Dog bites are a “strict liability” claim in Wisconsin. That means the owner is responsible for the injuries caused by their dog no matter whether the owner was negligent or not. Whether the owner knew their dog tended to bite, or it was a first-time event, the owner is responsible for the damages the dog causes.
Investigating the dog’s history
The very first thing we do is try to figure out where this dog has lived over its lifetime. We will do an open records report for police involvement or police calls to the home(s) regarding anything related to the dog. Often there are police reports on prior bites. Dog owners sometimes forget about them, but frequently we can uncover evidence of previous bites after a thorough investigation.
Is there ever a point where you would have someone interview people in the neighborhood, people next door, people who might be a little bit familiar with the dog?
Yes. We send out investigators for precisely that reason. We often find that those living around the dog, get to know the dog best and they know that this dog, for example, is always chasing the mail carrier.
We represented a mail carrier who suffered a dog bite. Our investigators found that the dog had such a history of assaulting this mail carrier that mail delivery was interrupted multiple times. The family was not permitted to receive mail in the home because of the actions of that dog. Of course in the end, that dog did bite the mail carrier quite severely.