How Long Do You Have to File a Dog Bite Lawsuit?

Injured by a Dog? A Dog Bite Lawsuit Can Bring Compensation.

Dogs, regardless of breed, size, or temperament, are animals whose behavior cannot always be predicted, and they may attack and bite at any time without warning. When they do, the consequences can be serious.

Victims may be left with severe injuries, such as nerve damage, disfigurement, infection, and emotional distress after the attack. Survivors may face mounting medical and rehabilitation bills when they cannot work, and some injuries may even lead to death.

If you or a loved one has been injured or someone has died from being bitten by a dog, you may be entitled to compensation through a dog bite lawsuit. However, laws regarding dog bites are complicated; dog owners and their insurance companies and lawyers often use tactics to deny claims and avoid paying. In addition, there are time limitations to filing a lawsuit, and if you have not filed a lawsuit within them, the courts will refuse to hear your case.

At this difficult time, when you are trying to recover from the traumatic dog bite incident, the good news is that you do not have to fight for compensation on your own.

An experienced dog bite lawyer can handle all the legal hurdles, investigations, and negotiations involved with getting you a settlement that covers all the damages you received, so you can concentrate on getting well. Your lawyer will make sure your claim is filed within the time allowed by your state’s statute of limitations.

How long do You Have to File a Dog Bite Lawsuit?

The time you have to file a lawsuit varies, depending on where you live and your situation. All states have statutes of limitation, which are time limits for filing lawsuits for personal injury. Since dog bite cases can be so complex, and evidence and witnesses tend to disappear over time, it is important to get started with your case as soon as possible.

The amount of time you have to file a lawsuit and relevant dog bite laws are a bit different in Minnesota and Wisconsin, as follows:


According to Minnesota’s statute of limitations (Minnesota Statutes section 541.05), you must file your dog bite lawsuit within six years of the date of your injury.

How do you know if you have a viable dog bite lawsuit? Fortunately, Minnesota’s laws are favorable to dog bite victims. Minnesota’s dog bite statute (Section 347.22) says:

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 for 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.

This means that you can hold a dog owner liable for injuries caused by the dog if you . . .

  • Were lawfully in the place where the dog attacked you, whether on public property or legally on private property
  • Were acting peaceably
  • Did not provoke the dog

Minnesota dog bite law applies not only to the owner of the attacking dog but also to any person who harbors or keeps the dog. Whoever keeps or harbors the dog is subject to liability, and the dog’s owner is always primarily liable.

Minnesota has a “strict liability” rule for dog bites. This means that even if the owner didn’t know that the dog would act aggressively, attack, or bite, the dog owner could be held liable for injuries as long as the requirements in the statute are met. Minnesota does not follow the “one bite” rule common in some states, where the owner is liable only if the dog is known to be dangerous. In Minnesota, you do not have to show that the dog owner was negligent. Negligence is beside the point, as is the fact that the dog may have exhibited good behavior in the past. This makes it easier to win your lawsuit.

Under Minnesota’s dog bite law, you may receive compensation for any damages you received from the dog attack, including:

  • Bite injuries
  • Injuries related to jumping on a person or knocking someone down
  • Emotional distress and PTSD caused by the attack


Wisconsin law (172.02) also allows you to hold the dog’s owner liable for injuries caused by the dog. This includes dog bite injuries and damage caused by a dog jumping on someone and knocking them over, as well as injuries the dog causes to another dog or domestic animal. In Wisconsin, the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit for a dog bite injury is generally three years from the date of the occurrence. However, there is an exception to the three-year statute for children. Children who suffer dog bites when under 18 have an extended statute of limitations until two years after their 18th birthday.

Wisconsin also follows the “strict liability” law, so a dog owner can be held liable for injuries caused by the dog whether or not the owner knew the dog had the potential to be dangerous. In situations where the dog has a previous history of biting or attacking without provocation, the dog owner can be held liable for twice the damages.

However, Wisconsin has a contributory negligence law that applies to dog bite cases. If you provoked the dog and were partially responsible for the attack, your damage award may be reduced by your proportion of fault. If you are found to be 51 percent or more responsible for your injuries, then you are barred from recovering compensation.

What Happens After a Dog Bite Is Reported?

After a dog bite, you should seek medical attention to have your injuries treated and make sure you do not have rabies. You should obtain the owner’s contact information and information about the dog’s vet, so that you can be properly treated, if necessary, with rabies and tetanus shots.

You also should report the dog attack to the police and local animal control authorities. Authorities will inspect the dog’s health to help provide adequate medical treatment for the attack. Your report will also provide a record of the attack in case you bring a dog bite lawsuit.

After a report is filed, the dog is usually quarantined and restricted to the owner’s home, or it may be taken to a shelter until a determination is made. A local animal control officer will investigate the dog and interview victims to verify if the incident happened in the same way as it was reported and assess the risk of contracting rabies. These results may be subpoenaed as evidence in future legal proceedings.

If you have suffered severe injuries from the dog bite, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will meet with you to hear about how your dog attack happened, determine who the responsible parties were, and evaluate the damages you received and how they affect your life. Based on the facts, your attorney will estimate whether you have a valid dog bite case and what kind of settlement to ask for. Your attorney should:

  • Make sure you get proper medical treatment and file a dog bite report with your local animal control officials
  • Investigate your case and gather evidence such as photos, videos, medical records and police reports
  • Interview witnesses and first responders
  • Get testimony from experts as to the harm you received and how it affects your life and family
  • Handle negotiations for a fair settlement with insurance companies and other attorneys to avoid going to court
  • Build your case and take it to court if necessary

How Long Does It Take to Settle a Dog Bite Claim?

The time it takes to settle a dog bite claim can vary from as little as a few weeks to several years, depending on the circumstances of the case. Some factors that go into settlement time are:

  • the extent of your victim’s injuries and the costs involved
  • whether negligence has to be proven or whether the owner can be held strictly liable
  • whether the dog has a documented history of attacks in the past
  • whether you are partially to blame for the attack, such as by trespassing or provoking the dog
  • the amount of available insurance and the willingness of the insurance company to settle
  • whether your case has to go to trial

In a successful dog bite case, you should be entitled to receive compensation for your economic or monetary costs, such as medical and rehabilitation costs, lost income from work, and property damage that resulted from the incident. You should also receive compensation for your noneconomic damages that do not have a specific dollar value but negatively impact your life, such as mental and physical pain and suffering and disfigurement.

The, knowledge, skill and negotiating ability of your attorney will affect not only the settlement time, but the amount of damages you will receive.

Get Help from Our Dog Bite Attorneys

If you or a loved one was injured in a dog bite attack, the skilled and compassionate dog bite injury lawyers at Tyroler Leonard Injury Law are fully prepared to fight for the compensation you deserve. Our attorneys are happy to meet with you and spend as much time as you need to determine the best way to handle your case. We want every client to know that this is a collaborative relationship, where we work together to achieve the best result for the client.

We offer a free case evaluation to discuss your dog bite incident and determine the best way to handle it. We handle cases in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, and we work entirely on contingency fees. This means you will not pay anything unless and until we can recover money for you, and then fees are taken out of the settlement amount.

Call our offices today at 651-259-1113 to get started working on your case so we can file a lawsuit within the time limits allowed.

Attorney Isaac Tyroler

Attorney Isaac Tyroler has been a strong advocate for injured people his entire legal career. He has a passion for righting wrongs, and he deeply cares about representing injured clients who may feel overwhelmed or uncertain about how to navigate the legal system. He is compassionate toward clients and aggressive with insurance companies and defendants. He is on the elected Board of Governors of the Minnesota Association of Justice (MAJ), the top personal injury lawyers’ group in Minnesota. And is currently the chair of MAJ’s legislative committee. [ Attorney Bio ]