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Strategies that Insurance Companies May Use to Defend Against a Dog Bite Claim

siberian husky in distanceYou may have heard that insurance companies are notorious for looking for ways to deny or devalue claims. They do this with all kinds of claims, including dog bite claims.  Dog bite claims are strict liability claims based on Minnesota Statute 347.22.  Victims do not need to prove “negligence”, as is typical in normal injury cases, but strict liability does not mean absolute liability.

One of the common defenses against liability for a dog attack is to claim the victim provoked the dog. Minnesota’s dog bite statute states owners can be held liable if their dog attacks without being provoked.

Below, our experienced Bloomington dog bite attorneys discuss provocation for a dog attack and how insurance companies may use this defense to avoid liability for a dog bite victim’s damages.

What Does Provocation Mean?

Provocation is often the strongest defense to dog bite injury claims. Provocation involves acts that cause the dog to become excited, angered, irritated, impassioned, or stimulated so that an attack is much more likely.

There are many factors that must be considered to determine if a dog was provoked, including the dog’s:

  • Temperament
  • Responses immediately before and after the potentially provocative act
  • Medical condition
  • Previous history of behavior

Burden of Proof for Provocation

There must be a cause-and-effect relationship between the alleged provocative act and the dog’s response. 

For example, in a case where a young child accidentally steps on a dog’s tail while the dog is gnawing on a bone, it may be found the child provoked the dog. The dog’s response may be considered reasonable, even though the child was young.  Each case is fact specific and even under this scenario, there may be liability, but the defense will be made.

However, in a case in which a mail carrier is attacked by a dog, causing him or her to use repellant spray, it may be very difficult to prove provocation. The mail carrier may be able to prove he or she acted in self-defense.

Examples of Provocation

Provocation is determined on a case-by-case basis, so what is considered provocation in one case may not be considered provocation in another.

Some examples of acts that may be considered provocation include the following:

  • A young child hugs an unfamiliar dog, pats the dog hard or playfully pulls its tail
  • Someone accidentally steps on the dog’s tail
  • A child or adult pets the dog while it is eating or chained up
  • A person intervenes in a dog fight

You should consider discussing the circumstances leading up to the dog bite with an experienced dog bite injury lawyer to learn if you may have a claim.

Trespassing as a Defense

Minnesota’s dog bite statute states that a dog bite injury victim may be eligible for compensation damages for an attack that occurred “in any place where the person may lawfully be.” Therefore, if the injury occurred while the victim was trespassing or was not lawfully on the property, the victim may not have a case.

However, if the victim was a child, the dog owner may still be held liable. This is because landowners generally have a legal duty to protect trespassing children because they do not have the necessary judgment to understand and avoid dangerous conditions.

Contact TSR Injury Law to Set Up a Free Consultation

If you or your child was bitten by a dog and you are concerned about the defenses the insurance company may use, it is important to contact an experienced dog bite injury lawyer at TSR Injury Law. These situations may be complex, but you may still be eligible to recover compensation.

Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. (612) TSR-TIME

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