If you or a loved one has recently been injured due to a dog bite, you may have the right to recover damages and compensation from the dog owner and their insurance company.
There are over 4.5 million dog bites that occur every year in the United States, and unfortunately many involve young children. Fortunately for dog bite victims, Minnesota has passed very favorable dog bite injury laws that allow them to be compensated for their dog bite related injuries.
Minnesota is what is known as a “strict liability” state when it comes to dog bite injury claims. What this means is that, in most situations, the owner of a dog is automatically liable for the dog bite victim’s damages if their dog attacks or injuries someone.
Minnesota Statute § 347.22 provides 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.”
That means that in Minnesota, as long as there is no “provocation,” and a person is not trespassing, any and all damages sustained as a result of an attack by a dog are the legal responsibility of the owner of that dog. These damages may include:
- Medical bills, including, but not limited to the cost of the ambulance, the emergency room visit, stitches, office visits, physical therapy, plastic surgeon visits, and surgical costs.
- Wage loss. If you miss work due to your dog bite related injuries, you are entitled to recovery your lost wages. If you are unable to return to your job, you may also be able to recover your loss of earning capacity.
- Pain, Suffering, Emotional Distress, and Disfigurement. Dog bite injuries can be severe and lead to substantial disfigurement and scarring. You are entitled to recovery money for the physical pain you have experienced from the attack, as well as the emotional distress and toll such an attack and injury causes you.
The statute also imposes liability on any person “harboring” or “keeping” the dog at the time of the bite or attack. “Harboring” means affording an animal lodging, shelter, or refuge for more than a limited time or purpose, and implies the ability to manage, control or care for the animal as an owner would otherwise be accustomed to doing. “Keeping” involves: a voluntary acceptance of temporary responsibility as it relates to the management, control, or care of the dog; exercised in a manner generally similar to that of the dog’s primary legal owner. In other words, if someone other than the owner is taking care of, walking, or dog sitting a dog that bites or attacks you, that person may also be liable for you damages in addition to the owner of the dog.
These damages are most often covered by the dog owner’s, harborer’s, or keeper’s homeowner’s insurance policy.
Are Injuries Caused by Dogs Limited to Bites?
The vast majority of injuries caused by dogs in Minnesota involve situations where a person is bit by a dog. Most people even refer to Minnesota Statute § 347.22 as the “dog bite” statute.
However, under this statute, a person actually has the right to recover damages from the owner of a dog in situations beyond where a dog bites someone. The statutory language actually states that the owner of a dog is liable any time their dog “attacks or injures” somebody. The Minnesota Court of Appeals has stated that the statute applies even in cases where there is no physical contact between the dog and the injured individual. A claim is viable if the injury results from either hostile or non-hostile actions of the animal and is not limited to vicious bite attacks.
The word “attack” in this context typically means when a dog bites or scratches, but can also mean jumping on someone and knocking them over or charging at them. “Injures” in the context of the statute is interpreted broadly, and can mean situations where a dog inadvertently trips someone, or jumps up on them and knocks them over. If you have been injured as a result of the actions of a dog, your injury may fall within the “dog bite” statute and you should immediately consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.
What is the provocation defense in a Minnesota dog bite claim?
The most common defense raised by insurance companies in Minnesota dog bite injury cases is what is known as the provocation defense. The provocation defense is a complete defense to a dog bite injury claim, and is provided by the language of the Minnesota dog bite statute itself. Minnesota’s dog bite statue 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 that dog is liable in damages to the person so attacked or injured to the full amount of the injury sustained.
Under the plain wording of the statute, if a person provokes a dog, and that dog attacks or injures the person, they are not entitled to recover their damages from the owner of the dog.
For most people, provoking a dog to attack typically conjures images of a person pulling the dog’s tail, ears, or fur, or hitting or kicking the dog. However, provocation under Minnesota law is a broad concept that incorporates actions beyond the typical actions an average person would think of when they think of provocation.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has stated that provocation under the statute occurs when a person voluntarily and unnecessarily provokes a dog in a manner that invites a dog attack. It is not necessary that the person intend to provoke the dog. Rather, provocation involves voluntary conduct that exposes the person to a risk of harm from the dog, where the person had knowledge of the risk at the time of the incident.
Under the Minnesota Supreme Court’s definition of provocation, a person does not need to intend or try to provoke a dog, but rather make a voluntary action that exposes the person to a risk of harm when they knew that risk exists. This definition could lead a judge or jury to find that provocation occurred, even if it does not fit within the ordinary, everyday meaning of provocation as it is understood by the average person. For example, simply petting a dog would typically not be thought of as provocation. However, if a person pets a dog after they have been warned by the owner that the dog does not like to be pet, or that told that the dog does not like strangers, the act of petting the dog may constitute provocation.
A careful analysis of the facts of the dog bite injury must be made the by an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine the merits of a provocation defense raised by an insurance company.
What should I do after a dog bite?
If you have been attacked or bit by a dog, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. However, it is also important that you make sure you obtain the name and contact information of the owner of the dog. This will be important when you report the dog bite incident to the police. Once it has been reported to the police, they will typically create a police or incident report and find out from the owner whether the dog is up to date on its shots and vaccinations. If the dog is not up to date on its shots and vaccinations, your medical providers may order that you undergo a series of rabies vaccinations.
Once you have taken these steps, it is important that you follow your doctor’s recommendations, and take periodic photographs of the area where you were bit to document any scarring or disfigurement. It may also be necessary to consult with a plastic surgeon to see whether a scar revision surgery will be necessary.
What are the most common injuries caused by dogs?
Because the majority of claims involving dogs stem from a dog bite, the most common injuries are puncture wounds and lacerations. Depending on the nature and extent of the puncture wounds and lacerations, stitches may be necessary. Typically scars result from these wounds, and a consultation with a plastic surgeon for a scar revision surgery may be necessary.
Other injuries caused by dog bites include damage to the underlying muscles, nerves and tendons. When a dog bites someone, the tooth may damage the underlying muscles and tendons, which may affect the strength, mobility and function of the area. A dog bite can also cause nerve damage by physically damaging the underlying nerves. Nerve damage can result in numbness, tingling, or other symptoms.
In instances where a dog trips or knocks someone over, often times fractures of the arms, hands, and wrist often result. If the fracture is severe enough, surgical placement of plates, screws or other hardware may be necessary.
Dog bites and attacks can also lead to severe psychological injuries. These injuries can include post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and a fear of dogs. Such psychological injuries are frequently seen in attacks involving young children and often need to be treated by a counselor or psychologist.
How much is my dog bite case worth?
Every dog bite case is different, and what the value of a dog bite case is will depend on a number of factors, including, but not limited to:
- The age and gender of the person bit by the dog;
- The location of the dog bite;
- The size of the scar left by the dog bite;
- Whether the dog bite required stitches and a consultation with a plastic surgeon;
- Whether a scar revision surgery is necessary;
- Whether the person bit sustained psychological injuries, such as PTSD, anxiety, or depression;
- The amount in medical expenses incurred as a result of the dog bite;
- The amount of wage loss incurred as a result of the dog bite;
- The amount of insurance coverage available;
An experienced dog bite lawyer will gather and analyze the above factors when giving an assessment on the value of your dog bite claim.
Does Nelson Personal Injury have experience handling dog bite claims?
Nelson Personal Injury has substantial experience handling dog bite and other dog injury claims of all types. These include scarring claims, scar revision claims, tendon, muscle, and nerve damage claims. Take a moment to review our results page to see a sampling of some of the results we have obtained for our clients who have been attacked or bit by a dog.
Why Use Nelson Personal Injury For Your Dog Bite Case?
Whether your dog bite claim is large or small, at Nelson Personal Injury, we treat every client, like they are our only client. When you choose to work with us, you can be confident that your case is being handled by a competent, experienced and compassionate lawyer. Unlike some attorneys, we devote our entire practice to representing individuals who have been injured.
For more than 40 years, our attorneys have been fighting for the rights of dog bite victims. We have taken on the large insurance companies and have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for dog bite victims. Beyond that, we strive to provide dog bite victims with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that they have an experienced attorney on their side.
If you’ve been injured by a dog bite, our attorneys are here to help. We know that you will have many questions about your rights and the claim process, and we always take the time to explain the process and your rights to you. Complete the form below, or call us today to see how we can help you. All consultations with our experienced attorneys are free and there is no obligation.