The Mn Criminal Defense, Personal Injury & Family Law Blog
What You Should Know About Animal Attacks in Minnesota
August 31, 2021
Dog bites often cause extremely gruesome injuries. But that’s not always the case. In fact, in many situations, there might be little or no apparent physical injury. Regardless of the amount of pain or apparent severity of the injury, these victims usually need and deserve compensation. This compensation is usually available even if the victim did not immediately need to go to the Emergency Room. To have the best chance at getting compensation, this is what you should know about animal attacks in Minnesota.
Animal Attack Financial Settlement Values Are on the Rise in MN
Better understanding of this overall principle, as well as the nature of dog bite injuries, are the primary reason that the animal attack financial settlement value has more than doubled since 2003. Higher medical bills are another reason. Significant advances in medical technology and doctor insight are not cheap.
As outlined below, victims have multiple legal options in these situations. Frequently, multiple options are available in the same case. Each alternative has some pros and cons. Insurance companies usually have several legal options as well. But these alternatives reduce the amount of compensation the victim receives, or even deny compensation altogether.
The insurance company has a small army of lawyers and other professionals who are dedicated to lowering or eliminating compensation. So, you need an equally determined Hutchinson accident lawyer on your side. A private attorney cannot possibly match an insurance company’s vast resources. But David took out Goliath without much of a problem, and those odds were even longer.
Types of Animal Attack Injuries
Most people associate severe dog bite injuries with situations like an out-of-control pit bull tearing into a toddler. But most of the tens of thousands of dog bite victims who visit hospital Emergency Rooms every year don’t have those kinds of injuries. As a result, they often do not get the treatment they need. So, a Hutchinson accident lawyer’s first priority in dog bite claims is usually arranging for proper medical care. More on that below.
Physical Injuries from Animal Attacks in MN
When dogs attack, their teeth usually inflict deep puncture wounds as well as severe tearing lacerations on skin. What you should know about animal attacks in Minnesota is that physical wounds can be very serious. If you’ve been attacked by an animal, seek medical attention, even if your skin as not been broken.
The puncture wounds usually pierce internal organs. Since these organs have no protective skin layer, even a slight prick could cause profuse bleeding. This bleeding is usually difficult to detect and even more difficult to stop.
Tearing lacerations usually require extensive, and expensive, treatment at a specialty trauma center, as well as extensive physical therapy. Even then, physical and emotional scars usually remain.
Emotional Injuries from Animal Attacks in MN
Speaking of child animal attack victims, many of these victims suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms in the wake of a dog bite attack. These symptoms, such as flashbacks, depression, hypervigilance, and anger, make it difficult or impossible to function in everyday environments.
Various kinds of PTSD therapy are available. Many victims benefit greatly from traditional individual and group therapy. Therapists help victims verbalize their feelings and develop some effective coping mechanisms, so they can avoid PTSD triggers.
Many other people benefit from artistic or other kinds of therapy. When victims concentrate on creating things, they are not concentrating on their negative feelings. Eventually, those negative feelings fade. Your brain is much like your lawn. If there are weeds in your lawn, if you water and fertilize the grass, the grass will choke out the weeds.
PTSD therapy only goes so far. That’s because, fundamentally, a chemical imbalance in the brain triggers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some victims need medicine to correct this imbalance. These drugs are extremely strong, so only a top doctor should supervise drug therapy.
Nerve/Tendon Damage from Animal Attacks in MN
Many dogs are bred to bite but not bite down. Retrievers are a good example. These animals, wait for it, retrieve objects without biting into them. This behavior is in their DNA, so it’s usually present even if they have received no formal training.
This trait is usually a good thing. But that’s not always true. The pressure of a dog’s teeth could cause a tendon or nerve injury, even if the dog’s teeth do not break the skin. Telltale signs of nerve or tendon injuries include loss of feeling and loss of use.
The damage is usually not invasive. Correcting the damage, however, is a different story. Most of these victims need immediate surgery to repair the nerves or tendons. Such procedures are extremely painful and risky. Unfortunately, the procedure itself is just the beginning. These victims must then undergo extensive physical therapy. Even after therapy, some loss of feeling or loss of use is almost inevitable. For example, if the nerves in the finger are damaged, some victims may eventually be able to feel hot and cold, but that’s about it.
Lack of a pain reflex could lead to additional serious injuries down the road. Hot playground equipment is a good example. Even in Minnesota, surface temperatures on slides, monkey bars, and other outside play equipment can approach 190 degrees. That’s well above the burn threshold and just short of boiling.
Broken Bones from Animal Attacks in Minnesota
The bite is not the only component of an animal attack. In fact, in many cases, it’s not even the most serious component. The knockdown, especially if the dog is big and the victim is frail, could cause injuries like broken bones and head injuries. We’ll look at head injuries in a moment. First, let’s look at broken bones.
This name is a bit misleading. When kids fall off their bikes, they break their bones. When animals attack, the force of the impact usually shatters or crushes bones. Doctors must normally use metal parts, like plates or screws, to reconstruct these bones. As a result, these victims need extensive physical therapy to regain use of their limbs.
Some of the same nerve injury principles apply here. Since shattered or crushed bone treatment is so extensive, some permanent loss of function is almost inevitable.
Imagine if you were a 5-year-old girl who must live the rest of her life with only 75 percent range of motion in her shoulder. How much compensation is fair in a case like that? If you were an insurance company lawyer, your answer would be zero. If you were a Hutchinson accident lawyer, your answer would be much different.
Head Injuries from Animal Attacks in Minnesota
As mentioned, serious injuries don’t always look serious. Moreover, they don’t always feel serious either. That’s especially true regarding head injuries.
How do dog bites cause head injuries? Before we answer that question, understand that the brain does not fit snugly into the skull, like a hand in a glove. Instead, the brain is essentially a water tank which suspends the brain in cerebrospinal fluid.
The aforementioned force causes the brain to violently slam against the victim’s skull as the victim falls and lands hard.
Many people are familiar with this effect, but they don’t know it. They think better when they pace or go for a head-clearing walk. With each step, their brains very gently bang against their skulls.
Brain injuries like these are permanent. When brain cells die, they don’t regenerate. At best, a brain injury physical therapist can train uninjured parts of the brain to take over lost functions.
Infection from Animal Attacks in Minnesota
Dog bites have very high infection rates. Even a pinprick in the skin which does not bleed and does not hurt could cause various kinds of infections. These illnesses are especially severe for people with certain pre-existing conditions.
Because of the foreseeability rule, Hutchinson accident lawyers must usually file separate legal claims to obtain compensation for infection-related injuries. Usually, infections get out of control because doctors do not properly diagnose and treat them. Legally, dog owners can foresee (predict) that a dog bite might happen, but no one can predict that a medical mistake might happen.
Your Legal Options If You Have Been Attacked by an Animal in MN
The average injury-related medical bill usually exceeds $50,000. Most group health insurance policies exclude injury-related claims, and most people cannot possibly pay such expenses out of their own pockets.
So, a Hutchinson accident lawyer arranges for victims to receive treatment from doctors at no upfront cost. These aren’t just any regular doctors. These physicians specialize in diagnosing and treating dog bite wounds and other injury-related wounds.
These bills come due eventually. To obtain compensation for medical bills, and other economic losses, most attorneys use one of the following legal theories.
Minnesota has one of the broadest strict liability animal attack laws in the country. “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.”
So, Minnesota animal attack victims who use the strict liability law need only prove cause. They don’t need to prove negligence and they don’t need to prove the owner knew the dog was dangerous. The only possible defense, as mentioned in the statute, is provocation.
Ironically, the broad nature of this law sometimes works against victims. Many jurors, especially pet owners, see this law as a financial pet ownership penalty. That’s especially true if the owner adopted a dog and didn’t fully know the animal’s history.
This doctrine comes from the one-bite rule, which is rooted in English common law. Owners are liable for bite injuries if they knew the dog was potentially dangerous. Evidence of knowledge includes pre-bite behavior, such as:
Vicious growling, and
Baring of teeth.
Usually, a Hutchinson accident lawyer must prove knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence, a legal phrase which means “more likely than not.” That’s one of the lowest standards of proof in Minnesota law. So, a little evidence goes a long way.
In some states, negligence in a dog bite case is simply a lack of care. For example, a daycare teacher is negligent if he allows children to play near a strange dog.
Minnesota is different. The sheer folly of letting toddlers near a potentially dangerous dog is not enough to prove negligence. Victim/plaintiffs must also prove that the tortfeasor (negligent actor) knew the dog was dangerous.
The same circumstantial evidence mentioned above is admissible in this context. But generally, the standard of proof is lower. Instead of a preponderance of the evidence, there must only be a scintilla (crumb) of evidence.
Assume Savannah, who is a second-grade teacher, lets her students pet a yippy or nervous dog during show-and-tell. Such animal behavior isn’t enough to establish knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence. But it should be enough to convince Savannah that letting children near the dog is a really bad idea.
Possible Defenses for Animal Attack in MN
A Hutchinson accident lawyer’s claim must not only be strong enough to make a prima facie damages claim. It must also be strong enough to refute some insurance company defenses, such as the provocation defense.
Provocation in Strict Liability Claims
The P-word has a very narrow meaning in the dog bite context, whether the claim is strict liability, negligence, or scienter.
Provocation is always an intentional act. Victims cannot accidentally provoke dogs by making loud noises or sudden moves. Furthermore, provocation is usually a physical act. Mere teasing isn’t enough. Instead, the victim must inflict so much pain on the animal that the dog had to react violently in self-defense.
In a strict liability claim, provocation is either all or nothing, at least in most cases. If the victim provoked the dog, the victim is ineligible for compensation. This variable could affect the choice of legal options, as outlined above.
Provocation in Negligence and Scienter Claims
What you should know about animal attacks id that that the provocation in negligence and Scienter claims is that this defense works differently in these claims. Instead of all or nothing, provocation is basically a form of comparative fault.
This defense also comes up frequently in car crash claims. Perhaps one driver changed lanes unsafely and the other one was speeding. In the dog bite scienter or negligence context, the victim was partially at fault for provoking the dog. In these situations, jurors must listen to the evidence and then divide fault on a percentage basis, such as 80-20 or 50-50.
Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. So, if the dog was at least 51 percent responsible for the attack, the victim is entitled to a proportionate share of damages.
In addition to compensation for medical bills and other economic losses, these damages usually include compensation for noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Consult an Animal and Dog Bite Injury Lawyer in Minnesota