Can You Sue for a Dog Bite in Missouri?

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While usually “man’s best friend,” dogs can turn into your worst enemy when they become violent. Dog bites can result in serious injuries, even death. With dog ownership on the rise due to more people being home and a decrease in dog training over the last year, there has been an increase in dog bites resulting in surgical repairs.

If someone else’s dog attacks you, you may be able to file a dog bite lawsuit against the dog owner. The liability for injuries caused by dog bites can be based on strict liability, premises liability, or common law negligence. In Missouri, a dog owner is subject to liability for harm done by a dog if they intentionally cause the animal to do harm or are negligent in failing to prevent the harm. Liability only attaches to those that own, possess, or harbor the dog.


Strict Liability is a kind of action that makes a person responsible for their actions even where the consequences were unintentional. Missouri law states that if a dog bites someone without being provoked, the owner is liable for damages, even if the dog hadn’t exhibited vicious behavior before. If the person is injured because of a dog bite while trespassing, they would not be able to file a dog bite lawsuit against the dog owner under a strict liability theory.

Additionally, a dog owner can be liable if an animal does harm due to the owner’s failure to observe a leash law. If a dog owner knows their dog exhibits abnormally aggressive behavior, they could be held liable even if they exercise the utmost care to prevent the incident.


One who possesses a dog that he does not know or have reason to know to be abnormally dangerous is subject to liability from harm caused by that dog only if he is negligent in failing to prevent that harm. Dog owners do have defenses in these actions, though, such as provocation (i.e., sudden fright or pain which causes the dog to snap involuntarily) or that the injured party was bitten while separating fighting dogs.

Additionally, a defendant may introduce evidence that the defendant’s dog had a peaceful disposition and nature to counter the plaintiff’s evidence that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities. Missouri courts will take judicial notice of the well-known habits of domestic animals. This would include matters of common knowledge, such as habits, characteristics, and instincts.

Dog bites should be taken seriously, especially when they result in critical injuries. If the dog owner is not held accountable, their dog may bite again. If you or someone you love has been injured due to a dog bite, contact Brown & Crouppen for a free consultation.

Rachel Weinhaus practices complex personal injury with Brown & Crouppen in St. Louis, focusing on advocating for motor vehicle crash and slip, trip, and fall victims. She is a member of the Missouri and Kansas Bar and a board member of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys. Connect with her on LinkedIn.


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