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Minneapolis Dog Bites: The Basics

We all love little Wags, or Fluffy, or Bo. Frolicking at the dog park, chasing a ball, ah the memories. But what happens if Wags ever bites another person? A dog bite can be extremely dangerous, especially to young children or the elderly. In the Twin Cities, dog owners are responsible for keeping their animals under control. In many cases, if a dog attacks another person, the owner is legally responsible for that attack. Here's some information on Minneapolis dog bites.

What Should I Do If a Dog Bites Me?

Wash any wounds and see a physician if necessary. Don't wait. Call 911 or go to your nearest hospital, such as Abbott Northwestern. Animal bites are very serious and can result in permanent scarring, nerve damage, lasting psychological trauma, or even death.

Should I Report a Dog Bite?

Absolutely. Make a report of the dog bite to the Minneapolis Police Department and/or Minneapolis Animal Care & Control (MACC). MACC will respond to your location and investigate the incident. It is a legal requirement that bites be reported by attending physicians. An accurate description of the dog and its location will enable MACC to contact the owner, quarantine the dog, and take other appropriate actions.

Also, get all the records regarding your attack, including animal control records, medical records, police reports, and any other records/reports regarding what happened. Take pictures of any injury. It is easier to show a picture of an injury than to describe it verbally.

Minnesota's Dog Bite Statute

The Minnesota dog bite law is one of the most favorable to dog bite victims. It actually covers both bites and other injuries, and applies not only to the owner of the attacking dog, but also the person who "harbors" or keeps the dog.

The state law is found in Minn. Statutes, Section 347.22. You can check out it out for yourself, and here's a key section:

"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."

Ok, plain English -- if you own a dog, you are strictly liable for any injuries your canine causes to another person.

Some states allow the dog to have "one free bite" before an owner can be held liable. Minnesota does not have a "one bite" rule.

Does the Owner Have to Know the Dog Might Be Dangerous?

Nope. It doesn't matter. The owner doesn't have to be aware of any dangerous tendencies on their dog's part in order to be held liable for injuries. It also doesn't matter that the owner took measures to restrain the dog and protect the public from the dog, such as chaining it and putting up fences. The owner is strictly liable for every injury the dog causes another person, unless the other person was trespassing, provoking the dog, or both (more on that later).

Is There a Time Limit to Pursue My Dog Bite Case?

Yes, as a victim you have two years from the date of the dog bite to file a lawsuit. If you don't, you won't be able to pursue your lawsuit. The time limit is longer for minors and persons considered "mentally incompetent."

Defenses for Dog Owners

Besides arguing that it's a case of mistaken identity (canine or owner), the primary defenses a Minneapolis dog owner can use are trespass and provocation.

If you are attacked while trespassing or while you were someplace that you cannot lawfully be, you may not have much of a case. Dogs are often guardians of the home. This defense recognizes that if someone tries to break into your house, for example, the person should not be allowed to sue if your dog bites him. Fair enough, right?

However, if you were invited onto the dog owner's property as a guest or a potential customer, then you were lawfully on the property and may have a right to recover for your injuries. This typically covers friends, family, social guests, contractors, postal employees, utility workers, newspaper carriers, and anyone else invited onto the property.

Also, don't provoke the dog. You can't do something to cause the dog to attack you and expect to sue. This is pretty much a common sense rule, but what constitutes provocation is a difficult question and is left up to a judge or jury to decide.

Tips to Prevent Dog Bites

  • Never approach a dog you don't know or a dog that is alone without its owner, especially if the dog is behind a fence, tied with a rope or chain, or in a parked car;
  • Never approach a dog that is eating, sleeping, or guarding something;
  • Never chase or tease dogs. Don't poke, hit, pull, or pinch a dog;
  • Always ask the owner's permission before petting a dog; and
  • Never leave a small child alone with a dog.

Potential Damages Recovery in a Dog Bite Case

The damages you pursue in a dog bite lawsuit may be based on one or more of the following:

  • Medical expenses, including emergency room, hospitalization, and follow-up
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgery
  • Psychological therapy to treat emotional trauma
  • Lost wages and reduced present and future earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement and disability
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Wrongful death

If you or someone you know has suffered a serious injury because of a dog bite or attack, you may wish to consider speaking to a qualified legal professional or a local legal aid provider to learn more about what your options are in Minnesota.

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