How Insurance Companies Handle Dog Bite Claims
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Victims of dog bite attacks have legal rights that may be enforced against the dog’s owner. When a lawsuit is filed, the dog’s owner or the owner’s insurance carrier may have to compensate the victim. Dealing with insurance companies may be tricky, but a seasoned dog bite attorney may help protect your legal rights.
Our experienced lawyers have experience negotiating dog bite claims with insurance companies. Call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive a free case evaluation with one of our experienced dog bite lawyers.
WHAT IS A DOG BITE LAWSUIT?
A dog bite lawsuit is a civil proceeding that may be initiated by a person that was attacked, bitten, or otherwise harmed by another person’s dog. The purpose of filing this type of lawsuit is to seek monetary compensation for costs incurred as a result of the attack.
HOW TO FILE A DOG BITE LAWSUIT
Victims of dog bite attacks may be able to resolve their claim without resorting to the legal process. For example, the dog’s owner and the victim may agree to some sort of cash settlement. However, dog bite accidents do not always end so amicably. If the at-fault party refuses to enter an out-of-court settlement, the victim may need to file a dog bite lawsuit to pursue compensation. Below are several important steps that comprise the process of filing a lawsuit after a dog bite accident.
1. File a Report
One of the first steps a dog bite victim should take after being injured in a dog bite incident is to file a report with the appropriate local animal control agency. Filing a report may be helpful in more ways than one. For instance, filing a report will create a formal record of the attack. This record may later be used to support your claim. Filing a report may also prevent future attacks from occurring. This is because a dog owner is likely to take extra precautions with his animal if the animal has a history of attacking others.
2. Contact an Attorney
Contacting a dog bite accident lawyer after being injured in an attack is the next step toward filing and resolving a dog bite claim. After an initial consultation, the dog bite accident lawyer may be able to provide legal advice about how insurance companies handle dog bite claims. If grounds for a lawsuit exist, the lawyer may act on your behalf by sending the at-fault party a demand letter or filing a complaint against the dog owner.
The investigation phase of a dog bite lawsuit is critical towards establishing the legitimacy and building the value of your claim. During the investigation, your attorney may track down evidence to establish that the dog’s owner is liable for your injuries. For instance, the attorney may interview witnesses to the accident or review prior accident reports filed against the dog’s owner. The investigation may also involve accounting for each of your damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damages.
4. Settlement and Trial
Before your claim is litigated in court, you may have the option of accepting a settlement from the dog owner or their insurance company. If it is not in your best interests to accept the settlement offer, your case will go to court.
DOG BITE INSURANCE CLAIMS
Many people are unaware that a homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy can cover a dog bite owner in cases where the owner’s dog bites or attacks another person. Such policies can include coverage even for cases where the attack occurred away from the owner’s home or residence. However, such coverage is not guaranteed. Furthermore, if the policy owner failed to disclose a dog on the insurance application, or if the breed of dog is not covered in the policy, it is likely that the insurance company will deny coverage.
If the accident is covered, the policy owner likely has the responsibility of promptly notifying the insurance company of the incident. The policy owner will then need to file a claim with his or her insurance carrier. The claim filing process may require the policy owner to submit an affidavit detailing the facts and circumstances of the dog bite accident. After filing and processing the claim, the insurance company may initiate its own investigation. This process may involve interviewing parties with knowledge of the accident and reviewing any relevant documentation such as medical records and photographs. When the insurance company has concluded its investigation, the company will determine whether to settle the claim or defend the policy owner in a lawsuit brought by the dog bite victim.
TIPS FOR NEGOTIATING DOG BITE CLAIMS WITH INSURANCE COMPANIES
In resolving a dog bite claim, the victim may be contacted by the at-fault party’s insurance company if the at-fault party’s policy covers the attack. The insurance company may contact the victim to learn more about the accident and assess the merits of the claim. At some point, the insurance company may offer to settle the claim.
It is important to remember that you are not required to accept an initial settlement offer. Such offers can be negotiated. Below are several steps that you may take to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your negotiations.
Collect and Organize All Documentation
One way to strengthen your position is to organize all documentation relating to the dog bite accident. The more comprehensive the documentation is, the better position you will be in when it comes to negotiating your claim. If possible, you should gather items such as accident reports, witness statements, photographs of your injuries, and estimates of lost wages. Collecting and organizing these documents can make the rest of the negotiation process easier to navigate and may help you stick to the facts of your situation.
Know What Your Claim is Worth
Understanding what your claim is worth may allow you to negotiate more effectively. You can assess your claim’s actual value by considering factors such as medical bills, lost wages, and other miscellaneous expenses.
Emphasize Your Situation
Defend your position throughout negotiation by emphasizing and reemphasizing the hardship you have incurred as a result of the attack. Explain the severity of the incident, the extent of your injuries, and how those injuries will impact your life both physically and mentally. Be sure to refer to any relevant documentation whenever possible to support your position.
UNDERSTANDING DOG BITE COMPENSATION
If a dog bite victim files a lawsuit against the dog owner, the owner or their insurance company faces the possibility of having to compensate the victim for costs incurred as a result of the attack. This compensation is referred to as “damages.” The damages that may be awarded in a dog bite case come in three forms: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
Economic damages are quantifiable costs incurred by the victim of a dog attack. Examples of economic damages in a dog bite case may include:
- Medical bills
- Pharmacy bills
- Rehabilitation bills
- Lost income
- Loss of earning potential
In contrast, non-economic damages refer to intangible losses that cannot be easily quantified. Instead, it is the jury’s responsibility to evaluate a dog bite victim’s non-economic damages. Types of non-economic damages in a dog bite case may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
Punitive damages are a third type of damages reserved only for those cases where the at-fault party’s conduct was found to be especially reckless, egregious, or intentional. For instance, punitive damages may be awarded in cases where the dog’s owner instructed the dog to attack the victim for no apparent reason.
UNDERSTANDING THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
Victims of dog bite attacks wishing to pursue legal action must do so within the legal time limit. This means filing a lawsuit within the statute of limitations. Failure to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations means that the victim is effectively barred from litigating the claim in court.
Statutes of limitations vary from state to state. A majority of states have a two or three-year statute of limitations. However, some states may have longer or shorter statutes of limitations. Under certain circumstances, the applicable statute of limitation may be “tolled” or extended, such as when the victim was a minor.
OUR DOG BITE LAWYERS MAY HELP
Handling a dog bite claim can be a demanding and frustrating task that requires a thorough understanding of personal injury law, effective negotiating skills, and miles of patience. Thankfully, our team of dog bite attorneys has years of experience negotiating dog bite claims with insurance companies.
This experience allows our attorneys to help protect our clients’ legal rights and seek the compensation they deserve. While you focus on recovering from your injuries, a Zinda Law Group dog bite attorney may:
- Review the facts of your case and advise you of any rights and remedies that may be available
- Contact the at-fault party to inform him or her that you intend on pursuing legal action
- Conduct a thorough investigation into the matter to gather evidence to strengthen the legitimacy and value of your claim
- File a timely lawsuit to ensure that the applicable statute of limitations period does not expire
- Research your state’s dog bite laws to formulate an appropriate legal argument
- Negotiate with insurance carriers and opposing counsel
- Carry out other responsibilities necessary to ensure that your legal rights are fully protected
Our firm also believes that an injury victim should never have to worry about being able to afford legal representation. That is why we offer 100% free consultations, and why you pay nothing unless we win your case. That’s our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
If you would like to discuss the details of your case with an experienced dog bite lawyer, or to learn more about the claim filing process, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free case evaluation.