The Mn Criminal Defense, Personal Injury & Family Law Blog
Anonymous Dog Mauls Minneapolis Woman
June 6, 2019
After a vicious animal attacked a woman in a tranquil park, she needs compensation and justice. These are the areas where Brainerd attorneys shine brightest.
Dawn Hunt said she saw the Jack Russell Terrier mix approach her. The animal was wearing a collar and dragging a leash on the ground. Without warning, the dog charged at her and attacked her. “I just kept getting bit and bit and bit, and I was left bleeding,” she recalled. Sometime during the attack, the dog’s owner came on the scene and took the animal away. When Ms. Hunt protested, the owner callously said “my dog doesn’t bite” as she disappeared into the woods.
Park Police and Animal Control officers are investigating the matter.
Hit-and-Run Dog Bites
Here in Minnesota, we normally associate these kinds of accidents with car crashes. The Gopher State has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country, as well as one of the highest percentages of uninsured motorists. So, many drivers are either under-insured or uninsured.
To obtain maximum compensation in hit-and-run car crashes, Brainerd attorneys must generally locate the tortfeasor (negligent driver). A lawyer uses basically the same approach to find absentee dog owners. Canvassing the area for witnesses is usually the best way to find absentee owners.
Animal attacks usually happen very quickly. But most victims at least get a glimpse of the attacking animal. That slight bit of recognition is usually enough for Brainerd attorneys to locate owners. For various reasons, many people do not like talking to police officers about the accidents they witnessed. But these individuals are usually willing to share what they know about a vicious dog in the neighborhood.
The low burden of proof comes into play here. In civil court, victim/plaintiffs need only establish facts by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, a general description of the animal is usually enough to connect it with a certain individual, especially if the animal or owner has no alibi for the time of the attack.
Your Claim for Damages
Minnesota has an extremely broad dog bite law. It holds owners strictly liable for all injuries that victims sustain in animal attacks. These injuries include both physical and emotional wounds.
Physically, the serious injuries begin with the knockdown. That’s especially true if the victim is a small child or older person. When dogs lunge at their victims, the impact often causes head injuries and broken bones. Then, when dogs bite, they usually cause both deep puncture wounds and serious lacerations. These injuries usually require extensive surgical treatment and reconstructive operations.
Emotionally, many victims must deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms. Once again, that’s especially true if the victim was an older person or young child. Many times, these symptoms include flashbacks, trouble sleeping, and an unnatural fear of all dogs. Although PTSD and other brain injuries are permanent, extensive therapy can reduce the symptoms.
Because of these injuries, and others like them, the average dog bite financial settlement has increased 94 percent since 2003. The escalation may be even higher in Minnesota, due to the aforementioned strict liability law.
In some cases, Brainerd attorneys base claims on the common law one-bite rule. This action, which is also known as scienter (knowledge), holds owners liable for damages if they knew the animal was potentially dangerous. In strict liability claims, such knowledge is probably irrelevant. But it’s at the center of a scienter claim.
These claims increase the potential for punitive damages. Whether they have pets at home or not, pretty much everyone dislikes irresponsible owners. If the victim/plaintiff presents clear and convincing evidence of recklessness, a Crow Wing County jury can award additional damages to punish the owner and deter future misconduct.
Brainerd Attorneys and Insurance Company Defenses
Given the immense amount of damages in these cases, insurance company lawyers usually pull out all the stops in their attempts to deny fair compensation.
The assumption of the risk defense is usually available in all dog bite claims. This defense excuses bad conduct if the victim:
A known risk.
This defense usually involves a “Beware of Dog” or other such warning sign. However, posting a sign does not conclusively establish assumption of the risk. It just makes this defense easier to prove. The doctrine does not apply unless the victim/plaintiff saw the sign, read the sign, and understood its meaning.
Sometimes, these efforts involve the provocation defense. This defense may not be available in strict liability claims, but it’s generally always available in scienter claims.
Sudden movements and aggressive teasing are not sufficient to invoke this defense in this context. Instead, provocation is almost synonymous with torture. The victim must inflict so much physical pain on the animal that the animal must respond violently.
Contact a Diligent Attorney
Your claim for dog bite damages involves constructing a case and responding to insurance company defenses. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.