Dog Bite Injuries and Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers

Pet owners are common in communities across America. So, it’s not surprising that dogs bite almost five million Americans a year. Some of these incidents are not much more than annoying. But many of them cause serious physical and emotional injuries, as outlined below.

Largely due to the complex nature of these injuries, along with rising hospitalization costs since the end of the Great Recession, the average dog bite settlement amount has increased 76 percent since 2003. These settlement amounts usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Occasionally, these settlements also include additional punitive damages.

To successfully resolve animal attack claims, a Brainerd, MN injury lawyer must understand the nature of dog bite injuries and how they affect victims as well as families.

Physical Injuries

Every dog bite case is different. But most serious injury claims involve large mastiff breed animals, like pit bulls or rottweilers, and small children or other vulnerable victims.

When a big dog launches itself toward a small child, the knockdown by itself usually causes serious injuries. Some of them include:

  • Head Injuries: Contrary to popular myth, the impact of hitting the ground is not the only issue here. The sudden, violent motion might be enough to cause a head injury. This motion causes the brain to slam against the inside of the skull.
  • Internal Injuries: This same force causes internal organs to grind and bump against each other. Since these organs lack protective skin layers, they often bleed profusely. Frequently, doctors have a hard time identifying and stopping internal bleeding.
  • Broken Bones: When children fall off their bikes, the broken bones usually set easily and heal completely. But when large dogs attack small children, the broken bones do not mend nearly as easily. Doctors typically use metal screws or plates to set them, and even after physical therapy, there may be some permanent loss of use.

In most cases, the knockdown is just the beginning. When dogs bite, their teeth cause tearing lacerations and deep puncture wounds. The lacerations often require delicate reconstructive surgery to correct, and the deep puncture wounds make the aforementioned internal bleeding even worse. In fact, many small children lose so much blood that they are on the edge of hypovolemic shock by the time emergency responders arrive.

Dog bite injuries have very high infection rates. The most common bacterial infections are Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Capnocytophaga, and Pasteurella. If the victim had a pre-existing condition or a compromised immune system, as is often the case, these infections are often life-threatening.

A tiny amount of bacteria can cause a serious anaphylactic or other reaction. So, if a dog bites your child, it’s always important to see a doctor straightaway, even if the child does not seem seriously injured.

Brainerd, MN injury lawyers do more than obtain compensation for all these medical bills. Attorneys also arrange for victims to receive prompt medical care, usually at no upfront cost. Providers who focus on dog bite injuries typically provide this care. These providers know how to identify and treat things like head injuries and bacterial infections. These conditions are normally hard to diagnose and address.

Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers and Emotional Animal Attack Injuries

Many child victims develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Frequently, the symptoms do not appear for several months. So, Brainerd, MN injury lawyers must not move to settle such cases too quickly. If that happens, the victims might not receive fair compensation for all their injuries.

PTSD is a physical brain injury. It is not a processing disorder. Therefore, PTSD is permanent. Once brain cells are damaged, they never regenerate. That being said, extensive therapy can address symptoms like nightmares, depression, hypervigilance, and flashbacks. So, former victims can still have normal childhoods.

Your Claim for Damages

To obtain the aforementioned compensation, Brainerd, MN injury lawyers have several options. Minnesota has a very broad strict liability law. Owners are technically responsible for damages even if the dog had never bitten anyone before and had never shown any dangerous propensities.

Scienter (knowledge) is another option. Owners are liable for damages if they knew their animals were potentially dangerous yet they did nothing to keep them away from people. Evidence of knowledge includes previous attacks and pre-bite behavior, like loud barking or sudden lunging.

Insurance company defenses in dog bite claims usually revolve around the assumption of the risk rule. Specific facts include provocative behavior or a “Beware of Dog” sign. These defenses do not always hold up in court. In Minnesota, provocation is far more than aggressive teasing. And, warning signs are only legally valid in certain situations.

Contact a Tenacious Attorney

Animal attack victims are entitled to substantial compensation for their serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.

A Brainerd Attorney Talks About Dog Bite Injuries

According to the Insurance Information Institute, American homeowners’ insurance companies increased to over $700 million to resolve dog bite claims. Also according to the III, injury severity propelled this increase.  The nature of dog bite injuries are much different from the nature of fall, car crash, or other negligence-induced injuries, as outlined below.

Legally, the environment for these claims is very favorable to victims, especially in Minnesota. The Gopher State has one of the broadest strict liability laws in the country. Section 347.22 of the Minnesota Statutes holds owners strictly liable for all animal attack damages. This law also limits the defenses that insurance companies can use in court. Moreover, many municipalities have very strict animal restraint ordinances. These laws often give victims additional legal options. An ordinary negligence claim might be available as well.

Each of these alternatives has its own pros and cons. Because of the complexity of these matters, only an experienced Brainerd attorney should deal with a dog bite claim. Otherwise, maximum compensation may not be available.

Physical Injuries in Animal Attack Claims

Typically, dog bite victims could sustain serious physical injuries at three different critical points. Compensation is available for all three kinds of physical injuries.

Especially if a large dog attacks a frail victim, as is often the case, the knockdown may cause a variety of wounds. When aggressive animals lunge at helpless victims, the resulting injuries often include:

  • Broken bones,
  • Head injuries, and
  • Internal injuries.

Most of these injuries occur when the victim hits the ground. However, the motion alone might be sufficient. Head injuries are a good example.

Many people think that the brain fits snugly inside the skull, much like a person’s head fits snugly inside a baseball cap. But that’s not the case. The skull is basically a water tank which suspends the brain in a wash of cerebrospinal fluid. Sudden motions cause the brain to slam violently against the inside of the skull.

Next, when dogs bite, their teeth often cause both deep puncture wounds and severe tearing lacerations. The puncture wound often pierces internal organs. Since these organs have no protective skin layer, any intrusion may cause significant bleeding. Tearing lacerations often require expensive plastic surgery to repair, and even then, the resulting disfiguring scars are often permanent.

Medical situations like these are often complex. Health insurance companies often refuse to pay for emergency treatment. Even if they do pay, they often do not pay for animal attack injury specialists. So, a Brainerd attorney arranges for immediate medical care from top physicians at no upfront cost.

Finally, Pasteurella infections are common in dog bite cases. The Pasteurella infection rate in dog bite wounds is twice as high as the rate in other types of injuries. These infections typically cause additional pain. If the victim had a weak immune system, the complications could be even worse. Other types of dog bite infections include Clostridium tetani (tetanus) and MSRA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or Staph infections).

Bacterial and other infections often involve medical negligence. So, to obtain compensation for these injuries, a Brainerd attorney may need to take additional legal action against the hospital, clinic, or doctor who initially treated the injury.

Emotional Dog Bite Injuries

Physical trauma may not be the only kind of brain injury in a dog bite claim. Many victims, especially young victims, experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms following animal attacks. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Unnatural fear of all dogs,
  • Flashbacks, and
  • Trouble sleeping.

These symptoms often make it difficult or impossible to function normally at work, school, home, or anywhere else.

PTSD is a physical injury, which means physical treatment is available. Extremely dangerous experiences, such as combat, erode the cerebral cortex. That’s the part of the brain which controls logical reaction. When this part of the brain shrinks, the amygdala (part of the brain which controls emotional responses) gets too large. So, victims have unnatural emotional reactions to seemingly harmless situations. And, they cannot control these reactions.

In PTSD and other similar cases, a Brainerd attorney can connect a victim with an experinced brain injury physical therapist. A combination of physical and nonphysical therapy often helps restore the balance between the cerebral cortex and the amygdala.

Some recently rediscovered footage of World War I shell shock victims shows what a difference the right physical therapist can make. Note that this particular victim does not get 100 percent better, as he still has tremors in both hands. But he is obviously able to function at a much, much higher level than he was before treatment.

Rely on an Experienced Lawyer

Animal attacks often cause serious injuries. 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.

Can Personal Injury Lawyers in Brainerd, MN Overcome Dog Bite Defenses?

Every year, dogs bite over 4.5 million people in the United States. Many of these incidents result in serious injury, especially if the victim was a child. As outlined below, these injuries include both physical and emotional wounds, in many cases.

Because of the nature of these injuries, and also because of Minnesota’s victim-friendly dog bite laws, personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN are often able to obtain substantial compensation in these cases. In fact, the average dog bite injury settlement amount has almost doubled since 2003.

Since significant damages are within relatively easy reach, insurance company lawyers usually defend these cases very tenaciously.

Dog Bite Injuries in Crow Wing County

When animals suddenly attack without warning, the victims usually sustain three different types of injuries, as follows:

  • Knockdown: Depending on the type of breed, the knockdown may cause head injuries and broken bones. The Centers for Disease Control has not kept breed-specific bite information since the 1990s, so statistics are difficult to come by in this area.
  • Bite: When dogs bite, their teeth usually cause both lateral tears and deep puncture wounds. The surface lacerations usually require extensive and costly reconstructive surgery. Meanwhile, the deep puncture wounds typically pierce internal organs and cause extensive internal bleeding. There is an interplay here. Surgeons usually cannot touch surface wounds until they stop the internal bleeding.
  • Emotional Effects: Doctors can help patients recover physically, but when it comes to emotional injuries, their effectiveness is limited. Many dog bite victims experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and heightened awareness. These symptoms usually only improve after many months of therapy, and even then, the symptoms usually do not completely disappear.

Personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN can usually obtain compensation for economic losses, such a medical and therapy bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Your Claim for Damages

Minn. Statutes Annotated, Section 347.22 is one of the broadest dog bite laws in the country. One court described it as follows: “[L]iability is absolute. It makes no difference that the dog owner may have used reasonable care; negligence is beside the point. Past good behavior of the dog is irrelevant.” Those stern words underscore the law’s strong nature.

Additionally, provocation is the only available defense. So, these claims are not just relatively easy to establish. They are also relatively easy for personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN to defend.

However, damages in strict liability cases are often somewhat limited. Since negligence is irrelevant, the jury never hears anything about the owner’s lack of control over the animal.

Alternatively, victims may pursue claims under the scienter (knowledge) rule. If the owner knew the dog was potentially dangerous and the dog attacked someone, the owner may be liable for damages. Evidence of knowledge includes prior attacks and also pre-bite viciousness, like aggressive barking or sudden lunging.

There are pros and cons here as well. Once jurors learn about owner negligence, they are often more willing to award large damages. However, victims must present additional evidence in scienter claims. And, they must also deal with both of the defenses discussed below.

Other options, such as negligence per se, may be available as well. Negligence per se usually involves the violation of a leash law or other animal restraint ordinance.

Personal Injury Lawyers in Brainerd, MN and Assumption of the Risk

This affirmative defense is only available in negligence claims. Tortfeasors (negligent actors) are not liable for the aforementioned damages if the victim:

  • Voluntarily assumed
  • A known risk.

In the dog bite context, this defense usually involves a “Beware of Dog” or other warning signs. Such signs make the defense easier to prove, but they do not conclusively establish it.

Specifically, the defendant must prove the victim knew about the risk of a dog bite. In other words, the victim must have been able to read the sign and understand what it meant. If the victim was a child or someone with limited English proficiency, such a showing is difficult to make.

The Provocation Defense

As mentioned, this defense is available in strict liability claims as well as negligence claims, so it is usually the go-to defense in dog bite cases. Yet despite the best efforts of homeowners’ insurance company lawyers, the provocation defense often does not hold up in court.

In everyday language, provocation could include verbal teasing. And, provocation could also be unintentional. But in a dog bite context, provocation must be both physical and intentional. Sudden movements and words alone are not legally sufficient to provoke a dog. Furthermore, it is impossible to “accidentally” provoke an animal in these situations.

Partner with Assertive Attorneys

Dog bite victims have several legal options. For a free consultation with experienced personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several offices in the area.

Here’s How Personal Injury Lawyers in Brainerd, MN Obtain Maximum Compensation for Dog Bites

Mostly due to the nature of the injuries, compensation in dog bite cases is generally rather high. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a good example.

PTSD is a physical brain injury and not a processing disorder. Traumatic events, such as combat stress or violent animal attacks, shrink the brain matter in the cerebral cortex. This part of the brain controls logical responses. As a result, the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that controls emotional responses, gets bigger. This biological imbalance explains symptoms like nightmares, heightened awareness, and flashbacks.

Doctors often misdiagnose brain injuries, especially among children. They ascribe the aforementioned symptoms to shock from the bite. So, treatment often starts late. By that time, the brain injury is worse and more difficult to address.

New developments with regard to PTSD is just one reason that the average dog bite settlement has increased significantly in recent years, so personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN have many options in these situations.

Legal Theories in Animal Attack Cases

When it comes to animal attacks, Minnesota has some of the most victim-friendly rules and laws in the country. So, the proper legal approach usually depends on the facts of the case.

Minnesota has a very broad strict liability law. Owners are liable if “a dog, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is acting peaceably in any place where the person may lawfully be.”

The statute defines an “owner” as both the legal owner of a dog or the temporary custodian, like a veterinarian, doggie daycare worker, or dog walker. Moreover, liability is absolute. Comparative negligence, which is outlined below, is usually not a defense in strict liability claims.

So, the strict liability law makes it easy to establish liability for damages. Generally, personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN have no problem recovering economic damages in strict liability claims. These damages include things like medical bills and lost wages. However, additional noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, are more sometimes difficult to obtain.

Many Crow Wing County jurors hesitate to award large noneconomic damages in strict liability cases, because they do not feel the owner was at fault. That’s not true in scienter (knowledge) claims. Owners are liable for damages if they knew the animal was potentially vicious. Evidence of knowledge includes:

  • Previous attacks,
  • Vicious growling,
  • Aggressive barking, and
  • Sudden lunging.

In court, personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN must establish knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, scienter claims are harder to prove than strict liability claims, but the damages in scienter claims are often higher.

Finally, negligence may be an option. Negligence is either a lack of ordinary care or a lack of statutory compliance. For example, an owner may be negligent if she does not keep a pit bull far away from a small, playful child. Additionally, owners are negligent if they disobey animal restraint laws, like leash laws or fence laws, and that disobedience substantially causes injury.

However, in both kinds of negligence cases, personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN must also establish scienter. So, the lack of ordinary care claims are rather difficult to win. In the above example, the owner is not negligent unless she knew the pit bull was dangerous. As odd as it sounds, the sheer recklessness of letting a baby play with a pit bull is not sufficient.

How Personal Injury Lawyers in Brainerd, MN Collect Evidence

As mentioned, victim/plaintiffs must establish liability by a preponderance of the proof. So, personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN need evidence.

Medical records provide much of this proof. Generally, medical records establish more than just clinical facts about the victim’s injuries and the cost of treatment. As a bonus, doctors and nurses often add treatment notes to medical records which indicate how the victim felt at a certain time.

Witness statements are very important as well. In court, something almost mystical happens when disinterested people take the witness stand and tell the jury what they saw.

Possible Insurance Company Defenses

Provocation is the only defense to all three kinds of claims, so insurance company lawyers play this card a lot in these cases.

To many dog owners, “provocation” has a very broad meaning. For example, sudden moves could provoke an animal. Aggressive teasing could do the same thing.

But to personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN, provocation has a much different meaning. Provocation is always intentional. Victims cannot accidentally provoke dogs. Additionally, provocation is always physical. Teasing is not enough. In fact, the victim must almost torture the dog to provoke it, in this legal context.

Assumption of the risk, which usually involves a “Beware of Dog” or other such sign, sometimes applies in negligence and scienter cases. Even if there was such a sign on the property, there is a good chance the victim can still recover at least partial damages.

Contact an Assertive Attorney

Dog bites cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Brainerd, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several office locations in the area.

How Far Does MN’s Dog Bite Law Stretch?

Minnesota has one of the most victim-friendly dog bite laws in the country. Pet owners are strictly liable for dog bite injuries, even if they did not know the animal was dangerous. Minnesota law essentially presumes that certain dogs are dangerous, based on their size and their genetic makeup. Though not always true, that’s certainly a reasonable assumption.

Liability extends to both economic and noneconomic injuries. Physical dog bite injuries often require extensive reconstructive surgery. That’s particularly true if, as is often the case, the victim is a young child. Buffalo injury lawyers also obtain compensation for emotional injuries. Most dog bite victims, especially children, struggle with life-altering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms.

Because of the strict liability law’s expansive nature, Buffalo injury lawyers on both sides of the bar have tested it from time to time. These experiments are not just academic exercises. They may have a direct impact on your family.

Indirect Animal Attacks

People attack each other in many different ways. But as far as Minnesota courts are concerned, dogs only attack people when they bite.

In a 1991 case, the Minnesota Supreme Court refused to extend the dog bite statute to a distracted driving fatality. A pet owner lost control of her dog in her vehicle, and then she lost control of the vehicle itself. In so doing, she fatally struck a small child. The family filed a legal claim against the pet owner and initially prevailed in trial court.

But the Supreme Court ultimately reversed that decision. The Justices reasoned that “attack” and “injure” are both direct, active verbs. Therefore, although the dog arguably caused the distracted driving incident, it did not actively “attack” or “injure” the child.

The family might still have a claim for negligence, the court noted. According to the record, the animal was “frisky.” So, carrying it unrestrained in a vehicle was not only unsafe for the dog. It was also dangerous for everyone else.

There is an important lesson here for Buffalo injury lawyers. It’s important to proceed under the correct legal theory. In a dog bite claim, that could be the strict liability statute, negligence, or scienter (knowledge). Essentially, if the animal had attacked someone before, the owner is held to a higher standard of care.

Buffalo Injury Lawyers and Provoked Attacks

Provocation is basically the only recognized defense to a strict liability animal attack claim. Other defenses may be available to negligence and scienter claims. However, in this context, “provocation” is a very dense word.

First, it contains both physical and emotional elements. Teasing is not synonymous with provoking. To provoke a dog, the victim must inflict so much pain on the animal that a violent response is fully justified. If the provocation is repetitive, like hitting the dog with a stick, walking away, and then hitting the dog again, this defense is easier to establish. Additionally, the provocation must be malicious. Some people seemingly provoke animals to test their limits or to make themselves feel better.

Second, it doesn’t apply to everyone. As a matter of law, young children cannot provoke animals. Arguably, the same thing applies to very old victims.

Risky Attacks

Assumption of the risk may be a defense as well. In a very controversial case, the Minnesota Supreme Court recently affirmed the core principles of assumption of the risk, which are:

  • Voluntary assumption of
  • A known risk.

Many times, insurance company lawyers try to invoke “Beware of Dog” signs in this area. However, the victim/plaintiff must have been able to see the sign, read it, and understand it. If a bush or tree obscures the sign, it might as well not be there. Similarly, if the victim has limited reading or English skills, the sign might as well not be there. The same thing applies if the victim cannot make the connection between a dangerous dog and a bite injury.

Assumption of the risk is easier to prove if the owner issues a verbal “careful, he bites” warning.

This defense is normally absolute. If the insurance company proves assumption of the risk, and the insurance company has the burden of proof on this issue, the victim/plaintiff typically receives no compensation.

Count on an Aggressive Attorney

Dog bite victims may be entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.

Three Liability Theories Buffalo Personal Injury Lawyers Use in Dog Bite Claims

Every year, dogs attack over four million people. A number of these incidents cause serious injury, and many of these injuries are invisible to the naked eye.

Many dog bite victims are young children, and in these cases, the physical injuries are often gruesome. Dogs usually bite into flesh and then tear it. As a result, victims have both deep puncture wounds and serious abrasions. This combination usually necessitates reconstructive surgery. Techniques in this area have improved significantly since 2009. Progress has not been cheap, which probably explains why medical costs have escalated so much over the last ten years.

Buffalo personal injury lawyers can also obtain compensation for noneconomic damages. Typically, animal attack victims suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms. High-stress events, like sudden dog bites or being in combat, erode the cerebral cortex. This part of the brain controls logical thought. As a result, the amygdala, which controls emotional responses, becomes too powerful. This imbalance explains symptoms like flashbacks, heightened awareness, and an unnatural fear of dogs.

Both animal owners and non-owners may be legally responsible for damages in Minnesota. In a nutshell, the Gopher State’s law gives Buffalo personal injury lawyers multiple options in these situations.

Minnesota’s Strict Liability Animal Attack Law

Buffalo dog owners are liable for all animal attack damages as a matter of law. Victims need not prove that the owner knew the animal was dangerous. Victims also do not need to prove fault or negligence. They only need to establish causation.

This law broadly defines “owners.” This term includes both record owners and temporary custodians. Furthermore, if a person takes in a stray dog and never legally adopts it, that person is still the dog’s owner. A temporary custodian could be a veterinarian or a vet assistant.

Minnesota’s strict liability rule is one of the broadest ones in the country. Owners or custodians must pay full compensation for all damages. Moreover, the law bars most of the normal common-law negligence defenses. That includes things like contributory negligence.

Provocation is the only recognized defense, so insurance companies almost always raise it. In this context, provocation means more than aggressive teasing or even physical harm. Instead, victims provoke animals when they inflict so much pain that the animal must respond violently. Moreover, Minnesota’s version of the provocation defense usually requires multiple or extended incidents. And, some individuals, such as very young children, cannot provoke a dog as a matter of law.

Buffalo Personal Injury Lawyers and Negligence Claims

As mentioned, dog bites often cause catastrophic injuries. Fortunately, most homeowners insurance policies have very high claims limits. But in some cases, especially if someone like a dog walker was primarily responsible, the victim may need an additional source of compensation.

Negligence is essentially a lack of ordinary care. Persons who act carelessly are usually liable for the damages they cause, strict liability law or not. To establish negligence, the tortfeasor (negligent actor) must violate a legal duty and thereby cause damages.

These claims also introduce the prospect of third-party liability. Let’s return to the dog walker example. Assume Cindy is walking a dog in an off-leash park. While she is not looking, the dog then attacks a nearby child. If Cindy worked for a dog walking company or even got her gig from a referral agency, that company may be liable for damages under the respondeat superior rule. This doctrine applies if the tortfeasor was:

  • An employee who
  • Was acting within the scope of employment.

The law defines both these prongs in broad, victim-friendly terms. So, even if the company had no direct control over Cindy, it might still be an “employer” for negligence purposes. Minnesota is a modified joint and several liability state. Generally, if there are multiple responsible parties, the judge apportions damages among them based on their percentage of fault.

Scienter Claims in Minnesota

This Latin word means “knowledge.” Scienter harkens back to the common-law one bite rule. In many ways, scienter is like negligence. But the culpability level is higher. If the owner or custodian knew the animal was dangerous and the dog bites someone, carelessness does not matter. Evidence of knowledge includes things like:

  • Vicious barking,
  • Baring of teeth,
  • Lunging, and
  • Growling.

Assume Cindy never took her eyes off the dog. But the dog growls at a child and attacks the child a moment later. Under these facts, Cindy knew the dog was dangerous and did nothing to prevent the incident. Therefore, she may also be liable for additional punitive damages. These damages are available if the tortfeasor disregarded a known risk and endangered other people. That’s arguably the case in this situation.

Contact an Aggressive Attorney

Dog bite victims have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

What Can Brainerd Injury Lawyers Do About Dog Bite Injuries?

In many cases, dog bite injuries are much more than just embarrassing or annoying. Since 2003, the average injury award has increased 70 percent to over $30,000. That trend will probably continue. Between 2016 and 2017, the average award increased over 18 percent. That was one of the largest such jumps in history.

These are only nationwide average figures. The Minnesota statistics may be even more favorable toward victims. As outlined below, Brainerd injury lawyers can use Minnesota’s relatively broad dog bite law, and relatively weak defenses, to leverage large settlements in many cases.

However, a personal injury attorney is much more than a legal advocate. Beginning from the moment after the animal attack, Brainerd injury lawyers can help your family heal physically, emotionally, and financially.

Help with Hospital Expenses

The injuries in these cases are particularly severe. That’s one reason the hospital bills are so high and the average awards are so substantial. Typically, the aggressor animal is a large breed dog, like a pit bull or a Doberman pinscher. Sometimes, the knockdown alone causes a serious injury, like broken bones or even a head injury. Then, at the risk of sounding gruesome, the bites are incredibly violent. These animals usually cause both puncture wounds and tearing wounds. Making matters even worse, many victims are older adults or younger children. These individuals are incredibly susceptible to serious injury.

Physical wounds are only part of the story. Dog bite victims often experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This stress is common after car crashes. For example, even years after a collision, many victims avoid certain roadways or certain parts of town. But the stress after a dog bite is much, much worse. Common PTSD symptoms include:

  • Nightmares,
  • Flashbacks, and
  • Heightened awareness.

These symptoms, and others like them, make it difficult or impossible for victims to function at home, work, and/or school.

PTSD is not a processing disorder but a physical brain injury. As such, there is no cure. However, extensive therapy can alleviate the symptoms. Studies consistently indicate that the more therapy a victim receives, the better the results. It’s important not to get discouraged if progress comes in fits and starts.

Brainerd injury lawyers can help with both hospital and therapy bills. Attorneys regularly send letters of protection to hospitals and other medical providers. So, these providers do not charge any upfront fees. Instead, the victim settles the bill once the case is resolved. The provider agrees not to pursue any unpaid charges.

Furthermore, Brainerd injury lawyers can refer victims to qualified dog bite physicians. These doctors understand both the physical and mental implications of these injuries. Such an arrangement does more than set the victim on the road to a full recovery. It also helps build evidence in the claim.

Develop a Winning Case

Victim/plaintiffs have the burden of proof in dog bite cases. So, they must present evidence to support their claims. Typically, this evidence includes both oral evidence, like witness testimony, and written evidence, like medical records.

This evidence is a lot like the scattered pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. It means little until Brainerd injury lawyers put the pieces together with a compelling legal theory.

As mentioned, Minnesota’s dog bite law is one of the broadest ones in the nation. Minn. Statutes Annotated, Section 347.22 states that “If a dog, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is acting peaceably in any place where the person may lawfully be, the owner of the dog is liable in damages to the person so attacked or injured to the full amount of the injury sustained.”

Strict liability means that the dog owners are legally responsible for damages regardless of how careful, or how careless, they were. This law also does away with the old “one bite rule” which immunized owners unless they knew the animal was dangerous.

Furthermore, the owners are liable even if they had nothing to do with the underlying attack. Some common third party liability rules in Minnesota dog bite cases include:

  • Guest Attacks: Assume Glenda Guest visits Harry Homeowner. During her brief stay, her dog bites Vonda Victim. Under Minnesota law, Harry is a harborer of the dangerous animal. So, he (or rather his insurance company) is partially responsible for Vonda’s injuries.
  • Scienter (Knowledge): The same result applies if Glenda leaves her dog with Harry and the dog bites Vonda. In that case, Vonda must prove that Harry knew the dog was dangerous. Evidence of knowledge includes growling, biting, or barking.
  • Negligence: Under Minnesota law, most people have a duty of reasonable care. If Harry allowed Vonda to play with Glenda’s dog, and the dog injured Vonda, Harry may be liable for damages.

Third party liability theories like these are quite important in dog bite cases. Individual owners often lack the insurance coverage to fully compensate the victim/plaintiff. So, in these cases, the victim/plaintiff usually needs an alternative source of compensation.

Brainerd Injury Lawyers and Dog Bite Defenses

Statutorily, provocation is the only dog bite defense in Minnesota. In this context, provocation means more than aggressive verbal teasing. Instead, provocation usually means a physical act that inflicts intense pain on the animal and justifies a violent response. Even then, once such physical act is usually not enough. There must be sustained provocation. Moreover, young children cannot provoke an animal, as a matter of law.

Sometimes, the judge allows the assumption of the risk defense. Many owners have “Beware of Dog” or similar signs in their yards. Such signage may support the assumption of the risk defense. This doctrine excuses liability if the victim:

  • Voluntarily assumed
  • A known risk.

Since assumption of the risk is a common law defense as opposed to a statutory defense, most Crow Wing County judges do not allow it in dog bite cases.

Contact a Tenacious Attorney

When an aggressive dog attacks you, you need an equally aggressive lawyer. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

Brainerd Injury and Dog Bite Claims

Most people in Minnesota have at least one pet, and about a third of the families in Crow Wing County have at least one dog. Large mastiff breeds are especially popular in Minnesota, as many people have rather large properties where these animals can largely roam free. Most of these dogs are very friendly to people they know. But it is in their genes to attack strangers or people who make any moves the dog sees as threatening. Owners can change behavior, but they cannot change DNA.

Perhaps due to the high number of mastiff dogs, Minnesota has one of the broadest dog bite statutes in the country. Some states have laws that protect owners. Neighboring North Dakota and South Dakota both embrace the controversial one-bite rule. This rule basically immunizes owners unless they know their animals are dangerous. But Minnesota’s law protects victims. It establishes strict liability and allows for few defenses.

Medical costs have increased significantly since 2007. So, the average dog bite damage award has increased as well. Moreover, doctors now better understand how a dog bite affects the brain. So, Brainerd injury noneconomic damages, for things like emotional distress, have increased as well.

Liability for Dog Bites

Minn. Statutes Annotated, Section 347.22 states that if a dog “attacks or injures any person. . .the owner of the dog is liable in damages to the person so attacked or injured to the full amount of the injury sustained.” The statute goes on to define an “owner” as “any person harboring or keeping a dog but the owner shall be primarily liable.”

There are at least two important points here. First, the strict liability provision is very broad in terms of both the attack and the damages.

Many Brainerd injury victims are young children or senior citizens. In these situations, the dog’s knockdown may cause as much injury as the dog’s bite. Some strict liability laws only apply to bite injuries. But Minnesota’s law applied to all injuries.

Other states have strict liability laws that also limit damages. For example, in New York, most owners are only strictly liable for medical bills. But Minnesota’s law applies to “the full amount of the injury.” That includes noneconomic damages.

These noneconomic damages include things like emotional distress and loss of enjoyment in life. Many Brainerd injury victims suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for months or years after a dog bite. Other times, the victim has severe scars. Even if they are not on a visible part of the body, such scars significantly affect a person’s self-confidence.

Second, an “owner” is more like a custodian. Dog walkers, vets, and other custodians are all strictly liable for damages. The record owner remains vicariously liable in these situations. So, the victim may generally file a claim against the owner’s homeowners insurance policy and possibly obtain additional compensation.

Minnesota’s strict liability law only applies to direct injuries. In one interesting case, an unrestrained dog tried to get from the back seat to the front seat of a vehicle. That action distracted the driver, who veered off the road and fatally struck a young boy in a ditch. The court eventually held that the plaintiff could not sue under the strict liability law, but a negligence action would probably succeed.

Negligence actions might be available in other dog bite cases as well. For example, a schoolteacher who allows his children to play with a strange dog arguably displays a lack of ordinary care.

Limited Defenses to Minnesota Dog Bites

The vaunted comparative negligence defense is unavailable in dog bite cases. So, insurance company lawyers cannot use this legal loophole and shift part of the blame for the accident onto the victim.

Assumption of the risk may be a defense. This doctrine applies if the victim:

  • Voluntarily assumes
  • A known risk.

Courts have consistently held that dog groomers and other such professionals cannot sue dog owners under the strict liability law. These individuals assume the risk of injury when they agree to handle dogs.

“Beware of Dog” signs are in a grey area. The insurance company will probably argue that such signs put the victim on notice that the dog is dangerous. But most Crow Wing county want to see additional evidence in these Brainerd injury cases. For example, the insurance company might have to prove that the victim could read the sign and fully understand it.

The provocation defense is the only defense which courts always recognize. In this context, however, provocation is more than teasing or a threatening movement. Instead, the insurance company must prove that the victim inflicted so much pain on the animal that it had to respond violently. Moreover, in 2011, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that provocation must be intentional. A person cannot accidentally provoke a dog.

Team Up with Experienced Lawyers

Dog bites often cause extremely serious visible and invisible injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd injury attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.

Breaking Down a Dog Bite Case in Minnesota

Aside from car wreck claims, Minnesota personal injury lawyers usually deal with more dog bites than any other type of case. Animal attacks account for more than a third of the homeowners’ insurance claims in Minnesota. Claim value has risen exponentially in recent years, along with the volume. That value has increased over 90 percent since 2003.

Much of that increase is due to larger medical bills in these cases. Animal attack victims usually suffer extremely serious physical injuries. The knockdowns often cause broken bones along with head injuries. At the risk of sounding gruesome, the bite injuries are severe as well. Minnesota personal injury lawyers know that many animals cause both deep puncture wounds and serious lacerations, because these animals sometimes literally tear at the victim’s flesh.

There are substantial noneconomic damages as well. Many animal attack victims must endure Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms. That includes things like flashbacks, nightmares, and an unnatural fear of dogs. Without extensive and expensive therapy, these symptoms can last a lifetime. Brain injuries like PTSD are permanent, because dead brain cells never regenerate.

Building a Claim for Damages

Minnesota has a strict liability law in this area. Victims do not have to prove fault, negligence, or any other such element to obtain compensation for their damages. Victims need only establish a connection between the attack and their injuries.

There is more good news. The dog bite law applies to owners, dog walkers, veterinary assistants, and “any person harboring or keeping a dog.” In these situations, the owner is vicariously liable for damages. In plain English, the victim can name the owner as an additional defendant and have access to another source of recovery. Additionally, Minnesota’s dog bite law also applies to more than just bites. It also encompasses any “attack.” That includes:

  • Knockdowns,
  • Bites,
  • Scratches, and
  • Any other injuries associated with the attack.

Many other states have similar laws, but they involve some aspect of the common law “one bite rule.” This rule requires victim/plaintiffs to prove the owner knew that the animal was dangerous. Lawyers sometime refer to this element as scienter, which is Latin for “knowledge.”

In terms of evidence, the victim’s testimony is usually sufficient to establish cause. Minnesota personal injury lawyers may use the res ipsa loquitur (“the thing speaks for itself”) doctrine to assist in these situations. Certain injuries, such as a dog bite, can only happen one way. If the victim was close to a dog and doctors later treated the victim for dog bite injuries, the dog bit the victim. The issue is settled as a matter of law.

The medical bills are usually sufficient to establish the amount of damages. Doctor notes indicate the extent of injuries as the appropriate treatment protocol. Diagnostic tests, such as X-rays and cat scans, support the doctor’s conclusions. Brain injuries often show up on these tests as well. Sometimes, Minnesota personal injury lawyers partner with independent medical experts to drive home this point with the jury.

Altogether, Minnesota dog bite victims are entitled to compensation for both economic damages, such as medical bills, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering.

Defenses in Minnesota Dog Bite Cases

Defenses are limited in strict liability cases, since the victim/plaintiff need only establish cause. Sometimes, insurance company lawyers challenge the medical bills. That’s especially common in PTSD cases. They often call experts who insist that PTSD is a processing disorder as opposed to an actual injury. So, Minnesota personal injury lawyers must be ready to respond to these challenges.

Another defense, provocation, is named in the dog bite statute. Essentially, provocation is an offshoot of the contributory negligence defense. The insurance company basically blames the victim for the attack.

But in this context, “provocation” has a very specific meaning. The definition is not result-oriented. Fast movements, verbal teasing, or even minimal physical pain may cause a violent reaction, but these things are not provocative in Minnesota dog bite cases. Instead, the insurance company must prove the victim inflicted so much pain on the animal that it had no choice but to react violently.

The insurance company must establish this point by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Moreover, the aforementioned res ipsa doctrine works against insurance companies in these situations.

Call Today To Speak With A Minnesota Personal Injury Lawyer From Carlson & Jones

Dog bites often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Minnesota personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.

WHAT DAMAGES CAN YOU SEEK AFTER A DOG ATTACK?

The aftermath of an animal attack can cause many individuals to feel fear, shock and pain. If you have suffered serious injuries due to a dog bite, the owner of the dog may hold liability for your injuries, and you may have the ability to seek compensation for those injuries and other damages suffered. Because you may face various difficulties after involvement in such an event, seeking much-needed compensation may prove useful to you.

In Minnesota, if the attack occurred while you acted peaceably and your presence in the area of the attack was lawfully allowed, the owner of the dog can face strict liability for your injuries. Therefore, you may have reason to file a personal injury claim for special and general damages.

Special damages

When it comes to special damages, this area refers to the quantifiable economic losses you suffered as a result of the injury-causing event. Therefore, any monetary losses you incurred due to medical bills, rehabilitation and time away from work during your recovery could potentially fall under this area of compensable damages.

In many cases, because you and the court can easily quantify these losses, the amount requested in compensation typically remains straightforward. However, you may wish to gather hardcopies of your medical bills, information from medical records regarding treatment and other pertinent documents that could help enforce your argument as to why you need the compensation.

General damages

Under general damages, you may request compensation for losses that are not considered strictly economical or directly quantifiable. These damages tend to relate to pain and suffering, mental anguish, permanent scarring or disfigurement, and loss of abilities. However, because these damages lack an easily quantifiable nature, disputes regarding compensation amount commonly take place.

If a dispute does arise, you may have the ability to negotiate your desired restitution and come to a settlement with the appropriate parties. However, if the negotiations do not go as hoped and do not produce a settlement, additional action may prove necessary. Therefore, you may wish to look into your legal options for pursuing the recompense you desire.

Legal options

In order to ensure that you understand how to work toward the compensation you desire and deserve for the injuries suffered in a dog attack, you may find it useful to consult with an experienced attorney. A legal professional can provide you with reliable information regarding your legal options, evidence gathering and possible outcomes.

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Buffalo Lawyers

215 East Highway 55, Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (612) 800-8057
Fax: 763-682-3330

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Brainerd Lawyers

17025 Commercial Park Rd, Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (218) 736-9429
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Hutchinson Lawyers

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350

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Phone: (320) 289-4761
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Minnetonka Lawyers

3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (952) 260-9640
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