Biten by a Dog – Missouri Dog Bite Prevention

Dog Bites Facts

Nearly five million Americans are bitten by a dog each year, and over 365,000 of them visit the emergency room for their injuries. Young children and the elderly are most commonly hospitalized for dog bite injuries, and the majority of bites are on the legs and/or arms.

Although dog bites can vary in severity, they can result in significant injuries, permanent disfigurement, and in some cases, death. Even the victims of less severe bites can suffer from long-term psychological distress and be forced to undergo expensive medical treatments. A 2008 study by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services concluded that the average medical bill for a dog bite victim was $18,200 in 2008, and that over half of those who were hospitalized for a dog bite required sutures, skin grafts, or wound debridement. Monetary loss related to dog bites exceeds $1 billion annually.

Missouri Dog Bite Laws

Dog bite laws vary by state, and in 2009 the Missouri legislature passed a law (statute 273.036) that turns the law in favor of the dog bite victim.  Prior to 2009, Missouri was similar to a “one bite” state – meaning that if a dog bite victim sued a dog owner, he or she must be able to prove that the dog had a history of biting/aggressive behavior.  The new law takes away this requirement. A Missouri dog owner is now liable for injuries caused by their biting dog, regardless if the dog had previously bitten anyone.  The statute allows a dog bite victim to sue for any damages that they suffer, including financial compensation for medical bills, pain, lost wages, and emotional trauma.

However, if the dog owner had knowledge of their pet’s “vicious propensities,” they could also be subject to additional punitive damages (even if the dog had not previously bitten someone.) There are few exceptions to this law, but if a dog owner can prove that the victim was provoking the dog, or trespassing on private property when the attack occurred, this is considered a valid defense.

How a Missouri Dog Bite Attorney Can Help

Over 98% of Missouri dog bite claims are settled out of court, most often through negotiations with the dog owner’s insurance company. The value of this settlement is critical in ensuring that the dog bite victim is fairly compensated for their losses.  Determining the appropriate value of a dog bite settlement can involve reviewing medical records, estimating lost and future earnings, obtaining opinions regarding ongoing medical treatment, subpoenaing veterinary and police department records, and interviewing the dog owners and their neighbors and family.   It can be difficult for a non-lawyer to properly evaluate the fair value of a settlement.

In addition, in some cases the dog owner is unable to compensate the victim due to a lack of insurance or resources.  If this happens, St. Louis dog bite lawyer Christopher Dixon can evaluate the situation to determine if there might be another party that could be held liable, such as a landlord.

If you or a loved one has suffered a bog bite in Missouri, contact St. Louis personal injury attorney Christopher Dixon today to discuss your rights.  Chris Dixon can be reached at 314.409.7060, or toll-free at 855.402.7274.





Sacks JJ, Kresnow M. Dog bites: still a problem? Injury Prevention 2008 Oct;14(5):296-301.

Voelker R. “Dog bites recognized as public health problem.” JAMA 1997;277:278,280.)

Take the bite out of man’s best friend.” State Farm Times, 1998;3(5):2.)

Weiss HB, Friedman D, Coben JH. Incidence of dog bite injuries treated in emergency departments. JAMA 1998;279:51-53.)

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Nonfatal Dog Bite–Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments — United States, 2001, MMWR 2003;52:605-610. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report is published by the CDC.

Hospital Admissions for Dog Bites Increase 86 Percent Over a 16-Year Period. AHRQ News and Numbers, December 1, 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

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