Dog bite injuries are more common than you might think. Over 800,000 Americans seek medical treatment for dog bites each year. Victims can be blindsided by the costs involved in treating their injury. If you have a pre-existing condition, you might have an even bigger financial problem on your plate. Navigating the steps toward recovery is hard enough without extra hoops to jump through. If you or someone you love has suffered a dog bite injury, you could receive compensation for your troubles. With the help of a professional attorney, you can also increase the odds of receiving proper compensation. Below are five steps to see if you have a case.
1. Assess the Extent of the Injury
Before you do anything else, you want to find out just how badly the dog has injured you. You may want to take pictures of the wound (preferably with a timestamp) before covering or treating the affected area. This way, you have evidence that shows when and where the injury took place.
You will need the help of a doctor to assess your injury. Dog bite injury statistics indicate that most bites heal quickly and without major complications. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), though, almost a fifth of dog bites can become infected.
An infection can lead to long-term health problems, which can result in skyrocketing medical costs. The responsible party may not consider the lasting effects of an injury, leaving you in the lurch. Attorneys have seen these situations in past cases and know how to handle them.
Tally up the total costs of treatment, whether the other party intends to pay or not. This list should include any medical bills, wages lost for time off work, emotional distress, property repairs or other damages, and any additional costs incurred because of the injury.
The sooner you see a doctor, the easier it will be for them to help build your case. When you make an appointment, make sure the doctor understands this is a dog bite case so the proper treatment can be administered. Your doctor can give you an idea of what treatment will look like.
2. Build Evidence for Your Case
The more thorough you are in gathering evidence, the easier it will be to support your claims down the road. If you have to leave the scene of the incident to receive medical attention, have someone else stay behind and take pictures of blood, torn clothing, or other remnants left behind.
Keep a copy of all current and future records relating to your injury, including prolonged treatments. If your injury results in any health complications down the road, you will want proof that ties those complications to the initial injury.
If you seek psychological treatment, your therapist will make note of any mental or emotional trauma resulting from the dog bite. They can help identify ways the injury affected your mental and emotional health.
If the dog owner or landlord refuses to take responsibility, you may need the law to back you up. If your clothes were destroyed, this helps give an idea of how aggressive the attack was. If you sustained head injuries, you might need a scan to rule out signs of swelling or other internal damage.
Back up all files and send a copy of everything to your attorney. They will decide what to use as evidence and what to leave out of your case files. Your attorney may ask additional questions to gather details otherwise missed.
3. Find Out Who Is Liable for Your Dog Bite Injury
Now that you have assessed your injury, it is time to determine who is ultimately responsible for the injury. If a homeowner is responsible for what happened, they may owe you compensation. If a landlord is responsible, you may need to prove the landlord had knowledge of and agreed to allow the dog on the premises.
If a dog bit you in a public place or on someone else’s property, you might think that relieves them of responsibility. In most cases, though, if the dog’s owner has homeowner’s insurance, this may provide coverage for the dog bite injury.
The most common exception is trespassing. If you provoke an animal or cannot claim negligence, you may need specifics (like whether the dog was supposed to be on a leash) to show a lack of responsibility on the part of the dog owner.
Different states have different laws concerning dog bites. Illinois, for instance, passed a state statute specifically for dog bite injuries. The Animal Control Act makes a dog owner liable by default. The law covers other animal bites or injuries, as well.
If you end up suing for damages, you will want to know whether the law favors your case. If the law protects the dog owner, you are less likely to receive compensation.
A dog bite injury attorney can help inform you of all relevant laws and statutes. Florida happens to be a “strict liability” state, meaning you can hold a dog owner responsible for a dog bite, even if negligence is not a primary factor. In other words, one bite is all it takes to make a solid case.
4. Consider Whether a Settlement Is Worth It
Frequently, people need more than compensation to move forward after an accident. Emotional closure should be an important factor in your case, too. You may not be able to seek the support you need without proper compensation.
Settling a case can have several advantages: one is the relief of knowing you will receive compensation. A settlement involves a written agreement that involves all relevant parties. Settlements also tend to result in a faster resolution than going to trial would involve.
Discuss the odds with your attorney before approaching the liable party with your decision.
Your attorney will advise you one way or the other. They cannot force you to settle- if anything, a good lawyer will make sure you understand your options before moving forward. The costs can vary greatly depending on which path you choose.
Ask your attorney for a comparison of costs. If you settle, your attorney fees and overall expenses could be much lower. Compare this with the odds of winning your trial. If you are likely to lose in court, you might be better off choosing the settlement.
If the circumstances of the injury were extreme or especially outrageous, consider taking your case to court. You may have to put more time in, depending on how much more money you will likely receive.
5. Determine What Kind of Compensation You Could Get
Dog bite cases are fairly straightforward as far as personal injury lawsuits go.
Refer back to your list of current and future costs when determining fair compensation. Always use the true cost, even if some of the cost has already been covered by your insurance provider. Include bills that have not been paid yet.
You may want to review the results of past dog bite injury cases in your area for an idea of what to expect. Once you know what your claim is worth, you will be able to move forward confidently with your case.
Regardless, you should consult with an attorney before you begin negotiating with the insurance company. The insurance company will not be looking out for your best interest or to protect and compensate you for your damages, generally broken down into to two areas: special and general damages. Special damages can easily be measured with financial statements, bills, etc. These include the primary expenses relating to your injury.
General damages go beyond the obvious expenses. General damages include the greater implications of your dog bite injury and are harder to measure. You may have to justify any additional pain and suffering for the insurance to cover all damages. This is why it can be helpful to have an attorney.
The claims adjuster may try to convince you that they have the final say in what they cover. This does not mean you are limited to that compensation. Your lawyer may have you meet with the owner and their insurance company to further negotiations. The dog owner may agree to a settlement on top of what their insurance company pays.
We Are Here to Help
Compensation is just a part of your journey towards healing. The above steps can help you focus on what is most important: being able to move forward.
You deserve to get control back after an injury. Thousands of people find much-needed relief upon hiring a personal injury lawyer for dog bites.
Call today to speak with our attorneys about your dog bite injury. You will not pay anything unless you win!