Personal Injury Liability Rules: Dog Bites

April 28, 2021  |  Adriel B. Villarreal

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S. Eighty-one percent of all dog bite victims are children and 10 percent of total victims require hospitalization. While the statistics are quite alarming, knowing what to do from a legal perspective if you’re bitten can help if your case goes to court. Read our blog as we discuss personal injury liability rules for dog bites.

Minnesota’s dog bite law

A dog bite victim may be entitled to compensation under a special statute and the doctrines of negligence under state law. The Minnesota dog bite law in Section 347.22 of the Minnesota Statutes states that an injured person can hold a dog owner liable for injuries caused by the dog if:

  • the person was lawfully in the place where he or she was bitten – such as public property or lawfully on private property, and
  • the person was “acting peaceably,” and
  • the person did not provoke the dog.

The law applies to any damages caused by a dog – attacks or injuries – including dog bites and other dog-related behaviors. For example, if a dog jumps on a person causing that person to fall, they could seek damages under the Minnesota dog bite law. They don’t have to prove the injury was the result of owner negligence.

Strict liability rule

Minnesota has a “strict liability” rule for dog bites. An owner can be held liable for injuries as long as the requirements in the statute are met (see above), even if the owner did not know or could not have known the dog would act aggressively, bite, or attack. Moreover, Minnesota doesn’t adhere to the “one bite rule” that requires that an owner know or have reason to believe the dog is dangerous before liability can be imposed.

Deadline for filing a lawsuit

Deadlines for filing a lawsuit for a personal injury case including dog bites are set by the Minnesota statutes of limitations. A person may lose their right to file a dog bite lawsuit in civil court if they do not file within six years of the date of the injury.

What to do after a dog bite

If you’ve suffered an injury resulting from a dog bite, there are several things you should do immediately afterward:

  1. Identify the owner and the dog. As soon as you have the clarity of mind, you should get the dog’s name and the owner’s name and information immediately. If the dog has not had its rabies shots, you will need to get the shots to protect yourself from the disease.
  2. Seek medical attention, even if the dog is up to date on its rabies shots, and be sure to have the health care provider document your injuries with photographs.
  3. File a report with Animal Control. This will provide written documentation of the incident you can show to your attorney.
  4. Seek legal representation. The legal issues surrounding dog bites are complicated and an experienced dog bite attorney can help you navigate the laws as well as look out for your best interests.

Barna, Guzy & Steffen has an outstanding team of personal injury attorneys available to talk to you about your specific needs. Contact us today to determine which services are right for you. We look forward to hearing from you.