Disability

A person who is injured in a dog attack can receive compensation if a third-party is legally liable for what happened. (See Civil Liability.) In the language of the law, this is referred to as the victim’s “damages.” There are three broad categories of damages:

  • Economic Damages: tangible losses, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and future earning capacity.
  • Non-Economic Damages: pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
  • Punitive Damages: an amount that would punish and make an example of the defendant.

Lost wages, lost profits, and loss of future earning capacity are consequences of disability. The term “disability” refers to a physical or mental condition that significantly impairs the person’s ability to perform one or more major life activities. It can be a temporary or permanent impairment that affects the person’s ability to work, perform daily tasks, and enjoy life as they did before the injury.

The key aspects of “disability” include:

  1. Physical or Mental Impairment: This can be any injury or medical condition that restricts the victim’s normal functions, such as mobility issues, loss of limb, chronic pain, cognitive impairments, or psychological conditions.
  2. Impact on Major Life Activities: The disability must substantially limit the person’s ability to perform activities that are central to daily life, such as walking, working, self-care, or communicating.
  3. Duration: The impairment can be temporary, lasting for a limited period, or permanent, having a long-term or lifelong effect on the person’s capabilities.
  4. Degree of Impairment: The severity of the disability and its impact on the person’s life are considered when determining compensation. This includes evaluating how much the disability hinders the person’s ability to earn a living and participate in normal activities.

In a legal claim, the extent of the disability is typically established through medical evaluations and expert testimony, which help quantify the impact on the victim’s life and support the compensation claim. The evaluation can take place when the condition reaches maximum medical improvement or becomes permanent and stationary. This cannot be done soon after the attack and takes a while.

The steps in evaluating a serious disability are as follows:

  1. Disability Rating: A physician must give a disability rating, which requires a disability evaluation costing several thousand dollars. The cost: up to $7,500.
  2. Vocational Rehabilitation Analysis: a vocational rehabilitation expert tests the victim and reports on the disability’s effect on work. The cost: up to $15,000.
  3. Economic Damages Report: a forensic accountant compares what the victim would probably have earned without a disability to what probably would be earned throughout the period of the disability. The cost: up to $10,000.
  4. Reduction to Present Value: an economist determines how much money in “today’s dollars” it would take to make up for what the victim would have earned in the future if not disabled. The cost: up to $5,000.

A permanently disabled victim also might require a life care plan. It addresses the care and support necessary for the victim to live as independently and comfortably as possible. It includes elements like long-term medical needs, physical therapy and rehabilitation, assistive devices (wheelchairs, prosthetics), home modifications, personal assistance, and quality of life. The cost: up to $50,000.

Overall, proving disability and future loss of income requires about $30,000 to $40,000 for the initial reports. If the experts have to testify before trial, the cost may rise by 50%. If they have to testify in court, the cost may double. For example, Attorney Kenneth M. Phillips has advanced more than $100,000 for the reports of experts in a case where the victim was permanently disabled and required a life care plan.