A dog bite victim may incur many different kinds of damages and losses, from medical bills and emotional damage, to loss of the opportunity to earn income in the future because of disfigurement. A victim may be entitled to recover these losses from another person and that person’s insurance company, provided that the victim presents the necessary proof, first to the insurance company and then possibly in a court of law. There are two sets of laws the victim must abide by, namely those spelling out who is liable for the injuries and losses, and those imposing strict rules of evidence and procedure to establish that liability.
Parents have special considerations when their kids are injured. Please read Should parents get a lawyer for their injured child?
An injured person and his or her family are not emotionally capable of vigorously enforcing their rights. The most important task they face is making sure the victim heals. In death cases, the family grieves; it does not gather evidence and prepare legal briefs. In cases short of death, the victim and his or her family must be optimistic, so the tendency is to minimize the suffering, even ignore it as much as possible. Nevertheless, it is there, and it may remain there for a long time — permanently, if wounds turn into ugly scars. Therefore, a vigorous advocate is a necessity.
An attorney with expertise in representing people with these injuries brings value to your claim. He or she has studied the effects of dog bite injuries, how to gather the evidence necessary to completely prove not only what happened in the past but also what the future effects will be, the practices and procedures of insurance companies when handling serious cases like these, and how to properly evaluate these cases to make sure that the victims receive what they deserve. An attorney with expertise has the ability to objectively evaluate both the strengths and the weaknesses of a claim. Furthermore, an attorney is the only person who can turn a claim into a lawsuit if you are not being treated fairly. Without the threat of a lawsuit, you are at the mercy of the insurance company.
Furthermore, the procedures often followed by animal control departments in “dog court” hearings may unintentionally compromise the victim’s rights. A victim and her family therefore should not communicate with animal control authorities until her lawyer reviews the city and county ordinances, obtains the department’s commitment as to which laws and procedures they will be following, and is satisfied that the issues addressed elsewhere in Dog Bite Law will be resolved fairly. (See Dog Bite Victims Need an Attorney for “Dog Court.”)