Visitor Question

My dog jumped the fence and hurt an old lady…

Submitted By: Hilda (Saint Louis, MO)

Yesterday afternoon I was at my yard when I saw my neighbor, who is a really nice old lady. We were approaching to start chatting when my 10 month old golden retriever ran and jumped my fence, after that he jumped in to my neighbor making her fall and get hurt.

I jumped the fence to check on her but she couldn’t stand up and she complained about the pain. I called 911 as I was really scared. Five minutes later the police and ambulance were there. I explained what happened and they issued a report. My neighbor was taken to the ER where they informed her she broke her hip and she needed surgery.

I’m really concerned about her health, but also about what is next. This was an accident that I wish I could have prevented. I called our renter’s insurance and they are checking if they will cover it or not. Should I contact a lawyer? Am I required to pay for her surgery and recovery costs?

My dog is big and strong and he loves to jump into people, but never with the intention to hurt someone. He has been in training for the last three months and we’re still working on that issue. Please let me know your comments/thoughts. Thank you!

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Hilda,

Unfortunately, based on the facts set out in your question, you are wholly liable for the woman’s injuries and resulting costs. Those costs can include the woman’s medical and chiropractic bills, her out-of-pocket expenses (for medications, costs of travel to treatment, home nursing costs, wheelchairs, etc.), lost wages (if applicable), and an amount for her pain and suffering.

Your liability will be based on the theory of negligence, generally defined as conduct which falls beneath the standard of behavior established by law for the protection of others (third parties) against unreasonable risk of undue harm or injury.

To establish negligence a plaintiff must prove the defendant had a legal duty to the plaintiff, and the defendant breached that duty by failing to conform his or her behavior to the standard of behavior established by law.

Once this link is established, the plaintiff must then be able to show the negligent acts or omissions were the direct cause of his or her injuries. In the case of dog bites, §273.036.1 of the Missouri Revised Statutes (MRS) controls. It states, in part:

“The owner or possessor of any dog that bites, without provocation, any person while such person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner or possessor of the dog, is strictly liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner or possessor’s knowledge of such viciousness.”

In summary:

  1. Your legal duty is set out in §273.036.1 of the MRS
  2. Your conduct was failing to keep your dog restrained
  3. That conduct fell below the standard of behavior established by §273.036.1
  4. Your conduct was therefore negligent
  5. Your conduct was the exclusive cause of the woman’s injuries
  6. As a result of all of the above, it appears you are liable for the woman’s medical bills and resulting costs

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: October 19, 2017

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