90 million dogs live in U.S. households, according to the American Pet Products Association, and every year 800,000 people require medical care for dog bites, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Annually, severe dog bites send 333,700 people to the emergency room, 6,000 of whom require hospitalization. These dog bites and dog attacks not only result in serious injuries requiring medical care, but can also result in permanent scarring and emotional trauma that can be difficult to recover from.
You don’t need to actually be bitten by a dog to be badly hurt. Personal injury attorney Jim Suk has handled dog attack cases of victims who have been knocked down by jumping dogs, or knocked off their bikes, or who have injured themselves while trying to get away from an attacking dog. Minnesota law is favorable for dog bite/attack victims. State law holds owners as well as those harboring a dog strictly liable for harm caused by a dog’s actions, with certain exceptions described below. If you’ve been seriously injured by a dog, contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. An injury lawyer will deal directly with insurance companies so you can focus on recovering.
Many of those bitten or attacked are children, often between ages 5-9. Younger children are more likely to suffer injuries to the head and neck. Also at higher risk for dog bite injuries are people who go onto others’ property as part of their jobs, such as mail and package delivery workers or people working on a home improvement, who are more frequently bitten on their extremities.
On occasion, dog bites result in death. The advocacy group DogsBite.org reports 36 people were killed in dog bite-related incidents in 2018 in the United States, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
Minnesota dog owners are generally liable for any damages caused by their dogs. Victims do not need to show the owner was negligent or that the owner knew, or should have known, that the dog might bite. Even those who are simply taking care of a dog, or “harboring” it, can be held liable when a dog injures someone.
There are two basic defenses in Minnesota dog bite cases:
- The victim provoked the dog in some way, or
- The victim was not permitted to be on the property where the attack happened.
A trespasser or anyone who provokes a dog before being bitten can be barred from recovery.
According to the statute, a victim must be in a place where she is lawfully allowed to be in order to recover damages from a dog bite. This includes not only public land or the victim’s own property, but any private property where the victim is an invited guest.
The second defense against has to do with whether the victim was acting “peaceably.” In other words, a person who provokes a dog may not be able to obtain a financial award. This not only refers to deliberately attempting to bait a dog, such as hitting it with a stick, but even to a young child sticking his hand through the fence just to pet a dog.
Liability for injuries caused by dogs usually is covered in standard homeowners or renters insurance policies, with liability limits typically set from $100,000 to $300,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I). A dog’s owners can be held responsible for claims greater than policy limits in more severe cases.
Some insurers have begun limiting their potential losses by refusing to cover certain breeds of dogs deemed more dangerous or by demanding higher premiums for certain dog types, such as pit bulls or German Shepherds, which are frequently responsible for serious dog bites. Some policies won’t cover dogs at all, regardless of breed. Owners may need to purchase a rider for their homeowners policy or an umbrella policy with additional liability coverage that includes pets.
With dog bite claims and compensation through settlements, judgments and jury awards to victims trending upwards, having adequate insurance is an important part of dog ownership. The average cost to insurers per dog bite claim rose 14.7% in 2019 over the previous year, according to Triple-I, with the average compensation paid to victims in serious cases in 2019 rising to $44,760, up from $39,027 in 2018.
A victim who isn’t able to recover financial compensation from an insurer is left with having to seek it directly from the owner, which is very problematic.
Dog bite and dog attack claims involve multiple factors, making it crucial for victims to enlist a top personal injury lawyer, highly experienced these matters. Suk Law Firm has successfully handled numerous dog bite claims. We are ready to assist you if you’ve been seriously injured by a dog bite or an attack by a dog. Contact us today.
Besides Rochester, we serve the following major southeast Minnesota cities: Red Wing, Winona, Mankato, Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna, and all outlying communities, as well as the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington. We also serve the Iowa cities of Mason City, Charles City, Osage, Spencer, Garner, Forest City, and Northwood and the Wisconsin cities of La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta, Viroqua, River Falls, Ellsworth, Whitehall, and Black River Falls.