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Do I Have a Claim If a Dog Bite Doesn’t Break the Skin?

by | Aug 3, 2021 | Animal Bites, Firm News

Dogs bite around 4.5 million people in the US each year. And Minnesota is one of the top-ranking dog bite states. Policyholders report around 370 dog bite incidents to Minnesota insurance companies each year, with an average of $32,198 paid out to victims.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of a dog attack, you may wonder what the state laws are about filing a personal injury lawsuit. Minnesota’s dog bite law protects victims to the fullest extent of the law. That means you can recover damages in a personal injury suit filed against the dog’s owner.

But before you can file, you must prove that the owner was liable for the attack. Keep reading for everything you need to know about your rights after a Minnesota animal attack.

Minnesota’s Dog/Animal Bite Law

Section 347.22 of Minnesota’s Statutes states that owners of dogs that, “without provocation,” attack or injure a person “acting peaceably” and in a lawful place are liable for damages to the attacked or injured person.

Animal Bite Law Definitions

The definition of “acting peaceably” can change depending on the scenario. For example, acting peaceably may mean you were acting lawfully before the attack. That means you were on public land or lawfully on private property. You must also have not provoked the attack.

“Provocation” means that the victim of the attack caused the dog to bite in self-defense. We’ll talk more about provocation and how it can be a viable defense for the dog owner below.

“Owner” is the person who cares for or houses the dog. He or she is primarily liable for any bites the dog causes. But in Minnesota, the law may also consider the animal’s owner anyone who harbors or cares for the dog.

“Strict liability” means that Minnesota can hold the animal owner liable even if he or she didn’t know the dog would attack or injure someone. Compare this to the one-bite rule in other states. The one-bite rule mandates that the dog owner knows of a previous dog bite incident to be held liable.

Defenses Against Minnesota’s Dog Bite Law

A dog bite lawyer has a few defenses to protect the animal’s owner from personal injury claims.

The first line of defense is proving provocation. Provocation defenses could allege that the injured person was hurting or attacking the dog. Or provocation could mean the injured person was handling an injured dog in such a way as to cause pain, resulting in a bite. Using provocation as a defense requires intention. In other words, the animal attack lawyer has to prove the injured person intentionally and unnecessarily hurt or mishandled the animal. If the defense can prove this, the injured person must drop charges against the dog owner.

Another defense commonly used in animal attack cases is trespassing. Minnesota’s dog bite law requires you to be in a lawful place when the dog bite occurred. You must be on public property or lawfully on private property. Of course, you can lawfully be on your own private property, someone else’s private property with their explicit invitation or consent, or the dog owner’s private property with his or her explicit invitation or consent.

If you were trespassing on the dog owner’s property when you were attacked, you wouldn’t have a case. If you were trespassing on property that didn’t belong to the dog owner, though, an experienced dog bite injuries lawyer might still be able to make your case.

Injuries Minnesota’s Dog Bite Law Covers

Minnesota’s dog bite law doesn’t only allow victims to recover damages from dog bites. The law also covers any injuries caused by the attack. That includes wounds or broken bones obtained from the dog jumping on or knocking down the victim.

In some cases, people develop significant post-traumatic stress disorder after an animal attack. Dog bite plaintiffs can also recover damages for this type of psychological injury.

Animal Bite Complications

Animal bites can seem insignificant in some cases, but it’s always important to seek out medical help. Animal bites have the potential to cause significant infections and wounds that require surgical treatment.

The majority of bites in the United States are from dogs. When bitten by a dog, most people snap to the concern for rabies, but there are actually many other more likely illnesses or complications you could suffer from, like tetanus or deep infections.

Even when a bite doesn’t break your skin, there is a potential for injury. A bite could lead to crushing or tearing even if infection isn’t likely. For example, if a dog bites down on you and you’re wearing a coat, your skin might not break. You could still suffer from a broken bone or torn ligaments, though.

There are signs and symptoms of injuries to watch for after an altercation with an animal. First, look at the wound. Is there swelling or discoloration? If so, you could have damage to the underlying muscles, tendons or bones. Redness around punctures could indicate the beginning of an infection. Pus is also a sign of infection.

If you’ve been bitten, you could also have nerve damage. A loss of sensation or inability to move a body part could indicate that a nerve has been severed or impacted by the attack.

Not all dog bites result in complications, but many do. It’s important to hold the owner responsible, so you can focus on getting well without having to be concerned about medical costs or other expenses you’re incurring.

Recoverable Damages

As with any personal injury case, victims of animal attacks are entitled to damages. These damages can be economic or non-economic.

Economic damages include medical bills and other expenses related to the bite or injury. That includes psychological services obtained for post-dog bite PTSD or other emotional trauma. Lost wages and reduced earning capabilities are two more economic damages recoverable in a dog bite personal injury lawsuit.

Non-economic damages include things like pain and suffering, disfigurement, and reduced quality of life.

When a dog attack results in someone’s death, the victim’s heirs can also recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Dog Bite Lawsuit Deadlines

There is a statute of limitations for a dog bite personal injury lawsuit. Animal attack victims in Minnesota must file suit within two years of the date of the bite or injury. If you fail to file within that time, you can’t recover damages from the dog owner.

Call For A Free Consultation With A Dog Bite Lawyer

Dog attacks can cause serious injuries and lifelong complications. Luckily, Minnesota protects victims like you. With the help of an animal attack injury lawyer, you can file a personal injury lawsuit and recover damages from the dog’s owner.

Need an animal attack lawyer? Call Carlson and Jones today at 855-762-6548 to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer about your case. The initial consultation is free.

This original article was originally published on February 19, 2018 and updated on August 10, 2021.