What Happens If a Dog Bites Someone On Your Property?
October 14, 2021 | Dog Bites
When a dog bites someone, questions regarding liability, or fault, may arise—issues that routinely come up along with monetary compensation and damages.
It can often be confusing to determine liability in these situations, but a St. Louis dog bite lawyer can offer information on your rights. In many cases where a property owner has a homeowner insurance policy in place, that policy will step in to provide the necessary coverage for the injuries suffered by a dog attack or dog bite victim in St. Louis.
When Is a Dog’s Owner Liable for Biting Me?
Generally, you need to demonstrate:
- That the owner should have reasonably known that their animal can harm someone on their property
- That the property owner, knowing that the dog is dangerous, should have taken precautions to prevent potential accidents—such as keeping the dog on a leash
- That the owner’s negligence played a big part in the accident occurring
In dog bite cases the victim has the legal burden of proof. The dog’s owner, on the other hand, does not need to prove anything. The dog attack victim must establish all of the legal elements of a negligence case by a preponderance of the evidence (that is, by showing that each legal element is more likely true than not true).
For example, if someone knows that their Pit Bull is aggressive towards strangers and that the child next door often cuts through the backyard to get to a friend’s house, the owner of the dog should take precautionary measures to prevent a possible accident. The dog’s owner can keep the dog on a leash, put up a dangerous dog sign, and/or ask the boy’s parents not to allow their child to cut through the yard.
However, if a negligent property owner doesn’t do anything to prevent an attack, and the boy suffers a dog bite, the victim’s parents can bring a suit against the property owner under the negligence theory of liability to recover damages.
What Happens if a Stray Dog Bites Someone?
Liable parties in dog bite accidents are most often a dog’s owner or keeper. While it is typically easy to prove that someone owns an animal, the term keeper is a bit looser. Most state dog bite statutes state that a person is legally responsible for a dog’s actions if they take care of the dog or have control of it, or if a property owner knew that a dog was dangerous, but never did anything to keep it off of the property.
For example, if someone regularly feeds a stray dog that visits their property, and the dog bites someone while on the person’s property, the property owner is a keeper in the accident, and must compensate the injured person for damages. Similarly, if a landlord knows that a stray dog often visits a property, strangers easily disturb it, and the animal bites someone, the landlord can bear liability for the victim’s damages for allowing the dangerous dog on the property.
Injuries Caused by a Dog That Bites Someone on a Property Owner’s Premises
Dog bite injuries can cause serious harm and the need for medical treatment by the dog attack victim. When a vicious dog bites a person, the victim can suffer teeth marks on the skin, deep gashes, cuts, abrasions, scrapes, and puncture wounds on the skin.
If the dog’s bite causes a deep gash in the victim’s skin that requires stitches, the bite victim might have a scar. If the scar is on part of the victim’s body that clothing does not cover, it can cause extreme shame, embarrassment, and humiliation—all of which are legally compensable.
In addition, dog attacks sometimes involve more than bite marks and wounds. In some instances, the dog will knock the victim to the ground causing other injuries, including a head injury, broken bones, or a soft tissue sprain/strain.
Injuries that a dog attack victim suffers can lead to medical treatment and other serious consequences. For example, if the dog attack victim suffers a deep bite wound, they might need to go to the hospital or urgent care center to get stitches. Depending on the injuries they suffered in the attack, victims may also need to follow up with a primary care physician or family doctor, undergo surgeries or other intensive medical procedures, and/or participate in physical therapy and rehabilitation sessions.
All of this medical treatment is expensive, and the victim’s medical bills can mount up very quickly in the weeks and months following the dog attack incident.
You filed a claim against the dog owner’s homeowner insurance policy, get experienced legal counsel on your side advocating for you at every stage of the case. The experienced St. Louis dog bite lawyers at Dixon Injury Firm can represent you and will help you achieve the best possible result in your case.
Statutes of Limitation in a St. Louis Dog Bite Case
Dog bite victims do not have an unlimited time to file a claim or lawsuit for damages arising from the incident. Specifically, Missouri has a five-year statute of limitations in personal injury cases, including bite incidents. In almost all circumstances, a person injured in a dog attack has five years from the incident to file a claim or lawsuit for monetary compensation.
If the accident victim does not file the claim or lawsuit within that deadline, they can’t ever pursue—or recover—monetary compensation for their injuries and damages. This includes compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Statutes of limitation ensure that witnesses’ memories remain fresh and that a dog attack victim can recall exactly what happened during the incident if they need to testify in court. The statute of limitations also ensures that witnesses remain available to come to court and testify if the case goes to trial or arbitration.
Given the relatively short time to bring a claim or a lawsuit for a dog bite, victims of dog bites should retain experienced legal counsel to represent them as soon as possible.
You can rest assured that when you retain the Dixon Injury Firm to handle your dog bite legal matter, we will provide you with the thorough, efficient, and result-oriented legal representation that both you and your dog bite case deserve.
Will My Dog Bite Case Need to Go to Court?
Many homeowner policies cover dog bites and attacks. When a dog attacks or bites a person on someone else’s land, then, the property owner’s homeowner insurance policy may come into play. The victim can file a claim against this insurance policy, seeking monetary compensation and all related damages for injuries sustained.
The dog attack victim’s lawyer will usually assemble a settlement demand package for the property owner’s insurance company. Once received, an insurance company adjuster will review all of the documentation and decide whether or not to accept liability for the incident. The demand package will consist of a settlement demand letter that makes a monetary demand for settlement in the dog bite case.
In addition, the demand package will include documents such as an incident report or police report, witness statements, treating medical records, medical bills, any lost wage documentation, and a victim impact statement. Sometimes, the victim of a dog attack will write out a statement that describes the effects that the injuries had on their life, including the inability to perform certain activities since the time of the incident.
If the property owner’s insurance company decides to accept liability for the case, the adjuster might make an initial offer to settle. The dog attack victim can review the settlement offer with his or her attorney, but the first offer it’s not usually the best offer. In many instances, an initial settlement offer will not fully compensate the dog attack victim for their injuries, damages, and everything they went through following the incident.
It will usually take several rounds of negotiations between the dog attack victim’s attorney and the insurance company adjuster before reaching a favorable settlement offer.
Most dog bite and dog attack cases settle, and those cases do not need to go to court. The victim will simply sign a release that states that they will not file a claim or lawsuit at any point in the future arising from the same incident.
If the case does not settle, you can explore other options before taking the case to a jury trial.
These options include mediation or arbitration.
- At mediation, the parties appoint a neutral, third-party mediator to help them facilitate a settlement in the case. The mediator can point out the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s version of the case and help the parties resolve it.
- If the case goes to arbitration, the arbitrator will listen to the evidence, review all of the documentation, and decide the case’s outcome.
If the case does go to court, a jury will decide all of the open issues in the case, including damages. A knowledgeable St. Louis dog bite lawyer at Dixon Injury Firm can help you file a claim or lawsuit if a dog attacked you on someone else’s property.
Damages Available to Accident Victims in Dog Bite Cases
In a dog bite case, even one founded on strict liability, the dog attack victim will still need to prove their damages. Specifically, the victim will need to demonstrate that they suffered at least one injury because of the dog attack.
In many instances, expert medical testimony needs to satisfy the attack victim’s burden of proof. For example, a medical provider can testify that, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the victim suffered a particular injury in the dog attack incident, as opposed to some other time.
Damages that one dog attack victim might recover can differ from those that someone else might receive because the amounts and types of available damages vary.
The damages a bite victim may receive will depend on the nature and extent of the injuries sustained in the attack, the types of medical treatment that the attack victim underwent for his or her injuries (such as a surgery, operation, or other medical procedure), whether the attack victim had to miss time at work to recover from the injury, whether the attack victim will require some medical procedure for the injuries, and whether the attack victim suffered a permanent injury or disability from the dog bite.
In cases where a dog attack victim had to undergo medical treatment, they might recover medical expenses related to the incident. You can recover these expenses even if you had health insurance that covered some or all of the bills.
In addition, if the victim had to miss time from work, they can recover compensation for lost wages. The dog attack victim can also claim inconvenience, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, loss of the ability to use a body part, and loss of enjoyment of life because of the dog attack injuries.
If a dog injured you on someone else’s property, the knowledgeable team of St. Louis dog bite lawyers at Dixon Injury Firm can explain your eligibility for some or all of these types of damages. We can then pursue the maximum amount of available monetary compensation on your behalf.
Talk to a Dog Bite Lawyer Today
If a dog bit you on someone else’s property, hire a lawyer to represent you and determine your rights.
It’s crucial to the success of your dog bite case to hire a lawyer to identify and protect your rights, defend your case against the other party, and offer support to you and your family during this trying time.
To date, the Dixon Injury Firm has recovered over $50,000,000 in settlements for personal injury victims, and the National Trial Lawyers Association has recognized Chris Dixon as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer. When you choose the Dixon Injury Firm for your dog bite case, you can feel confident that a leading personal injury firm represents you.
For more information on how our dog bite lawyers in St. Louis can help if a dog bit you, call (314) 208-2808, or contact the Dixon Injury Firm today for your free consultation, and we will explore the options available in your case.