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Dog Bite Defenses and Brainerd Injury Lawyers

by | Jul 5, 2019 | Animal Bites, Dog Bites, Firm News, Injuries

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.