In 2018, insurance companies paid almost $700 million to settle dog bite claims. That figure works out to almost $40,000 per claim.
Many times, the claims are substantially higher. Serious dog bites usually require extensive, and expensive, reconstructive surgery. Furthermore, these wounds often get infected. If the victim has any pre-existing condition, serious dog bite wounds may become life-threatening.
Due to the serious nature of these injuries, a Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyer may be able to obtain substantial compensation using one of the three theories outlined below. Each one has some significant pros and cons.
Strict Liability Claims in Minnesota
The Gopher State has one of the broadest animal attack laws in the country. The owner is liable “[i]f a dog, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is acting peaceably in any place where the person may lawfully be.” Note that this law applies to both the knockdown and the bite itself. Many times, especially when a large dog lunges at a small victim, the knockdown may be worse than the bite.
These claims are very easy to prove in court, Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyers must only establish cause. The victim/plaintiff’s testimony, coupled with a medical dog bite diagnosis, is usually sufficient.
However, strict liability claims have a downside. Crow Wing County jurors often award limited compensation in these matters, since there may be no evidence of owner negligence. Without such evidence, some jurors feel large awards unfairly punish dog owners. That’s especially true if, as is usually the case, the juror is a pet owner.
Moreover, as mentioned in the statute, the provocation defense may apply in strict liability claims. In this context, “provocation” usually means inflicting physical punishment on the dog with the intent to incite a response. If insurance company lawyers prove the victim recklessly provoked the dog (the victim didn’t think about the consequences of his/her act), that showing may be sufficient as well.
Brainerd, MN Personal Injury Lawyers and the One Bite Rule
Strict liability laws are a relatively recent invention. Traditionally, the common law one bite rule always applied in these cases. This doctrine is still an option in Minnesota.
Essentially, if there is evidence that the owner knew the dog was potentially vicious, the owner may be liable for bite damages. Such evidence includes:
- Aggressive barking,
- Sudden lunging,
- Baring of teeth, and
- Menacing growling.
Since owners are clearly negligent in these situations, even pet owner jurors are usually willing to award substantial compensation in one bite cases. That’s especially true if the victim/plaintiff has considerable evidence of knowledge.
The possibility of higher compensation comes at a price. One bite claims require more proof than strict liability claims. Many times, the required evidence simply is not there.
Furthermore, since one bite claims are negligence claims, a full range of negligence defenses may be available. That includes defenses like assumption of the risk and contributory negligence. Assumption of the risk often involves a “Beware of Dog” or other warning sign. In this context, contributory negligence is a bit like provocation, but contributory negligence is easier to prove.
Negligence Per Se in Crow Wing County
Brainerd and other area municipalities typically have animal restraint laws. These laws require things like leashes when the dog is in public and fences on private property. If owners violate one of these laws, and that violation substantially causes injury, the owner may be liable for damages as a matter of law.
Once again, these claims are relatively easy for Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyers to prove in court, at least for the most part. Victim/plaintiffs usually need only prove cause.
Typically, jurors award rather high damages in these cases, but not quite as high as they do in one bite claims. Additionally, Minnesota has a rather weak res ipsa loquitur rule. So, if no one witnessed the attack and the victim is unable to provide credible testimony for whatever reason, these claims could be difficult to prove.
Rely on an Experienced Attorney
Dog bite victims have several legal options. Each one has some pros and cons. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in injury claims.