Who is Liable If a Dog Bites Someone at a Dog Park?
February 20, 2022 | Dog Bites
Dog bite laws and dog park rules vary from state to state, but most identify the liable party in a dog bite accident as the dog’s owner. When a dog’s owner decides to take their pet to the dog park, it’s their responsibility to supervise the dog and ensure that it doesn’t harm others. If another dog or owner suffers bite injuries at a dog park, unprovoked, the owner is liable for the victim’s damages in most cases, unless they can prove that the victim contributed to or caused the accident.
These damages usually result from the medical costs and other expenses that arise when a dog bite victim has to seek medical treatment for his or her injuries. Medical bills can pile up quickly, and dog bite victims often find themselves paying out expenses and missing time from work due to their serious and debilitating injuries. Fortunately, many of these damages are legally compensable in Missouri.
Dog Park Accident Liability
Most dog parks are designated as “use at your own risk” facilities and have strict rules for people who choose to use the facilities. Dog owners are required to restrain their animals before entering the dog park, to protect not just their pet but other animals and people at the dog park from potential harm. If a dog bites another animal or someone else at a dog park, the dog’s owner is liable to compensate the victim for damages sustained in the accident. While dog park rules apply, a state’s dog statute laws overrule dog park regulations.
For example, in the state of Missouri, if a dog bites someone while on public property and the victim didn’t do anything to provoke the animal, the person can sue the dog’s owner for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other expenses that arose because of the accident.
The injured dog bite victim does not need to demonstrate negligence on the part of the dog owner. Missouri follows strict liability rules, so you can hold the owner responsible for the bite victim’s injuries even if the dog did not exhibit vicious or dangerous propensities in the past – even if the dog had never bitten before.
It’s essential to keep in mind though that in some states, dog bite liability laws are not as cut-and-dry. The state of Idaho acknowledges a “one bite rule” for dog bite accidents that gives owners a free pass if they didn’t know or shouldn’t have reasonably known that their dog could harm another person. However, if a dog owner doesn’t use proper care when handling their dog or fails to supervise their pet, and it bites someone, the victim can pursue a negligence claim against the dog owner. For example, if a dog park requires owners to leash animals, a dog’s owner doesn’t follow this rule, and the pet harms someone, the owner of the dangerous dog is liable for the injured person’s damages.
Dog Park Guidelines
Accidents at the dog park are entirely preventable, but every day, approximately 1,000 people suffer injuries in the U.S. in dog bite accidents. Some dog breeds are more likely to cause dog bite accidents, including “dangerous dogs” such as Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and American Bulldogs, but even if someone owns a “dangerous dog,” there are several steps they can take to prevent dog bite accidents, and dog park guidelines are in place to keep visitors and their dogs safe.
The most common dog park guidelines include the following safety tips:
- No dog should go unsupervised by an owner or caretaker and should not run at large throughout the dog park.
- Dogs should be on a leash at all times when visiting the dog park.
- If a dog’s owner knows that the dog has a propensity to be dangerous, they shouldn’t take them to the dog park in the first place.
- If a dog injured someone in the past, they shouldn’t visit the dog park, even if on a leash.
- Large dogs shouldn’t be in “small-dog areas” where the larger dog can attack a smaller dog and cause serious harm to the smaller dog—or someone else.
If a dog injures you at the dog park, gather evidence of the owner’s negligence, such as photos, videos, or witness reports, and swap contact information with the dangerous dog’s owner, even if you think your injuries are minor. Seek medical treatment in case the dog carries a disease such as rabies, and to ensure your injuries don’t worsen over time. Relatively minor injuries sustained in a dog bite case can develop into serious injuries if they do not receive prompt treatment.
Common Injuries That Victims of Dog Attacks in St. Louis Can Sustain
When a dangerous dog attacks a person in a dog park, the victim can suffer extremely serious and sometimes debilitating personal injuries. If the dog bites the victim, then the affected person can suffer a large laceration or puncture wound that may require stitches at a hospital emergency room. In addition, the dog bite victim might have teeth marks on the affected area and may have to undergo emergency medical treatment.
In some instances, the dangerous dog does not bite the person but rather knocks him or her over. When that happens, the dog attack victim can suffer a soft tissue injury, such as a muscle sprain or strain—especially to the neck or back. If the dog attack victim falls directly on the ground, then he or she can suffer a broken bone or another serious injury that requires surgery to correct. Finally, if the dog attack victim strikes his or her head on the ground, the victim can suffer head trauma, such as a concussion that leaves the bite victim incapacitated for a while.
If you were the victim of an attack by a dangerous dog at a dog park and suffered one or more of these injuries, you may recover monetary compensation for those injuries. The knowledgeable St. Louis dog bite injury lawyers at Dixon Law Firm can file a claim with the proper insurance company and pursue a favorable settlement offer in your case. Since many of these injuries require lengthy and expensive medical treatment, we will work to ensure that you receive full and fair compensation for everything that you went through.
If the insurance company refuses to offer you compensation, we can pursue litigation options in the court system on your behalf. Our legal team will work hard to ensure that you are made whole after your accident and that you recover all of the compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
Filing a Legal Claim With the Dog Owner’s Insurance Company
If you suffered injuries due to a dangerous dog at a local dog park, the first step to getting the compensation you deserve is to file a legal claim with the appropriate insurance company – such as the homeowner insurer for the at-fault dog owner. A knowledgeable St. Louis dog bite injury lawyer can investigate the circumstances behind your incident and file a claim with the appropriate insurance company.
Filing a claim that arises from a dog attack usually begins when the accident victim’s lawyer prepares a settlement demand letter to the insurer. This demand letter will discuss how the incident occurred and the various injuries the dog attack victim suffered. The letter will also make a monetary demand for settlement within the limits of the applicable insurance policy.
In addition to the settlement demand letter, the demand package will include relevant documentation related to the dog bite/attack injury claim. Some of the most important pieces of documentation include copies of any witness statements, incident reports, and/or police reports. In addition, your lawyer will include copies of all of the dog attack victim’s medical bills and records that are related to the injuries. If photographs and/or other supporting documentation depict the dog bite victim’s injuries, plaintiffs can include them in the demand package.
Once your attorney files a claim with the insurance company, an adjuster will begin working on the case. The adjuster will review all of this medical documentation and may make an initial offer to resolve the claim. In most dog attack cases, initial offers from an insurance company adjuster are extremely low and undervalue the claim significantly. In other words, you may recover much more money than what the adjuster initially offers to settle the case.
Any insurance company will do everything possible to undervalue a dog bite claim as much as possible. Insurance companies are businesses, and as such, they want to minimize their legal exposure to the greatest extent possible. After all, insurance companies lose money when they must pay out large settlements in personal injury and dog bite injury claims. They make their money by collecting premiums from the individuals whom they insure—and keeping that money in the insurance company’s coffers.
A knowledgeable St. Louis and Metro East dog attack lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company adjuster on your behalf and work to obtain a favorable settlement offer for you. If the case does not settle at this stage, the accident victim’s lawyer can file a lawsuit in the court system on your behalf and work to pursue a favorable result through litigation.
Although the litigation process formally begins by filing a lawsuit, the case can still settle at any point along the way. In fact, in some instances, filing a lawsuit light a fire under the insurance company adjuster’s feet to get the ball rolling and take the case seriously. If the case does not settle at that juncture, the parties can engage in various types of oral and written discovery to find out more about each side’s version of events.
Once depositions and other types of discovery wrap up, the parties might decide to resolve the case by way of a settlement. If that does not happen, the parties have the option of taking the case to a jury trial and letting the jury members decide the outcome. If the dog bite case goes before a jury, it will decide all of the disputed legal issues in the case. The most commonly disputed issue in dog bite cases is damages or how much the dog attack victim should recover.
Instead of taking the dog bite personal injury case to a jury trial, the parties might elect to pursue some form of alternative dispute resolution. For example, the parties can take the case before a neutral mediator who will help them facilitate meaningful settlement discussions—and hopefully bring the parties closer to a resolution.
Alternatively, the parties might elect to take the personal injury case to binding arbitration. At a binding arbitration proceeding, a neutral, third-party arbitrator will listen to all of the evidence in the case, review all of the medical documentation and other proof of injuries, and decide what (if any) damages to award the dog attack victim for the injuries he or she suffered.
The knowledgeable and experienced St. Louis dog bite injury attorneys at Dixon Injury Firm can advise whether you should accept a pending settlement offer or take your case to a jury trial or another proceeding. Either way, our lawyers will zealously advocate on your behalf for your legal interests and work to get you the compensation that you need—and that you deserve—for all of your dog attack injuries.
Potential Monetary Compensation and Damages That You Might Recover in a St. Louis Dog Bite Case
Victims of dog bites and other attacks that occur at a dog park can suffer very serious injuries. Often, they will find themselves going to multiple doctors or surgeons, attending hospital visits, and going to physical therapy sessions, depending upon the nature and extent of the injury or injuries suffered. As a result, dog attack victims will often incur significant medical bills and expenses that will quickly pile up over time. They might also have to miss time away from work to rehabilitate and get well again. Fortunately, all of these damages are compensable through the Missouri legal system.
The amounts and types of damages that a dog attack victim might be eligible to recover will depend upon the nature and extent of injuries sustained. Potential compensation will also depend on the extent and cost of the medical treatment that the dog attack victim underwent.
Victims of dog attacks that occur at a dog park might be eligible to recover their medical expenses, lost earnings, and other out-of-pocket costs. In addition, they can pursue monetary recovery for loss of earning capacity, inconvenience, pain, and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of use of a body part, or loss of enjoyment of life.
If you suffered injuries because of a dog attack in a park, the knowledgeable legal team at Dixon Injury Firm can safeguard your legal rights, advocate on your behalf, and pursue the damages that you deserve. If the insurance company won’t cooperate and offer you the compensation that you deserve, our legal team welcomes the opportunity to litigate your case in the Missouri state court system to a favorable conclusion.
Statute of Limitations Applicable to Missouri Dog Bite Cases and Other Personal Injury Legal Matters
If a dog at a local dog park has attacked you, seek out competent legal counsel as soon as possible after the incident to represent you throughout your case. Starting on the incident date, the time clock starts running for filing a claim or lawsuit.
In St. Louis, dog attack victims have a period of five years from the date of the attack in which to file a claim or lawsuit for monetary compensation and damages. The statute of limitations is a very unforgiving rule. If a lawyer does not file a lawsuit for you in five years, then the accident victim cannot recover any damages.
Therefore, seek legal advice as soon as possible. The experienced St. Louis dog attack injury lawyers at Dixon Injury Firm can file your claim or lawsuit well within the statutory deadline. If necessary, our legal team can go ahead and file a lawsuit to protect against the statute of limitations running. This will safeguard your ability to pursue monetary recovery for all of the injuries that you suffered in the dog attack incident.
Speak With A Dog Bite Lawyer Today
If a dog bites someone, whether at a dog park or other public facility, the owner is generally liable for the dog’s actions, but it can be challenging to prove that the accident happened without provocation or without knowledge of the dog’s propensity to be dangerous. A dog bite lawyer knows your state’s injury laws better than anyone and can defend your case against the negligent dog owner for causing your injuries.
Christopher Dixon and the St. Louis dog bite lawyers at the Dixon Injury Firm are passionate about helping dog bite victims recover the most compensation for their injuries caused by a dog owner’s negligence. Dog parks are supposed to be fun and exciting and serve as a place for dogs to safely socialize and bond with other animals and their owners—no one should have their experience ruined by suffering injuries from another person’s dog.
Our experienced legal team can meet with you to discuss how your dog bite incident occurred. We can discuss all of your legal options with you and make sure that you understand them fully. We can then pursue a settlement from the dog owner’s insurance company, or with litigating the case in the Missouri state court system if necessary. Either way, we will pursue the maximum compensation available to you.
If you sustained injuries at the dog park and are ready to recover compensation from the dog’s liable owner for your pain and suffering, call (314) 208-2808, or contact our dog bite injury lawyers in St. Louis today for a free consultation and to explore your options.