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Are pet owners responsible for animal bites?

Dogs act as wonderful friends to millions of Americans. Many of us consider our dogs to be members of our families. However, as long as dogs and humans live in close proximity, there will be incidents where people are hurt by dogs.

Unfortunately, dog bites are more common than one might think. In fact, according to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2012 alone there were approximately 16,500 insurance claims involving dog bites. Those figures do not include other pets or animals, such as reptiles or cats.

While many animal bites are relatively minor, animal attacks could be serious, leading to significant injuries to the victim. But, if you are injured by another person's dog, is the dog owner liable for your injury?

Liability for dog bites is governed by state law. Under Missouri law, dog owners are held strictly liable for injuries caused by their pets. This means that it is not necessary for the injured person to show that the owner did something wrong, nor that the dog had previously bitten someone. Rather, if a dog injures another person, the dog's owner is presumed liable for the injuries.

Often, animal owners have insurance such as homeowner's insurance, animal insurance or even car insurance which may cover a victim's medical expenses, rehabilitation costs and lost wages as a result of the injuries.

If you have been the victim of an animal bite and suffered injuries as a result, you may want to see whether you qualify for compensation for your injuries. Keep in mind that if you do not pursue a claim against an animal owner, you will have to bear the burden of all associated costs yourself.

Source: findlaw.com, "Animal Bites: Who Pays Damages?" Accessed April 10, 2017

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