Wisconsin laws determine liability for dog attacks

Wisconsin state statutes include a specific law that is commonly known as the dog bite law. If you have been hurt by a dog anywhere in the state of Wisconsin, then it is important to know what Wisconsin law says about liability and your potential recovery so that you can protect your rights.

The Wisconsin Dog Bite Law

Wisconsin is a strict liability dog bite state. That means that dog owners are typically always liable for injuries caused by their dogs. According to state law:

  • Dog owners are generally liable for the full amount of damages if their dog injures a person, domestic animal, or property.
  • Dog owners are liable for two times the full amount of damages caused by a dog biting a person with sufficient force to break the skin and cause permanent physical scarring or disfigurement if the dog owner was notified or knew that the dog had previously, without provocation, bitten a person with sufficient force to break the skin and cause permanent physical scarring or disfigurement.

Additional penalties beyond the amount of actual damages may also be imposed on a dog owner as follows:

  • If the dog owner did not have prior notice that the dog could be dangerous, then the dog owner is subject to a penalty of not less than $50 and not more than $2,500 if the dog injures a person, domestic animal, property, deer, game birds or the nests or eggs of game birds.
  • If the dog owner had notice that the dog could be dangerous, then the dog owner is subject to a penalty of not less than $200 and not more than $5,000 if the dog injures or causes injury to a person, domestic animal, property, deer, game birds or the nests or eggs of game birds.

If you have been hurt by someone else’s dog, then your time to take action is limited by Wisconsin law. The Wisconsin statute of limitations gives you just three years to file a lawsuit, so it is essential to learn about your rights and to pursue a recovery quickly.

Strict Liability Does Not Mean Automatic Recovery

While Wisconsin holds dog owners responsible for their dogs’ actions, there are possible defenses that Wisconsin dog owners can raise in dog bite cases. For example, a Wisconsin dog owner may argue that the person bit by the dog was also negligent and that the victim’s negligence caused the dog bite.

Under this theory of comparative negligence, the victim may be partially responsible for the dog bite, and the victim’s financial recovery should be reduced by the amount of fault attributable to the victim. You can imagine, for example, a scenario where someone was provoking or teasing a dog and was then hurt by the dog. In that situation, Wisconsin law allows the victim’s recovery to be reduced because the victim was partially responsible for the bite. If the victim was primarily responsible for the bite, then the victim may not recover any damages for the dog bite injuries.

Be Prepared for Your Dog Bite Case

While the law may seem straightforward, insurance companies always look for exceptions to the rule and may try to deny your claim or pay you as little as possible for your damages.

You need an experienced lawyer on your side. Wisconsin insurance companies know that our attorneys mean business and they are often more willing to settle with us than to risk the uncertainty of trial.

Accordingly, we encourage you to contact our dog bite injury lawyers today if you are hurt. We would be pleased to provide you with a free consultation in our Milwaukee, Appleton, Green Bay, Madison, or Wausau, office or if you are unable to come to one of our offices, then we will come to your home or hospital room. To learn more about what to do after a dog bite injury and to schedule your initial consultation, please start a live chat with us or call us at any time.

Jason F. Abraham
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Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham