About Dog Bites: Taking Legal Action When Dog Bites Occur

Being attacked by a dog can be a terrifying and traumatic experience, and can cause significant injury. Every year, dogs bite over four million people in the United States, and over one million of those victims end up needing medical treatment. As personal injury attorneys who have represented numerous victims, we understand your situation and can provide skilled, knowledgeable, and compassionate representation. At Heller & Thyen, P.A., we’re here to help you get the care and compensation you need.


What Causes a Dog to Attack?

Dogs will sometimes bite or attack people for little or no reason. Even a very tame dog could abruptly nip or even attack without any warning. Because of this fact, Minnesota has a law that makes the owner of a dog strictly liable. That means that the victim does not have to prove that the owner was aware of the dangerous nature of the dog, or was otherwise negligent. If you are bit by someone else’s dog, you have an absolute right to be compensated for the harm that the dog causes.

There are two exceptions that the law recognizes as a defense to strict liability: Provocation and trespassing. Whether you were trespassing or whether you were doing something that provoked the dog into attacking or biting is a fact question, so it is important to gather evidence to verify exactly what happened.


Identifying the Dog and Dog Owner

While the owner of a dog who causes an injury to someone is responsible for paying for the damages caused by their dog, if the owner cannot be found or if the owner is not insured, it may be impossible to obtain compensation. Therefore, it is very important to identify the dog that causes an injury and also immediately verify who the owner of the dog is. Doing so prevents a situation where a person denies that the dog belongs to them.

A person who harbors a dog can also be responsible for the damages caused by a dog, even if they do not actually own the dog. Sometimes a parent will take care of a dog while their adult child is living in an apartment or cannot take care of the dog for an extended period of time.

If a dog attacks and the handler claims that the dog does not belong to them, ask for their identity and who the owner is. Ask why they are handling the dog if they do not own it. Ask if they are keeping the dog at their house.


Ask for Insurance Information

Immediately ask the dog owner for their insurance information. They may be more willing to provide it when they feel sorry that their dog caused an injury, even if they do not feel it was their dog’s fault. Later, they may get concerned that the dog may be taken from them or even put down because it had bit someone. They then stop responding to calls or letters. When finally reached, they may refuse to cooperate and will not give you insurance information. The earlier the insurance information is obtained, the better.


Call the Police or Sheriff’s Office Immediately

It is always helpful to have a police report made after any dog attack. First, people are more willing to provide information if it is an officer that is asking for it. Second, the police are able to force the owner to provide vaccination information of the dog that can prevent very painful rabies shots. Also, the police may be able to discern the actual owner of the dog, which can prevent confusion later.


Take Photographs

Because most people have a cell phone with them at all times, it makes it much easier to obtain photos of the dog at the time of the incident. It can provide evidence of the identity of the dog and therefore the owner of the dog. It can provide evidence of exactly where the incident occurred, which can rebut an allegation that you were trespassing at the time the dog bit you.

It can also show the location and severity of the bite immediately after it happens. This is helpful in proving that the injuries you allege were caused by the bite. Scars tend to heal and it can sometimes be hard to see where the injury occurred, especially puncture wounds.


Seek Immediate Medical Treatment

If you are bitten or scratched by a dog, or any animal, seek immediate medical care. Dog bites can cause infection. The wound needs to be professionally cleaned and dressed. An antibiotic may be prescribed or over the counter antibiotic ointment may be recommended. You also want to make sure you get vaccinated if the dog was not up to date on its shots.

Depending upon the location and severity of the scar, you may want to consult with a plastic surgeon. A plastic surgeon can remove stitches, give you advice as to how to care for the wound and how to prevent the scar from getting worse. Finally, a plastic surgeon may be able to reduce the appearance of the scar, after it has fully healed.

Many people suffer from emotional problems, including nightmares, apprehension or fear of dogs, depression or anxiety after being attacked by a dog. You can seek counseling to help you overcome these problems. Do not be afraid of seeking help. People who have received counseling after such a traumatic event will tell you that it is very helpful. You will learn techniques to deal with any ongoing issues related to the dog attack.


Call an Attorney

An experienced attorney can help you through this process. We can help make sure that you get the best recovery possible. We can help with the investigation and get information that will help prove the facts of the attack. Because witnesses are best identified as soon as possible, it is important to call an attorney right away.


What Types of Compensation are Available for Dog Bite Victims?

Our skilled St. Cloud attorneys can help get you compensation for the following:

  • Current and ongoing medical expenses
  • Mental health treatment
  • Emotional and psychological distress
  • Loss of wages and future income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lifetime care and medical costs for severe cases
  • Permanency of scarring.


Have You Suffered a Dog Bite Injury?

If you or a loved one has been bitten or injured by a dog, contact the St. Cloud personal injury attorneys at Heller & Thyen, P.A. for support in making informed decisions about your case.

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