Statistically, about least 4.7 million people suffer dog bites each year. At the same time, less than one percent of all victims receive compensation for their dog bite injuries. Clearly, not all dog bite injuries are compensable. For instance, bites by your own family’s dog, or by a stray dog or someone’s dog who has no insurance or assets from which compensation can be secured. If you or a loved one is struggling to pay your expenses following a dog bite attack, seeking legal counsel from a skilled personal injury lawyer to negotiate on your behalf may be the best way to find the compensation you need to move forward with your life.
Can I Afford to Hire a Dog Bite Lawyer?
Financial concerns may be one reason why dog bite victims opt to try to settle their case without legal representation. This should not be a concern to an injury victim. Nearly all personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis so their fee is secured from a recovery, not out of the pocket of the injury victim. The lawyer may also advance all the costs associated with prosecuting the claim so you have absolutely no up-front costs. Ultimately, the lawyer’s fee for his or her representation is calculated on a percentage of the settlement you receive.
When your case is settled, your lawyer will receive his or her agreed upon percentage, as well as the costs advanced in the case. The medical expenses or liens will be paid from the recovery and the balance will be paid to the victim for lost wages, pain and suffering and future medical care, if any.
What If I'm on Friendly Terms With the Dog's Owner?
In many cases, dog bite victims were not attacked by an unfamiliar animal. If it was a friend or family member's dog who attacked you, this is a delicate situation. You have expenses that need to be paid, but don't wish to make the dog owner feel guilty or portray him as irresponsible. Since your lawyer is your advocate, the lawyer should respect your wishes in dealing with the opposing party to make sure you get compensated, while maintaining a reasonable relationship with the family member or friend.
It's also important to keep in mind that retaining the services of a personal injury lawyer is not the same thing as suing someone. Typically, dog bite claims are resolved by negotiation with the insurance company. When you have a lawyer on your side to help with the negotiation process, you can expect a quicker and fairer settlement because your lawyer is able to negotiate with the insurance company from a position of experience and skill.
What If the Dog's Owner Doesn't Have Insurance?
Homeowner's or renter's insurance is the most reliable source of funds for compensating dog bite victims, but it's not the only option. You're still legally entitled to reimbursement for your expenses even if the owner of the dog does not have an applicable insurance policy. However, these types of claims are considerably more complex since you'll need to uncover what resources the animal's owner has at his disposal to pay your claim. Your odds of seeing reimbursement without a lawyer to negotiate on your behalf are much more challenging.
What If I'm Not Sure Who Is Liable for My Injuries?
When it comes to dog bites, California operates under a theory of strict liability. The owner of the animal is typically responsible for your injuries, assuming you were not trespassing or provoking the dog at the time of the attack.
Possible exceptions to the strict liability rule may include:
- Animal keepers, such as kennels, pounds, and shelters, could be considered liable for dog bites inflicted by animals under their care.
- A property owner could be held liable for the conduct of an animal he allowed onto his property, even if he's not the owner of the animal.
- Parents or legal guardians could be held responsible for the conduct of an animal owned by a minor under 18 years old.
- Landlords could be held liable for injuries if they knew or should have reasonably known that a tenant was in possession of a dangerous animal.
In these circumstances, you may have to prove that these individuals were negligent in the handling of the particular circumstances. A positive outcome for the dog bite victim may be much more challenging in these situations.
If you have any concerns regarding liability for your dog bite injuries, you'll want to discuss the issues with a skilled personal injury lawyer. Inland Empire Law Group’s lawyers are dedicated to helping California residents receive compensation for their dog bite claims. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at either our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville offices, call (888) MY IE LAW.