock
Foster Wallace LLC
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Contact Kansas City Dog Bite Lawyers Michael Foster and Brian Wallace

Michael Foster Brian WallaceIf you have been attacked by a dog in either Kansas or Missouri, you need to speak with an experienced dog bite lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.249.2101 to schedule your free consultation.  If you're not ready to talk, but still want to learn more about your rights, allow us to mail you a complimentary copy of Dog Bites: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Right to Recovery in Kansas or Missouri.

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