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:
- 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.