Do I Have a Claim If a Dog Bite Doesn’t Break the Skin?

Dogs bite around 4.5 million people in the US each year. And Minnesota is one of the top-ranking dog bite states. Policyholders report around 370 dog bite incidents to Minnesota insurance companies each year, with an average of $32,198 paid out to victims.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of a dog attack, you may wonder what the state laws are about filing a personal injury lawsuit. Minnesota’s dog bite law protects victims to the fullest extent of the law. That means you can recover damages in a personal injury suit filed against the dog’s owner.

But before you can file, you must prove that the owner was liable for the attack. Keep reading for everything you need to know about your rights after a Minnesota animal attack.

Minnesota’s Dog/Animal Bite Law

Section 347.22 of Minnesota’s Statutes states that owners of dogs that, “without provocation,” attack or injure a person “acting peaceably” and in a lawful place are liable for damages to the attacked or injured person.

Animal Bite Law Definitions

The definition of “acting peaceably” can change depending on the scenario. For example, acting peaceably may mean you were acting lawfully before the attack. That means you were on public land or lawfully on private property. You must also have not provoked the attack.

“Provocation” means that the victim of the attack caused the dog to bite in self-defense. We’ll talk more about provocation and how it can be a viable defense for the dog owner below.

“Owner” is the person who cares for or houses the dog. He or she is primarily liable for any bites the dog causes. But in Minnesota, the law may also consider the animal’s owner anyone who harbors or cares for the dog.

“Strict liability” means that Minnesota can hold the animal owner liable even if he or she didn’t know the dog would attack or injure someone. Compare this to the one-bite rule in other states. The one-bite rule mandates that the dog owner knows of a previous dog bite incident to be held liable.

Defenses Against Minnesota’s Dog Bite Law

A dog bite lawyer has a few defenses to protect the animal’s owner from personal injury claims.

The first line of defense is proving provocation. Provocation defenses could allege that the injured person was hurting or attacking the dog. Or provocation could mean the injured person was handling an injured dog in such a way as to cause pain, resulting in a bite. Using provocation as a defense requires intention. In other words, the animal attack lawyer has to prove the injured person intentionally and unnecessarily hurt or mishandled the animal. If the defense can prove this, the injured person must drop charges against the dog owner.

Another defense commonly used in animal attack cases is trespassing. Minnesota’s dog bite law requires you to be in a lawful place when the dog bite occurred. You must be on public property or lawfully on private property. Of course, you can lawfully be on your own private property, someone else’s private property with their explicit invitation or consent, or the dog owner’s private property with his or her explicit invitation or consent.

If you were trespassing on the dog owner’s property when you were attacked, you wouldn’t have a case. If you were trespassing on property that didn’t belong to the dog owner, though, an experienced dog bite injuries lawyer might still be able to make your case.

Injuries Minnesota’s Dog Bite Law Covers

Minnesota’s dog bite law doesn’t only allow victims to recover damages from dog bites. The law also covers any injuries caused by the attack. That includes wounds or broken bones obtained from the dog jumping on or knocking down the victim.

In some cases, people develop significant post-traumatic stress disorder after an animal attack. Dog bite plaintiffs can also recover damages for this type of psychological injury.

Animal Bite Complications

Animal bites can seem insignificant in some cases, but it’s always important to seek out medical help. Animal bites have the potential to cause significant infections and wounds that require surgical treatment.

The majority of bites in the United States are from dogs. When bitten by a dog, most people snap to the concern for rabies, but there are actually many other more likely illnesses or complications you could suffer from, like tetanus or deep infections.

Even when a bite doesn’t break your skin, there is a potential for injury. A bite could lead to crushing or tearing even if infection isn’t likely. For example, if a dog bites down on you and you’re wearing a coat, your skin might not break. You could still suffer from a broken bone or torn ligaments, though.

There are signs and symptoms of injuries to watch for after an altercation with an animal. First, look at the wound. Is there swelling or discoloration? If so, you could have damage to the underlying muscles, tendons or bones. Redness around punctures could indicate the beginning of an infection. Pus is also a sign of infection.

If you’ve been bitten, you could also have nerve damage. A loss of sensation or inability to move a body part could indicate that a nerve has been severed or impacted by the attack.

Not all dog bites result in complications, but many do. It’s important to hold the owner responsible, so you can focus on getting well without having to be concerned about medical costs or other expenses you’re incurring.

Recoverable Damages

As with any personal injury case, victims of animal attacks are entitled to damages. These damages can be economic or non-economic.

Economic damages include medical bills and other expenses related to the bite or injury. That includes psychological services obtained for post-dog bite PTSD or other emotional trauma. Lost wages and reduced earning capabilities are two more economic damages recoverable in a dog bite personal injury lawsuit.

Non-economic damages include things like pain and suffering, disfigurement, and reduced quality of life.

When a dog attack results in someone’s death, the victim’s heirs can also recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Dog Bite Lawsuit Deadlines

There is a statute of limitations for a dog bite personal injury lawsuit. Animal attack victims in Minnesota must file suit within two years of the date of the bite or injury. If you fail to file within that time, you can’t recover damages from the dog owner.

Call a Dog Bite Lawyer Near Me

Dog attacks can cause serious injuries and lifelong complications. Luckily, Minnesota protects victims like you. With the help of an animal attack injury lawyer, you can file a personal injury lawsuit and recover damages from the dog’s owner.

Need an animal attack lawyer? Call Carlson and Jones today to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer about your case.

 

This original article was originally published on February 19, 2018 and updated on August 10, 2021.

Dog Bite Claims and Brainerd, MN Personal Injury Lawyers

In 2018, insurance companies paid almost $700 million to settle dog bite claims. That figure works out to almost $40,000 per claim.

Many times, the claims are substantially higher. Serious dog bites usually require extensive, and expensive, reconstructive surgery. Furthermore, these wounds often get infected. If the victim has any pre-existing condition, serious dog bite wounds may become life-threatening.

Due to the serious nature of these injuries, a Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyer may be able to obtain substantial compensation using one of the three theories outlined below. Each one has some significant pros and cons.

Strict Liability Claims in Minnesota

The Gopher State has one of the broadest animal attack laws in the country. The owner is liable “[i]f a dog, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is acting peaceably in any place where the person may lawfully be.” Note that this law applies to both the knockdown and the bite itself. Many times, especially when a large dog lunges at a small victim, the knockdown may be worse than the bite.

These claims are very easy to prove in court, Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyers must only establish cause. The victim/plaintiff’s testimony, coupled with a medical dog bite diagnosis, is usually sufficient.

However, strict liability claims have a downside. Crow Wing County jurors often award limited compensation in these matters, since there may be no evidence of owner negligence. Without such evidence, some jurors feel large awards unfairly punish dog owners. That’s especially true if, as is usually the case, the juror is a pet owner.

Moreover, as mentioned in the statute, the provocation defense may apply in strict liability claims. In this context, “provocation” usually means inflicting physical punishment on the dog with the intent to incite a response. If insurance company lawyers prove the victim recklessly provoked the dog (the victim didn’t think about the consequences of his/her act), that showing may be sufficient as well.

Brainerd, MN Personal Injury Lawyers and the One Bite Rule

Strict liability laws are a relatively recent invention. Traditionally, the common law one bite rule always applied in these cases. This doctrine is still an option in Minnesota.

Essentially, if there is evidence that the owner knew the dog was potentially vicious, the owner may be liable for bite damages. Such evidence includes:

  • Aggressive barking,
  • Sudden lunging,
  • Baring of teeth, and
  • Menacing growling.

Since owners are clearly negligent in these situations, even pet owner jurors are usually willing to award substantial compensation in one bite cases. That’s especially true if the victim/plaintiff has considerable evidence of knowledge.

The possibility of higher compensation comes at a price. One bite claims require more proof than strict liability claims. Many times, the required evidence simply is not there.

Furthermore, since one bite claims are negligence claims, a full range of negligence defenses may be available. That includes defenses like assumption of the risk and contributory negligence. Assumption of the risk often involves a “Beware of Dog” or other warning sign. In this context, contributory negligence is a bit like provocation, but contributory negligence is easier to prove.

Negligence Per Se in Crow Wing County

Brainerd and other area municipalities typically have animal restraint laws. These laws require things like leashes when the dog is in public and fences on private property. If owners violate one of these laws, and that violation substantially causes injury, the owner may be liable for damages as a matter of law.

Once again, these claims are relatively easy for Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyers to prove in court, at least for the most part. Victim/plaintiffs usually need only prove cause.

Typically, jurors award rather high damages in these cases, but not quite as high as they do in one bite claims. Additionally, Minnesota has a rather weak res ipsa loquitur rule. So, if no one witnessed the attack and the victim is unable to provide credible testimony for whatever reason, these claims could be difficult to prove.

Rely on an Experienced Attorney

Dog bite victims have several legal options. Each one has some pros and cons. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in injury claims.

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.

Dog Bite Defenses and Brainerd Injury Lawyers

In 2018, homeowners insurance companies paid nearly $700 million in dog bite claims. This figure has increased substantially since 2005, mostly due to the nature of dog bite injuries.

When animals attack helpless victims, they generally lunge at victims and knock them to the ground. Then, dogs often cause multiple kinds of serious trauma injuries with their teeth and claws. So, a dog bite basically combines the injuries that people sustain in falls and car crashes. As a result, the medical bills alone are usually tens of thousands of dollars.

But there is more. Most dog bite victims suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms for several months, or even longer. These symptoms include an unnatural fear of all dogs as well as flashbacks of the attack. Symptoms like these make it difficult or impossible to function at work, school, or home.

Given the nature of these injuries, a Brainerd injury lawyer can usually obtain significant compensation in these cases. Since there is so much at stake, insurance company lawyers often pull out all the stops in an effort to reduce or deny compensation.

Your Claim for Damages

Many times, the best defense is a good offense. And, the Gopher State has very favorable laws in this area, so Brainerd injury lawyers have multiple options.

  • Strict Liability: Owners are generally liable for all animal attack damages whether or not they knew their animals were potentially dangerous. In strict liability claims, victim/plaintiffs do not have to prove fault or negligence. They only have to prove cause.
  • Scienter (Knowledge): Owners are also liable for damages if they knew the dog was potentially dangerous. Evidence of knowledge includes prior attacks on people or animals as well as pre-bite behavior, such as aggressive barking or baring of teeth.
  • Negligence Per Se: Brainerd and most other Minnesota cities have strict animal restraint rules, like leash laws and fence requirements. If the owner violated one of these laws, and that violation substantially caused injury, liability may attach.

These approaches often overlap, and there are pros and cons to each one. For example, if a dog bit Samir on Monday and then bit Michelle on Tuesday, Michelle could probably pursue either a strict liability or a scienter claim. The strict liability claim is easier to prove. But the scienter claim may yield higher damages, since the jury would hear about the dog’s viciousness and the owner’s callousness.

Brainerd Injury Lawyers and Provocation

Minnesota’s dog bite statute states that provocation is a defense in animal attack claims. If you ask dog owners, they would probably say “provocation” is a broad word which includes a number of different behaviors. Such acts might include sudden movements, approaching the dog, running away from the dog, and verbal teasing.

However, in this context, “provocation” has a much narrower meaning. First, provocation is always intentional. Things like running away from the dog are not intentionally provocative. Second, provocation is generally physical. In fact, in most cases, the victim must forcefully and repeatedly hurt the dog so badly that it must respond violently to make the pain stop.

Many victims, especially very young children, cannot provoke dogs as a matter of law. Their acts are almost always unintentional and almost always harmless.

The Assumption of the Risk Defense

Owners often post “Beware of Dog” and other such signs around their property. These signs do not immunize owners. Instead, they just make the assumption of the risk defense a bit easier to establish in court. This defense has two basic prongs:

  • Voluntary assumption of
  • A known risk.

Several factors often come into play here. There may be issues regarding the sign or its placement. If the sign was very small and the same color as the fence, the sign might not be visible. Additionally, if the sign is in the front yard and the attack occurred in the back yard, the victim could not have possibly seen the sign.

Additionally, there may be issues regarding the victim. The victim must have been able to read the sign and understand what it meant. Some people have limited reading and/or English skills, so doing either one of these things may be a problem.

Sign or no sign, the insurance company must prove both elements of the assumption of the risk defense by a preponderance of the evidence.

Contact a Tenacious Attorney

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

How Do Brainerd Personal Injury Lawyers Win Dog Bite Cases?

A few dog bites are just embarrassing. But for the most part, nothing else causes the kinds of physical and emotional injuries than an animal attack can cause.

Physically, dog bite injuries are a lot like car crash injuries. Both are incredibly varied. Animal knockdowns often cause broken bones and head injuries, especially if the victim is very young or very old. But the knockdown is just the beginning. When dogs bite, their jaws often create both deep puncture wounds and severe lacerations. Their claws often do the same thing.

All that physical trauma creates psychological trauma. Many dog bite victims must endure Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms, such as flashbacks and heightened awareness, for months or years following the attack.

Due to the serious nature of these injuries, Brainerd personal injury lawyers have several procedural options. Dog bite victims are in the driver’s seat. In many cases, victim/plaintiffs need little evidence to collect money for their economic losses, such as medical bills, and their noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some cases.

Minnesota’s Strict Liability Law

According to Section 347.22, animal owners are “liable in damages to the person so attacked or injured to the full amount of the injury sustained” if their dogs attack people. Victim/plaintiffs need not prove fault or negligence. They just need to prove cause.

Typically, homeowners’ insurance policies encompass unintentional injuries to third parties, such as dog bites. That’s an important point, because many homeowners are essentially judgment-proof.

As a matter of law, provocation is the only defense to strict liability claims. This doctrine is very limited. In the everyday world, “provocation” could mean sudden moves, teasing, or pretty much anything else that the targeted person perceives as threatening or hostile. But to a Brainerd personal injury lawyer, “provocation” essentially means physical torture. Anything less is insufficient, from a legal standpoint.

However, there is a downside to the strict liability law. Unless the dog was at the home and/or under the owner’s direct control, most homeowners’ insurance companies will deny coverage. Fortunately, Minnesota courts have made it clear that the strict liability law is not the exclusive remedy in these situations.

Scienter

This Latin word means “knowledge.” Scienter claims are an offshoot of the common law one-bite rule. Before the advent of strict liability laws like Section 347.22, Brainerd personal injury lawyers had to prove that the owner or custodian knew the animal was dangerous. Evidence of knowledge is usually either:

  • Prior attacks against animals or people, or
  • Aggressive action, such as barking or lunging, immediately before the attack.

Additionally, victim/plaintiffs must generally establish actual knowledge of dangerous propensities. Constructive knowledge, or should have known, is usually not enough. And, the viciousness must have been unprovoked. Only sudden attacks or out-of-the-blue aggressive growling put owners on notice that their animals are potentially dangerous.

So, scienter claims are much harder to establish in court than strict liability claims. But, the additional evidence often translates to bigger damages. In the minds of many Crow Wing County jurors, owners who know their dogs are dangerous yet do nothing to protect people are far worse than owners whose dogs literally go off the chain for a moment or two.

If the dog was with a temporary custodian, such as a veterinarian or doggie daycare, scienter is usually the way to go, even though the strict liability law may be applicable.

Brainerd Personal Injury Lawyers and Negligence

Sometimes, the dog owner is a renter or a person with no liability insurance. In other cases, the tortfeasor (negligent actor) might be a teacher who allows her students to play with a strange dog.

These situations often involve a lack of ordinary care, and that means a negligence claim may be successful. Typically, people have a duty of reasonable care. If they breach that duty, and that breach substantially causes damages, the tortfeasor may be legally responsible.

Negligence also often means third-party liability. Vicarious liability gives victims an additional source of compensation. For example, employers, like a school district, are generally responsible for the negligent acts of their employees, such as schoolteachers. And, property owners are generally responsible for the unintentional injuries which occur on their property, assuming they knew about the danger.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Dog bite victims have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

Brainerd Injury Lawyers and Dog Bite Damages

Nationwide, dogs bite about 4.5 million people a year. Roughly a fifth of these victims receive emergency room for their physical wounds. Many more seek psychological or other treatment for their mental wounds. Quality physical and mental healthcare costs money, and compensation is available for these expenses.

Noneconomic damages, like pain and suffering, are much harder to calculate. Most Brainerd injury lawyers multiply the economic damages by three, four, or five, depending on the facts of the case and some other factors.

Dog bite damages tend to be higher in Minnesota. The laws are extremely victim-friendly. Aside from the strict liability law, there are a number of other theories, such as negligence, which usually resonate with Crow Wing County jurors.

Economic Damages in Dog Bite Cases

Medical bills are usually the largest item in this category. Overall, after a brief drop after the Great Recession, medical inflation has crept up again.

Dog bite emergency care medical bills are usually quite high, and doctors must be highly skilled to treat these victims. When they bite, most dogs inflict both puncture and tearing wounds. Most trauma injuries are usually just one or the other. Due to the nature of these wounds, doctors usually need to not only treat the injuries but prepare the victim for reconstructive surgery. That’s a very tall order.

A Brainerd injury lawyer can connect victims with the top quality medical care they need. Attorneys have professional relationships with doctors. And these are not just any doctors. These physicians are experienced in dog bite cases. As a bonus, due to this prior relationship, attorney-referred doctors generally charge nothing upfront and lower their fees later on. So, victims don’t have to worry about medical bills. They just need to worry about getting better. And, when a Brainerd injury lawyer resolves the case, victims get to keep more of their settlement money.

The physical injuries are just part of the economic damage picture. Dog bite victims often suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD has been around for a long time. In Act II Scene 3 of Henry IV, Part I, a 1597 William Shakespeare play, Lady Percy describes PTSD symptoms in her husband, who has just returned from war:

O my good lord, why are you thus alone?
For what offense have I this fortnight been
A banished woman from my Harry’s bed?
Tell me, sweet lord, what is ‘t that takes from thee
Thy stomach, pleasure, and thy golden sleep?
Why dost thou bend thine eyes upon the earth,
And start so often when thou sit’st alone?

The symptoms she describes (isolation, anger at family members, depression, sleeplessness, and heightened awareness) are common effects of PTSD.

PTSD is not a “disorder.” It’s a physical brain injury. Exposure to certain combat-like stress erodes the cerebral cortex, which controls logical responses. If that happens, the amygdala, which controls emotional responses, takes over.

Brain injuries are irreversible. Once the cerebral cortex shrinks, it never grows back. However, after extended physical therapy and counseling, neighboring uninjured areas of the brain might assume some of the lost functions. This process sounds painstakingly long, and it is painstakingly long.

Brainerd Injury Lawyers and Noneconomic Damages

As mentioned, tallying economic damages sometimes just means adding medical bills. Before a Brainerd injury lawyer can resolve the case, all this medical treatment must be at least substantially complete. Most settlements include waivers. So, there’s no way for a victim to get more money for additional medical expenses later.

To determine the amount of noneconomic damages, the victim’s own testimony is important. But many dog bite victims are young children who are not very good witnesses. Additionally, victims usually cannot see all the misery that their injuries cause. So, Brainerd injury lawyers need additional evidence, such as:

  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities (e.g. Sally quit band or Jose left the chess team),
  • Mobility issues which make it slightly more difficult to navigate stairs or get around in other ways, and
  • Embarrassment over physical scars.

Typically, there is a direct relationship between the amount of evidence a victim presents and the amount of damages jurors award.

Additional Punitive Damages

Prior incidents plus serious injury equals more money. That straightforward formula works well in most punitive damages cases. These damages are designed to punish the animal owner and deter future wrongdoing.

In this context, the prior incident usually needs to be a prior attack on another person. That’s different from evidence of knowledge in negligence claims. In that context, a “prior incident” could be non-contact incidents, like baring teeth or aggressive barking. Likewise, serious injury usually means either wrongful death or a debilitating injury.

Legally, to obtain punitive damages, the victim must establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that the owner intentionally disregarded a known risk.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Dog bite victims may be entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing 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.

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.

WHAT KINDS OF INFECTIONS CAN DOG BITES CAUSE?

If you’re attacked by a dog and don’t seek medical treatment, you may develop an infection from the wound. While dogs are touted as having much cleaner mouths than humans, that’s not entirely true. A dog bite has the potential to cause serious injuries and infections.

Infections occur in around 10 to 15 percent of bites by dogs. While that might seem like a relatively low number, the injuries an infection can cause can’t be ignored.

If you’re bitten on the hand or a joint, you’re more likely to develop an infection. Why? The bites in these areas push bacteria down deep into the body where the body has a harder time fighting off the infection.

The first signs of infection to look for after a bite are swelling and inflammation. You might notice the area around the wound becoming red or itchy. Sometimes, there may be pus or discharge. If you are bitten, the best way to prevent an infection is to seek medical attention right away.

Even if the bite seems minor now, it could end up being dangerous or potentially-deadly later. On top of that, there is a risk of additional and serious infections such as tetanus or rabies. Those infections require immediate treatment to prevent their spread. When untreated and symptoms emerge, rabies is fatal. When untreated, tetanus is extremely painful and life-threatening. Without treatment, most people die from a tetanus infection, but a treatment of antitoxin and course of antibiotics can prevent that from happening.

If you’re bitten, your health is at risk. You need to seek medical attention. Your attorney can help you recover your costs after your life is not longer at risk.

Source: HealthLine, “Animal Bite Infections,” Nancy Choi, MD, Amber Erickson Gabbey, Diana K. Wells, accessed June 26, 2017

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