Dog owner Diane Cockrell was ordered to serve 43 months to 15 years for the Sept. 13, 2007, deaths of Edward Gierlach, 91, and Cheryl Harper, 56. She began serving her sentence on Jan. 2, 2009. This week, it was announced that the families of the victims had settled their civil claims for wrongful death. However, the settlement amounts were not announced.
When a person dies as a result of wrongdoing, or when there is statutory liability, the family of the deceased person usually is entitled to compensation. The dog bite statutes provide liability in most American states. The compensation is paid by the dog owner’s homeowners policy or renters policy.
Insurance helps spread the impact of a loss. Instead of it falling entirely on the victim, and having to be paid entirely by the dog owner, the loss is compensated by an insurance company. The insurance company in turn raised the funds from policyholders and sound investments. In theory and often in practice, this is a great system for spreading losses and helping each other.
However, insurance companies usually are in business for a profit. Their representatives are rewarded for, among things, saving money for the company. The insurance company and its adjusters have incentives for cutting a victim’s compensation to a minimum. This is why the victim needs to be represented by an attorney. (For further information, read Does an Adult Need a Lawyer for a Dog Bite Claim? or Should Parents Get a Lawyer for Their Injured Child?.)