Dog Bites Lawsuit: What Owners and Injured Parties Need to Know

As a dog owner, you must understand Minnesota’s statute on dog bites to ensure that you’re taking all the necessary precautions to prevent your dog from biting someone. It’s also important for those who have been injured from a dog bite to understand their legal rights.

In Minnesota, a dog owner is responsible for any damages, including injuries, their dog causes to a person or property.

Minnesota Statues Regarding Dog Bites

In Minnesota, the law regarding liability for dog bites goes as follows:

If a dog, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is acting peaceably in any place where the person may lawfully be, the owner of the dog is liable in damages to the person so attacked or injured to the full amount of the injury sustained. The term “owner” includes any person harboring or keeping a dog but the owner shall be primarily liable. The term “dog” includes both male and female of the canine species.

Unlike other states, Minnesota doesn’t have a  “one-bite” rule, which means that if a dog has previously bitten someone or acted aggressively, the owner is then liable for any future incidents. Instead, the law sides firmly with the injured party, regardless of whether this was a pet’s first offense.

Even if a person was not bitten but were knocked down or fell as the result of a pet’s actions and sustained an injured, the pet owner may still be held responsible for all injuries.

What Is Considered a Dog Bite?

There are different levels of dog bites, and they can play out differently in a lawsuit depending on the severity of the injury. In general, there are six types of dog bites:

  • Level 1: A dog snaps at a person but does not make contact with their skin.
  • Level 2: A dog makes contact with the skin but does not break it.
  • Level 3: A dog bites and breaks the skin, but the wound is relatively minor.
  • Level 4: A dog bites and causes a severe injury, such as deep puncture wounds, bone fractures, or permanent scarring.
  • Level 5: Multiple dog bites that cause severe injury.
  • Level 6: A dog attack results in death.

In a lawsuit, the severity of the injury will play a significant role in determining the compensation the victim may receive.

What Should I Do If I Get Bit?

If you’re bitten by a dog, try to get to safe area to avoid another attack. Next, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Seek medical attention if necessary.
  • Once your injuries have been treated, you should report the incident to animal control in your area. They can help determine if the dog has a history of aggression and if the owner has violated any laws or regulations.
  • You should also gather as much information as possible, such as the name and contact information of the dog’s owner, any witnesses to the incident, and photos of your injuries.
  • Consult with a personal injury attorney who can help you understand your options and pursue a dog bite lawsuit if necessary.

How to Avoid Getting Bit

If you’re a dog person, it might feel natural for you to get excited when you see an approaching dog. However, always use caution before interacting with an animal and make sure to teach your children the same so they can avoid dog bites, too.

  • Step 1: Always ask for permission before approaching a dog. If the owner says no, respect their wishes and do not approach the dog.
  • Step 2: Approach the dog calmly and slowly, avoiding sudden movements or loud noises that could spook the dog.
  • Step 3: Allow the dog to sniff you first before petting it. This is their way of getting to know you and feel comfortable around you.
  • Step 4: Avoid making direct eye contact with the dog as this could be interpreted as a threat. Instead, look away and speak to the dog in a calm and soothing voice.
  • Step 5: Avoid touching the dog’s face, head, or tail, as these are sensitive areas that could trigger a defensive reaction. Instead, pet the dog gently on its back or chest.
  • Step 6: If a dog seems aggressive or is growling, barking, or showing its teeth, do not approach it. Instead, back away slowly and avoid making eye contact.
  • Step 7: Teach children to be respectful of dogs and not to approach them without adult supervision. Children should also be taught to avoid running or screaming around dogs, as this could trigger their prey drive or protective instincts.

Unfortunately, dog bites or attack can happen when you had no intention of approaching a dog. If a dog attacks you, it’s important to try and stay calm, even though it may be difficult. Do not run away or make loud noises, as this will likely provoke the dog further. Instead, try to put an object between you and the dog, such as a bag or a stick, to use as a barrier.

If the dog knocks you down, curl into a ball and protect your head and neck with your hands and arms. Once the dog has stopped attacking, seek medical attention immediately and report the incident to the appropriate authorities.

How To Prevent Your Dog from Biting

As a responsible dog owner, it’s important to take steps to prevent dog bites. Here are some tips and techniques to help keep your dog from biting others and ending up dealing with an expensive dog bite lawsuit:

Socialize your dog

Proper socialization is key to preventing dog bites. Make sure your dog is exposed to different people, animals, and environments. Doing so helps him learn to be comfortable and non-threatening in a variety of situations.

Train your dog

Basic obedience training can go a long way in preventing dog bites. Teach your dog basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “come.”  Make sure he responds to them consistently, particularly in public areas where there are many distractions.

Supervise your dog

When your dog is outside or around people, make sure you keep a close eye on him. Don’t let him roam free or interact with strangers without your supervision.

Use a leash

Keep your dog on a leash when you’re out in public. This will help you control your dog’s behavior and keep him from getting into situations where he might feel threatened or become aggressive.

Be cautious with children

Children are often the victims of dog bites, so it’s important to be especially cautious when your dog is around kids. Teach your children how to interact with dogs safely, and supervise their interactions with your dog closely. If your dog shows any anxiety or aggression towards children, be sure to remove your pet from environments where children are near. If you see children approaching your dog, tell them to “stop” and step away. While doing this, make sure to have a firm grasp on the leash and speak to your dog in a calming voice to avoid any further anxiety.

Keep your dog healthy

Make sure your dog exercises regularly, gets annual veterinary checkups, is up-to-date on vaccinations. You can also talk to your vet if you notice any aggressive behaviors your dog displays to strangers for tips and suggestions.

Be responsible

If your dog has a history of aggressive behavior, take steps to keep him away from situations where he might bite. Make sure you have appropriate liability insurance in case your dog does bite someone. Remember, as a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure your dog is not a threat to others. Be aware and work with your vet or a professional trainer on any bad habits you see forming. Doing so can help you avoid any injury to others and a dog bite lawsuit. If you were the victim of a dog bite, contact our law firm for support!
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