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St. Louis Dog Bite Lawyer

Dog bites can be minor, disfiguring, traumatic, or deadly. From 2005 to 2020, dogs killed 568 children and adults in the United States. In December of 2021, a woman was mauled to death in the St. Louis metro area by three dogs she knew. Despite their domesticity, dogs can be extremely unpredictable.

In most circumstances, Missouri’s dog bite law holds dog owners liable for injuries and damages sustained by dog bite victims. If you or a loved one has been attacked by a dog in St. Louis, Missouri, or anywhere from St. Charles County to Jefferson County, our St. Louis dog bite lawyer may be able to help you recover compensation.

What Missouri Laws Apply To Dog Bites?

There are two key statutes that address dog bites in Missouri. The first, referred to as the Missouri dog bite statute, holds the owner or possessor of a dog that bites and injures someone without provocation or trespassing, on public and private property, strictly liable for the damages sustained by the dog bite victims.

Unlike some states, Missouri’s law does not require that the dog has bitten someone before. In other words, the dog doesn’t get one “free” bite before a victim can pursue a claim.

In Missouri, it’s crucial to understand that there is no provision for the “one free bite rule” often cited in other jurisdictions. This rule suggests that a dog owner may not be liable for damages caused by their dog’s first bite if they had no prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressive tendencies. However, Missouri does not adhere to this principle.

Instead, dog owners are held strictly liable for any injuries or damages caused by their pets, regardless of whether the dog has previously exhibited aggressive behavior or not. This means that if a dog bites someone, the owner can be held responsible for the resulting harm, regardless of the dog’s history. Understanding this legal framework is essential for those involved in dog bite incidents in Missouri, as it underscores the importance of seeking legal recourse promptly.

The dog bite statute addresses both tort law, which applies to personal injury claims, and also assesses a fine of up to $1,000 if law enforcement issues a citation.

The second key law is a criminal statute that addresses dangerous dogs. People who own or possess dogs that have bitten someone may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. If the dog seriously injures someone, the owner can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. If the dog attack results in serious bodily injury to a second person, the offense rises to a Class E felony. If the dog kills someone, the owner will be charged with a Class D felony.

Factors that Impact Dog Bite Claim Compensation

Several factors can influence the amount of compensation in dog bite claims:

  1. Severity of Injuries: The severity of the victim’s injuries play a significant role in determining the compensation amount. More severe injuries, such as deep lacerations, nerve damage, or permanent disfigurement, typically result in higher settlements.
  2. Medical Expenses: The cost of medical treatment, including emergency care, surgeries, rehabilitation, and ongoing therapy, is a key factor in calculating compensation. This includes past and future medical expenses related to the dog bite.
  3. Lost Income: If the dog bite victim is unable to work due to their injuries, they may be entitled to compensation for lost wages or diminished earning capacity. This can include current and future income losses from the dog bite.
  4. Pain and Suffering: Compensation may be awarded for the physical pain and emotional distress caused by the dog bite. This includes the severity of the pain, the duration of recovery, and any emotional trauma experienced by the dog bite victim.
  5. Permanent Disability or Disfigurement: If the dog bite results in permanent disability, such as loss of limb function or permanent scarring, the compensation amount may be increased to account for these long-term consequences.
  6. Insurance Coverage: The insurance policy limits of the dog owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy can impact the maximum amount of compensation available to the victim.
  7. Provocation or Comparative Negligence: If the victim’s actions contributed to the dog bite incident, such as provoking the dog or trespassing on private property, the compensation amount may be reduced based on the principles of comparative negligence.
  8. Legal Representation: The quality of legal representation can also affect the outcome of a dog bite claim. Experienced attorneys may negotiate higher settlements or present stronger cases in court, resulting in more favorable outcomes for the victim.

Considering these factors, the amount of compensation awarded in dog bite claims can vary widely depending on the specific circumstances of each case. It’s essential for victims to seek guidance from a knowledgeable attorney who can advocate for their rights and help them pursue fair compensation for their injuries and losses.

Common Injuries from a Dog Bite in St. Louis

  1. Puncture Wounds: Dog bites often result in puncture wounds, which can vary in severity depending on the size and strength of the dog’s jaw.
  2. Lacerations: Some dog bites can cause deep cuts or lacerations, which may require stitches or surgical intervention to repair.
  3. Infections: Dog bites can introduce bacteria into the wound, leading to infections such as cellulitis or septicemia if not promptly treated with antibiotics.
  4. Nerve Damage: Severe dog bites can damage nerves, leading to loss of sensation, weakness, or even paralysis in the affected area.
  5. Fractures: In cases of particularly forceful bites or when the victim tries to fend off the dog, fractures or broken bones may occur.
  6. Scarring and Disfigurement: Dog bites can cause significant scarring and disfigurement, especially if the victim is a child or if the bite affects highly visible areas such as the face or hands.
  7. Emotional Trauma: Being bitten by a dog can be a traumatic experience, leading to emotional distress, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in some cases.
  8. Rabies and Other Diseases: In rare cases, dog bites can transmit diseases such as rabies, which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.

What Does It Take To Prove Liability?

Proving liability requires a series of evidence. First, there must be proof that the dog owner owed you a duty of care. Missouri’s premises liability laws hold people responsible for the safety of their property for those invited to be there. Premises liability does not just apply to slips and falls and other accidents that occur when there are dangerous conditions. A dog can be a dangerous condition as well.

Second, there must be evidence that the owner failed to observe that duty of care by applying a “reasonable person” standard. In other words, the owner should have known or reasonably known their dog could bite someone.

Third, you must prove the owner’s failure resulted in you being injured by the dog, and as a result, you incurred damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, disfigurement, trauma, and/or pain and suffering.

Since Missouri observes the rule of comparative negligence in torts, the victim may be held partially liable for injuries. Being partially at fault does not prohibit the victim from pursuing a St. Louis dog bite claim for damages. Rather, any settlement will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to them.

Tips for Proving A Dog Bite Claim

Here are some tips for establishing liability in dog bite claims:

  1. Document the Incident: If you’re bitten by a dog, document the incident as thoroughly as possible. Take photos of your injuries, the location where the bite occurred, and any visible signs of negligence (such as broken fences or lack of warning signs).
  2. Seek Medical Attention: Promptly seek medical attention for your injuries, even if they seem minor. Medical records documenting your injuries and treatment will be crucial evidence in your claim.
  3. Identify Witnesses: If there were witnesses to the dog bite, get their contact information. Witness testimony can help establish your version of events.
  4. Report the Incident: Report the dog bite to the appropriate authorities, such as animal control or law enforcement. This creates an official record of the incident, which can be useful for your claim.
  5. Gather Evidence of Negligence: If applicable, gather evidence to demonstrate the dog owner’s negligence, such as previous complaints or incidents involving the dog, failure to properly restrain or control the dog, or violations of local leash laws.
  6. Consult with a Lawyer: Consulting with a lawyer who specializes in St. Louis dog bite claims. An experienced attorney can assess the strength of your case, advise you on your legal rights, and represent your interests during negotiations or litigation.
  7. Keep Records: Keep detailed records of all expenses related to the dog bite, including medical bills, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket costs. This documentation will help support your dog bite claim.

How Do I File A Personal Injury Claim?

Filing a dog bite injury claim can be far more challenging than, for example, filing a bodily injury claim against a negligent driver in a car accident.

As the plaintiff, you must prove negligence, while the dog owner will attempt to prove that you provoked the dog or were trespassing at the time of the dog attack. If successful, you could be assigned considerable comparative fault or be held 100% at fault for your damages.

Another issue prevalent with dog bite claims is finding insurance coverage to file a claim against. For example, a renter whose dog attacked you may not have any premises liability coverage. The owner of the rental property may not have a liability policy that covers the renter’s negligence.

If there is no insurance, you would need to file a dog bite injury lawsuit in civil court to get a judgment against the dog owner, then attempt to recover payment from the sale of the defendant’s assets or garnishment of their wages.

Missouri does have a generous statute of limitations for personal injury claims. You must settle an insurance claim or file a lawsuit within five years from the date of the dog attack, or within five years from the date of death if a loved one later died as the result of their injuries.

You can recover for damages, including medical expenses, lost income, disfigurement, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and property damage, such as a bag or cell phone damaged or destroyed in the dog attack.


At Jett Legal, we are tenacious and thorough in our investigations of dog bite attacks. The owners of dogs that bite and injure or kill should be held accountable, and we will do everything we can to help you do that.

If you have been attacked by a dog and injured in or around St. Louis, Missouri, let’s get started on your claim right away. Contact our St. Louis dog bite attorneys to schedule a free dog bite case review.