When do dog attack victims have legal recourse in Minnesota?

By Restovich Braun & Associates | 10/25/2016 |

Victims of dog bites or other attacks should understand the criteria that these incidents must meet for the owner to be considered liable.

Each year, over 4.5 million dog bites occur throughout the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As many people in Rochester know, these attacks often lead to significant complications, including tissue damage and scarring. Additionally, about 18 percent of these bites become infected with bacteria, which can expose victims to serious diseases such as rabies, tetanus and MRSA.

Given these potential complications, it's important for people who have suffered injuries from dog bites or other attacks to understand the available means of recourse. In Minnesota, victims may be able to seek compensation for various damages if the following conditions are met.

Was the person's presence lawful?

A person's ability to recover damages for a dog attack depends partly on whether the person was lawfully present at the location where the incident occurred. A dog owner can't be held liable if a person was trespassing on private property at the time of the attack. However, victims may seek damages if they were injured on public property or on private property that they were not trespassing on.

Was the person acting peaceably?

A bite victim's own conduct may also affect whether he or she can seek damages. For instance, if a person knowingly provoked the dog, the owner may not be found liable. Similarly, a victim may not be able to recover damages if he or she undertook other actions that weren't "peaceable," such as attacking the dog's owner.

Did the dog attack in any manner?

Many states have laws that exclusively offer remedies for dog bite injuries. However, the Minnesota Statutes provide remedies for any kind of injury that arises from a dog attack. For instance, if a dog knocks a person down and the fall causes a serious personal injury, the person may be able to seek compensation.

Was the person harboring the dog?

Minnesota law holds that any person who is keeping or harboring a dog can be held liable for the injuries that it causes. Unfortunately, this precludes people in these positions from seeking recourse when they are the victims of attacks. The law generally presumes that people harboring dogs understand and accept the associated risks.

Did the person know the dog might attack?

Under the dog attack liability law, an owner's lack of awareness that a dog could be dangerous is not a defense. However, injury victims may also seek damages on the grounds that a dog's owner or keeper was negligent. In these cases, victims must show that the owner had reason to believe that a dog might attack and failed to exercise appropriate care.

How do victims seek recourse?

In Minnesota, victims of wrongful injuries must file personal injury claims within a certain amount of time from the date that the injury occurred. Depending on the factual circumstances of the case, this period of time can be as short as two years or up to six years. Navigating this process and proving that a dog attack meets the relevant legal criteria is typically challenging. Consequently, it is imperative that victims consult with an attorney for advice and assistance as soon as possible after the attack.