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How Do Buffalo, MN Injury Lawyers Handle Dog Bite Defenses?

by | Dec 29, 2019 | Dog Bites, Firm News, Injuries

Nationwide, dogs bite over four million people per year. Mostly due to the nature of the victims, many of these bites cause incredibly serious injuries, as outlined below.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that Minnesota has one of the most victim-friendly dog bite laws in the country. Animal owners are strictly liable for all attack-related damages. Carelessness or knowledge of viciousness, which are key items in some states, are largely irrelevant in Minnesota. Furthermore, there is only one fully-recognized defense. Another defense may be available in some cases. So, there are few obstacles to fair compensation.

Because of these laws, Buffalo, MN injury lawyers are often able to obtain substantial damages in these cases. However, the insurance company does not simply give this money away. Although limited defenses are available, insurance company lawyers often urge these defenses very forcefully in court.

What is at Stake: Dog Bite Injuries

Physical dog bite injuries are usually the most visible, and most costly, wounds that victims suffer in animal attack incidents.

The hurt starts with the knockdown. Frequently, a large breed animal, like a pit bull, lunges at a vulnerable victim, like a small child. These knockdowns often cause broken bones and head injuries.

Often, bones are crushed and opposed to just broken in these situations. To set them, doctors usually need to use metal pins, plates, or screws. That’s especially true if the bone is still developing. Later, these victims often require long-term physical therapy to regain lost function.

Broken bones usually heal, after time and treatment. Head injuries, on the other hand, never heal. Once brain cells die, they never regenerate. Physical therapy alleviates the symptoms but does not reverse the injury.

Frequently, there is little or no visible head trauma. The skull is basically a water tank which suspends the brain in a pool of cerebrospinal fluid. Violent motion, like a knockdown, causes the brain to slam against the inside of the skull. It’s like shaking an egg and scrambling the yoke without cracking the shell.

Next to the knockdown, the bite is usually the worse injury. A dog’s teeth usually cause both deep puncture wounds and severe tearing lacerations. The puncture wounds cause severe internal bleeding, and the lacerations usually require extensive treatment at speciality trauma centers.

Finally, many victims, especially child victims, suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms. These symptoms include heightened awareness (an unnatural fear of all dogs), flashbacks, and trouble sleeping.

Buffalo, MN Injury Lawyers and the Provocation Defense

Provocation is the only defense specifically mentioned in Minn. Statutes Annotated, Section 347.22. Insurance company lawyers roll out the provocation defense in almost all dog bite claims. They hope the defense will eliminate liability or at least reduce the amount of damages the victim receives.

However, in this context, provocation has a very specific meaning. Buffalo, MN injury lawyers frequently use this specific meaning to torpedo the provocation defense:

  • Intentional: Children sometimes accidentally provoke their siblings, or at least they claim it was an accident. But victims never unintentionally provoke dogs. Sudden movements and other acts are not legally provocative. Instead, the victim must try to draw a certain reaction from the animal, or at least purposefully test the animal’s limits.
  • Physical: Because of the intentionality requirement, verbal teasing, even very aggressive verbal teasing, may be insufficient. Instead, the victim must normally inflict so much pain on the animal that a violent response is justified. In this area, “provocation” is almost synonymous with “torture.”
  • Age-Related: Babies and very young children cannot provoke animals as a matter of law. It does not matter if the provocative acts were intentional and physical.

The insurance company has the burden of proof on this point. So, if a Buffalo, MN injury lawyer substantially undermines the insurance company’s evidence, that’s probably enough to defeat the provocation defense. The victim need not “prove” anything in this specific context.

Failure to Conduct Themselves Peacefully

This vague conduct is also a defense in Wright County dog bite claims. The statute does not define this phrase at all, and the supporting case law is a bit contradictory. However, in some cases, failure to conduct oneself peacefully could include ignoring a “Beware of Dog” or other sign.

A warning sign is not a get out of jail free card. However, such signage makes the assumption of the risk defense easier to establish. This doctrine excuses liability if the victim:

  • Voluntarily assumed
  • A known risk.

The insurance company must do more than prove a sign was there. The insurance company must also prove that the victim could see the sign, read the sign, and understand what it meant. These points are difficult to prove if, as is often the case, the sign was small and did not have an American National Standards Institute-approved graphic picture design.

Connect with Aggressive Attorneys

Insurance company lawyers usually fight dog bite claims tooth and nail. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence matters.