Dog Bite Injury Attorney in STL
Nearly five million Americans are bitten by dogs every year, and over 365,000 of these victims visit the emergency room for their injuries. Young children and the elderly are among those most commonly hospitalized for dog bite injuries.
Although dog bites can vary in severity, they often 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.
If you or someone you love was bitten by a dog, The Dixon Injury Firm can help. Our St. Louis dog bite lawyers are ready to help you understand your legal options and fight for the justice and fair compensation you deserve. We have recovered over $50 million in case results for injured individuals and the families of those wrongfully killed throughout Missouri. Let our St. Louis personal injury lawyers fight for you, too
Who Is at Fault for a Dog Bite?
Section 273.036.1 of the Missouri Revised Statutes states that the owner of a dog is strictly liable if his or her dog bites you and causes injuries when you are on public or private property on which you are legally allowed to be.
If you are bitten by a dog in the state of Missouri, you may be entitled to file a dog bite claim against the dog owner to cover medical costs, loss of earnings, pain and suffering, and all other bite-related damages. The statute of limitations in Missouri for a dog bite claim is typically five years after the incident; however, it is important that an investigation occurs immediately to ensure the dog does not attack anyone else.
Dog Bites & Children
It comes as no surprise that children have a great affinity for dogs. This affinity is often the driving factor in dog-related child injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that almost five million people a year are attacked by dogs, with 800,000 of these injuries affecting children. The CDC further estimates that 12 people a year die from being attacked by a dog.
In order to protect children from dog bites, it is important to provide both physical oversight and education. Young children are often unable to properly interpret dogs’ behavior. When a child is playing with a dog, they often do not recognize an aggressive stance or behavior. The dog will exhibit a defensive posture, while the unassuming child moves in to pet the animal. This often results in disaster.
Depending on the age of your child, they may be at a point where they are not capable of interpreting various animal attack warning signs. In these cases, it is important that your child is always being watched if he or she is around a dog. When your child is of an appropriate age to understand the meanings of various canine behaviors, time should be spent to ensure they are aware of when it is acceptable to approach and when they should back off.
Children should be aware of some basic dog bite prevention guidelines, including:
- Do not bother a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies
- Do not play aggressive games with a dog, such as wrestling
- Do not approach unfamiliar dogs
- Remain motionless if approached by an unfamiliar dog, never running or screaming
- If knocked down by a dog, remain still and in a ball
It is important to regularly review and teach children dog safety tips, especially if the child is regularly exposed to dogs.
If your child is bitten by another person’s dog, it is important that you immediately seek medical attention. Dogs are carriers of various ailments, such as rabies. If your child is bitten, you want to immediately ask the dog owner for documentation showing their pet’s vaccinations. It is important that wounds do not become infected and are properly cared for by the appropriate medical professionals. It is also important that when you arrive at the ER following a dog attack, you consult with a plastic surgeon to prevent unnecessary scarring, which often accompanies this type of wound.
Dog Bite Prevention for Children & Adults
Annually, millions of people are bitten by dogs, with a large portion of these incidents comprising children. With this information in mind, it is important for adults to have an understanding of the preventative measures they can take to keep themselves and their children from being bitten by a dog.
Here are some dog bite prevention tips for children:
- If your family plans to adopt a dog from a shelter, make sure to inquire about the dogs past well-being and temperament with staff members. Canines with a history of aggression are not suitable in homes with small children.
- Before adopting a new dog and bringing it home, assess the dog’s interaction with both people and with other dogs. If you notice that children exhibit fear or apprehension around the dog, this is typically a warning sign that the dog is aggressive. If a dog does not play well with other canines, this may also indicate the dog’s aggressive tendencies.
- It is important that a child knows not to be the first to approach an unknown dog. If the dog approaches the child, allow it to sniff them before interacting with it. Children typically like to hug dogs around the neck, grab at their faces, or kiss their necks. These tendencies aggravate some dogs and can result in a bite. Teaching children appropriate petting techniques is a good way to ensure that the interaction is mutually enjoyable.
- It can be helpful for children to understand how to read a dog’s body language. Dogs often exhibit certain kinds of body language to warn people that they are uncomfortable with an individual’s approach or energy. If a child doesn’t seem to understand this type of body language, a dog may feel his only recourse is to bite. Some examples of body language that indicate an aggressive or unfriendly dog might include stiff posture, growling, or a raised tail. Similarly, overly frightened dogs may become aggressive. Tell your child that if a dog exhibits these signs while they are interacting, the child should back away and break eye contact.
- Instruct your child to never scream or run away from a dog, as those motions may exacerbate a dog’s urge to bite. Similarly, don’t allow a child to tease a dog, especially if the dog is eating or playing with a food bowl, toy, or bone. While it is important for a parent to teach a child preventative measures for playing with dogs, it is ultimately the dog owner’s responsibility to supervise any interactions the dog has with outsiders.
Below are some actions everyone, whether they are a child or adult, should avoid doing in the presence of a dog:
- Approaching an unfamiliar dog
- Running from a dog
- Panicking or making loud noises in the presence of a dog
- Disturbing a dog that is eating, sleeping or looking after puppies
- Surprising a dog by petting it when it isn’t fully aware of your presence
- Encouraging your dog to play in an aggressive way
- Allowing young children to play with any dog unsupervised
If you are approached by a dog that appears to be acting aggressively, stop, stand still, and don’t look the animal in the eye. You should position yourself with your side facing the dog, as directly facing the dog may make it think you could act aggressively towards it. The next thing to do is place your hands on your neck and tuck in your elbows. This minimizes the possibility of being attacked and bitten.
What If the Dog Owner Argues That the Dog Was Provoked?
Missouri’s new strict liability dog bite law now holds dog owners 100% responsible for their dogs unprovoked attack on another person. However, the state maintains one caveat to the new strict liability standard—the dog attack must have been unprovoked. A dog owner is not responsible for the damage their dog causes if the victim provokes the dog into attacking. The standard of whether or not another individual provoked a dog attack still remains unclear under Missouri statute. Juries are often assigned the task of determining if a certain behavior provoked the dog into attacking the victim. This issue of provocation is determined on a case-by-case basis. However, absent any evidence of provocation by the victim, a dog owner is fully responsible for the actions of their canine.
Overview of St. Louis Aggressive Dog and Dog Bite Laws
The location where the dog bite occurred generally determines the rules applicable to dog owners. Dog attacks often occur:
- On St. Louis streets
- In public parks and recreational areas
- In designated dog parks
- On the owner’s property
- At friends/family members’ homes
- In kennels, training facilities, or vets’ offices
Showing that dog owners violated applicable St. Louis dog safety laws, either directly or vicariously, might entitle injured claimants to accelerated insurance settlements or judgments.
General Leash and Dog Park Laws
To protect public health and safety, St. Louis ordinances contain strict pet and leash laws. They require all dogs to be leashed and securely held by a responsible person capable of handling the dog when off the owner’s property. Missouri City Ordinance 10.04.220 states dog owners must leash their dogs while in public areas and that the leash may not be longer than six feet. The City permits unleashed dogs in designated dog parks but specifies that the law does not allow aggressive and sick dogs in these exercise areas. The law directly states that owners bear liability for injuries caused by their dogs, and they must immediately remove uncontrollable dogs from parks.
Owners must also continually monitor their dogs when in designated off-leash areas, and each person has a three-dog limit. However, the city also prohibits children under 14 from waving their arms, screaming, and engaging in provoking conduct while in dog parks. Defensive dog bites, meaning those occurring following a provocation, may reduce available damages. In situations involving intentional harm to dogs, provocation may prohibit victims from recovering damages.
Premises Liability Laws
Dogs have more freedom in their homes, but this does not excuse aggressive conduct. General premises liability laws apply to dog bite injuries sustained on residential property. As such, dog bite lawyers in Metro East may file premises liability claims against negligent property owners. If the victim was a guest, like a friend or family member over for dinner, then the dog’s owner must take reasonable precautions to protect the guest from aggressive dogs.
This normally includes confining the dog in a designated area, holding small dogs close, and warning guests not to interact with the animal. It may also require owners to actively prevent larger and easily excitable dogs, such as Great Dane puppies and Labradors, from jumping on guests and causing falls.
Licensees—those lawfully permitted on the property without invitations, such as landlords, firefighters, and U.S. postal workers—have similar rights. In such cases, owners must warn the licensee of aggressive and potentially dangerous dogs while following all designated enclosure rules.
Dog bites occurring without provocation might entitle claimants to premises liability damages. Adult trespassers, however, including those trespassing unintentionally or for criminal purposes, do not have the same legal protections. Dogs might even lawfully act as guard dogs.
Trespassers may not recover damages for dog bites in most cases. Likewise, anyone who assaults, abuses, or harasses the dog might forfeit their right to recover dog bite damages. Young children, however, might obtain damages if they can easily access aggressive dogs and cannot appreciate the risk associated with their conduct. If your child was bitten or harmed by a dog in St. Louis, review our child injury page for more information.
Private Enclosures and Non-Owner Property
Dog trainers, kennels/daycares, and vets often assume the risk of handling scared and aggressive animals. However, this does not prevent injured workers from recovering financial damages. Dog owners ultimately bear responsibility for injuries caused by their pets, especially if they violate applicable leash laws.
The individual handling the dog and his/her employer might also share liability for injuries. The law requiring dogs to be on short leashes with capable handlers exists to prevent aggressive tendencies from escalating into attacks. Owners (or their agents) following local dog regulations can often prevent dog bites.
Most Common Injuries and Complications Associated with Dog Bites
Dog attacks often result in severe disfigurement and infections. Even healthy dogs carry extensive bacteria on their teeth, and poorly cared for dogs might have rabies. Get medical professionals to examine and clean bite wounds, even shallow ones.
Victims of St. Louis dog attacks might suffer from the following injuries and illnesses:
- Lacerations/Puncture Wounds – Nearly all dog bites result in deep puncture wounds and lacerations requiring medical intervention. Most clients require wound debridement (cleaning) and stitches/staples. Because many dog bites occur on the hands or legs, many claimants cannot work during the recovery process.
- Bruising and Tendon Damage – Most deep dog bites inflame the damaged area and result in damaged blood vessels or tendons. Bruising and inflammation heal with time, but they often result in difficulties moving damaged joints.
- Infections – It might take up to two weeks for victims to develop symptoms of dog bite infections, including capnocytophaga. Bacterium from the dog’s mouth often enters into the bloodstream resulting in sepsis or related infections. Left untreated, these conditions may result in gangrene and necessary amputations. Some claimants must undergo surgery to clean out these wounds.
- Rabies – This virus spreads to people from infected animals. However, rabies also increases confusion and aggression in dogs. St. Louis requires all dogs to have up-to-date rabies vaccines, but many owners cannot afford this shot or refuse to vaccinate their pets. Emergency doctors normally test for rabies following dog bites because untreated infections may damage the spinal cord and brain, ultimately resulting in death.
- Disfigurement – Both the initial flesh damage and related infections may necessitate skin removal and reconstructive surgery. Health insurers often refuse to cover these cosmetic procedures, leaving claimants unable to pay plastic surgeons. In some cases, an attorney may negotiate litigation liens with local cosmetic surgeons that allow claimants to receive necessary reconstructive surgery and pay doctors from the proceeds of dog-bite settlements.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) – Many claimants underestimate the emotional conditions often associated with dog attacks. Dogs are everywhere, and claimants may develop anxiety disorders following dog bites.
Additional Dog Bite Injuries
- Head trauma
- Neck injuries
- Damage to the face, including eyes, lips, and nose
- Nerve damage
With quick medical intervention, doctors can thoroughly clean and stitch dog bite wounds. They may also administer preventative rabies treatments and prescribe antibiotics to block infections. Most claimants experience financial setbacks when they suffer from disfiguring wounds requiring reconstructive surgery. Not only is this expensive, it often requires multiple procedures and still leaves scars. Experienced St. Louis dog bite lawyers might help claimants recover the compensation needed to cover these essential procedures.
Recovering Damages After St. Louis Dog Attacks and Injuries
Not all injuries caused by dogs result from aggressive dog bites. Sometimes large, overly friendly dogs may knock over individuals in their excitement. Uncut nails may also result in painful gashes, even during non-aggressive play, and dogs grabbing for toys or treats might accidentally nip outstretched hands. The same financial recovery rights apply to St. Louis claimants injured by dogs even if they didn’t suffer from bite wounds.
Most dog bite and injury claims quickly settle with liable insurers because Missouri and Illinois are strict liability dog bite states. If dogs attack peaceful and lawfully present individuals without provocation, the owner is strictly liable for their damages even if the dog never attacked anyone before (see 510 ILCS 5/16). However, most dog owners do not have the finances necessary to pay for expensive surgeries and hospital bills.
In such cases, dedicated St. Louis dog bite attorneys generally demand compensation from property insurers, such as the policy covering the dog’s home or the premises where the injury occurred. For example, Metro East ordinances require all dog park sponsors to maintain at least a $1,000,000 dog bite and injury insurance policy. This means claimants peacefully conducting themselves in dog parks might file claims with this insurer.
Under vicarious liability principles, owners are responsible for dog bites even if another person was handling the dog. The handler and his employer (if working for dog sitting companies) can also share liability for the dog bite. The owner of the premises where the bite occurred, if different, might also be liable for your damages. St. Louis claimants have numerous options for demanding financial compensation after suffering from dog bite injuries.
Distinguishing Between Defensive/Nervous Dog Bites and Dangerous Dog Attacks
Dogs owned by friends and family members bite many claimants. As such, victims may hesitate to report dog bites because they’re afraid of St. Louis animal control. Sometimes it’s necessary to file police reports if unprovoked dogs aggressively stalk you in public places, but sometimes dog bites are simply accidents. Abused rescues may struggle to adjust to their new home, and dogs may mistake certain behaviors for aggression. St. Louis distinguishes between dangerous dogs as defined by city ordinances and dogs without vicious propensities, such as biting after provocation or fear.
With an attorney’s help, you might still recover civil damages without endangering the dog itself. However, claimants should privately discuss their unique claims with our St. Louis dog bite lawyers. Insurers will often request evidence of the dog bite, which generally means emergency room records and witnesses statements in the absence of police reports.
We might help victims of dog bites request that dog owners take additional safety precautions, including muzzling dogs outside the home and placing special warning signs on fences, during the settlement negotiation process. Your legal consultation with our experienced injury attorneys is completely confidential; as such, we can discuss your claims without endangering pets.
Financial Damages Available to Dog Bite Victims in St. Louis
Dog attacks and related injuries often involve owner negligence. As such, personal injury attorneys handle these claims. Victims may recover general personal injury damages following dog bites, which may include direct economic damages and indirect pain and suffering damages.
Your financial recovery and settlement demands may include requests for:
- Ambulance, emergency room, and hospital costs
- Doctors bills
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Household help
- Cosmetic treatments and surgeries
- Mental health counseling
- Lost income
- Lost employment benefits
- Physical pain
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Emotional suffering
- Lost enjoyment of life
When the owner encouraged the dog to attack, the city already declared the dog dangerous, or the owner acted with extreme disregard for your safety, you might demand punitive damages directly from the dog’s owner. Examples include the owner intentionally violating leash laws despite having a dangerous pet or owners refusing to assist during attacks.
Settlement demands may include requests for past expenses, such as initial hospital costs and future anticipated damages. Dedicated St. Louis dog bite lawyers frequently work with cosmetic experts to submit anticipated surgical expense reports to insurers.
Lawyers in St. Louis Handling Dog Bite Cases
At the Dixon Injury Firm, our dedicated injury litigators handle dog bite and injury claims throughout St. Louis. We might help injured claimants recover needed compensation from dog park insurers, homeowner’s policies, or negligent dog owners. Further, our Metro East dog bite attorneys might provide legal representation to eligible clients without any upfront fees or costs. Many of our clients even recover injury settlements without filing litigation.
Confidentially discuss your dog bite claims with our St. Louis injury lawyers by calling (314) 208-2808 or contacting us online for your free case analysis.
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 owner and their neighbors and family. It can be difficult for an ordinary layperson 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, a St. Louis dog bite lawyer from The Dixon Injury Firm can evaluate the situation to determine if there might be another party that could be held liable, such as a landlord.
Contact The Dixon Injury Firm Today
If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite in Missouri, contact our experienced personal injury attorneys today to discuss your rights. We offer free initial consultations and provide our legal services on a contingency fee basis, meaning you do not owe any attorneys’ fees unless we recover compensation for you.
The Dixon Injury Firm
9666 Olive Blvd #202,
St. Louis, MO 63132