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.