Mississippi Dog Bite Injury Laws

Learn about a dog owner's liability for damages in a personal injury claim or lawsuit brought by the animal attack victim in Mississippi

When it comes to dog bite cases, Mississippi is one of a handful of states that follows the "one bite" rule. In this article, we'll examine what Mississippi's "one bite" rule means for dog bite injury victims. We'll also look at the time limits for filing a dog bite lawsuit in a Mississippi court, and then discuss some defenses that a dog's owner might raise in response to a dog bite lawsuit.


Time Limits on Mississippi Dog Bite Lawsuits

Mississippi's statute of limitations sets a time limit on filing any personal injury case in a state court, including a dog bite lawsuit. In Mississippi, an injured person has three years to bring a case to court after a dog bite or other dog-inflicted injury. If the lawsuit is not filed within three years of the injury date, the case is automatically barred from court in most instances.


A Mississippi dog bite lawsuit is a significant tool for seeking compensation after an injury. It can also be a hefty bargaining chip in insurance settlement negotiations. Therefore, it's important to speak to a licensed attorney in Mississippi, so that you know exactly how the statute of limitations applies in your particular case and you don't miss your chance to file a lawsuit if needed.


Mississippi's "One Bite" Rule for Dog Bite Liability

Mississippi does not have a specific statute that covers dog bite cases. Instead, Mississippi's "one bite" rule is based on case law, or rulings handed down by Mississippi courts over the years.


One of the primary cases that covers dog bite law in Mississippi is Poy v. Grayson, 273 So.2d 491, 494 (Miss. 1973). In this case, the Mississippi Supreme Court clarified that in order to receive compensation in a dog bite case, an injured person had to show that:

  • the dog "exhibited some dangerous propensity or disposition prior to the attack,"
  • the owner "knew or reasonably should have known" of this dangerous propensity or disposition, and
  • the owner knew or reasonably should have foreseen that the dog would attack.

If the dog's owner had no prior knowledge that the dog was dangerous and no reasonable way to know the dog posed a threat, the owner cannot be held liable for an injury caused by the dog. Because evidence that a dog has bitten someone before is the most common evidence of a dog's dangerousness, rules that require evidence of dangerousness are often called "one bite" rules.


However, a prior bite is not required to prove dangerousness; other dangerous or aggressive behavior by the dog, such as growling, snarling, or lunging at people, can also be used to show the dog is dangerous.


If the factors listed in Poy v. Grayson apply, the dog's owner may be held liable for damages even if he or she used reasonable care to restrain or otherwise control the dog. It is not necessary for the injured person to prove the dog's owner acted negligently, as long as the injured person can show the dog's owner had the necessary prior knowledge.


Mississippi's dog bite law applies both to bites and to other injuries caused by dogs. For instance, if a dog knocks a person down and injures her, that person can also seek compensation under the law.

Defenses to a Dog Bite Claim in Mississippi

A dog owner who faces a dog bite lawsuit in Mississippi may rely on a variety of defenses. Because Mississippi uses a "one bite" rule, the most common defense raised in a Mississippi dog bite case is that the owner did not know (and reasonably could not have known) that the dog was dangerous, or that the owner did not foresee (and reasonably could not have foreseen) that the dog would attack. If there is insufficient evidence that the owner had this knowledge, the owner cannot be held liable even if it is clear that the owner's dog caused injuries.


A dog owner in Mississippi may also argue that an injured person contributed to his or her own injuries by provoking the dog. While this kind of contributory or comparative negligence argument doesn't always absolve the owner of liability, it can reduce or eliminate the damages the owner must pay the injured person, depending on the amount of fault that the injured person is deemed to share (for example, due to provoking the dog).


Finally, a dog owner might argue that the injured person was trespassing at the time of the injury. Property owner liability for trespasser injuries is limited in many ways, so an owner may be able to reduce or escape liability by showing the injured person was unlawfully on private property when the injury occurred.

by Dani Alexis Ryskamp • alllaw.com


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