Do you really need a lawyer? Is Handling a dog bite case a Do It Yourself project?
Personal injury law, especially slip and fall cases and car accidents, are among the most common, and almost always demand the expertise of an attorney from the outset. What about a minor dog bite? Clearly, it is a personal injury. Handling the issues appears logical, straightforward and reasonable: seek medical attention obtain the contact information from the dog owner, and work with the insurance company to recover the expenses. With patience and attention to detail, one may consider this a Do-it Yourself project.
The process might be lengthy, but manageable. An online search yields a step by step process. However, further research also yields a host of complex questions, a list of documents, and cost projections that most cannot address. Incomplete or incorrect responses negatively impact on the outcome, making your injury feel much worse.
Nevertheless, there are standard procedures that should be followed, even if without the benefit of an attorney. Logically, the first step is to seek immediate medical attention, meaning a doctor or a hospital, but not before capturing the name of the dog owner, and the relevant contact information. Most runners and walkers carry a cell phone, an ideal solution to capture information and images.
Documentation always makes a difference, as all lawyers advise. Evidence such as a photo of the injury, the area, the dog -with or without its leash, are useful in proving your case. Check to see if there are witnesses at the scene, get their information because they can later corroborate your explanation.
Report the incident to the local animal control authorities because they will want current rabies information from the dog owner. You will, too. They will have other relevant health information or knowledge of previous attacks; essential facts that you will need. Certainly, adults can accomplish these tasks.
Also, check your local laws regarding dog bites; some areas have a “one bite” rule, while other areas observe a strict liability policy. Be aware that liability and negligence may be factors in your seemingly straightforward case. Determining who is at fault and to what extent each person is responsible makes a difference in settling a case.
Adults almost immediately assume that they will be able to contact the claims adjuster and settle the issue easily. With doctor’s and pharmacy bills, plus other receipts and documents in hand, a phone call and email or two to exchange information, the reimbursement check should be mailed promptly. Referred to as “special damages” in this type of case, the “hard costs” are easy to tally. Less obvious, and not at all objective to measure are “general damages,” also known as pain and suffering, among others. Consider the emotional stress of that dog bite, and its future impact on adults, or worse, children.
Knowing what your claim is actually worth, and what to say to the homeowner’s insurance claims adjuster – or what not to say, is usually what triggers a call to the lawyer. Adding medical receipts and out of pocket expenses for the case is not the same as calculating the total costs. At times, time out of work, prolonged pain, extended circumstances may be a multiplier of your original tabulation. Experienced professionals, an attorney and others can better determine and assess the costs. And, there is a timeframe for submission, one you may not be able to adequately meet.
Feeling confident about your negotiation skills?
A serious, steady, professional tone is appropriate, but maintaining a cool head in a frustrating or otherwise adversarial conversation is a challenge. Factor in that you may be tired, in pain from the injury or stressed with the process, and you may not be as well positioned as you think to discuss your case. Recall the adage: What you say may be used against you. In fact, most lawyers will advise against your attempt to provide a recorded statement to the adjuster without having legal representation present. At times, having a lawyer place that call may be all that is needed to settle the case. As the victim, there is no cost to you to have a lawyer manage the case for you, saving you the time, and the costly chance of an error in the process.