Should I Get a Lawyer for a Dog Bite?
Dog bites can be serious injuries. And yet, a number of people simply seek treatment for the injury and then try to get on with their lives. Many dog bite victims are unaware that they may have a right to compensation.
Although you may be entitled to recovery of damages related to a dog bite – including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more – it is important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible after the attack. An experienced dog bite lawyer can assess your case and advise you of your options for pursuing the compensation you deserve.
The Whitley Law Firm can help if you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog. Contact us in Raleigh, Kinston, or New Bern today for a free case evaluation.
Why Do I Need a Dog Bite Lawyer?
You may think that your dog bite claim is straightforward. Someone else’s dog bit you, and the owner is responsible, right?
Even if this summary of events is technically correct, the unfortunate reality is that recovering fair compensation is usually not so simple. To achieve a favorable outcome in your case, it is often necessary to work with a knowledgeable dog bite lawyer.
Some of the main reasons to hire an attorney after a dog attack include:
1. Establishing Liability
Liability is a complex issue in dog bite claims in North Carolina. Owners are strictly liable for injuries caused by dangerous dogs. North Carolina law defines a dangerous dog as:
- “A dog that … Without provocation has killed or inflicted severe injury on a person; or
- “A dog that … Is determined by the person or Board designated by the county or municipal authority responsible for animal control to be potentially dangerous because the dog has engaged in one or more of the [following] behaviors:
- “Inflicted a bite on a person that resulted in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations or required cosmetic surgery or hospitalization; or
- “Killed or inflicted severe injury upon a domestic animal when not on the owner’s real property; or
- “Approached a person when not on the owner’s property in a vicious or terrorizing manner in an apparent attitude of attack.”
If the dog is not classified as dangerous, the owner is only liable if:
- The dog is older than 6 months of age; and
- The dog is allowed to “run large” (i.e., the dog is not supervised or controlled by the owner, a family member, or someone entrusted to care for the dog) at night; and
- The dog causes personal injury, property damage, and/or death in the course of running large in the nighttime
Establishing the liability of the owner is crucial for recovering damages in a dog bite claim. Your attorney can review municipal and county records and other evidence to determine if the dog represented a known danger, as well as the owner’s negligence in containing a dog that presented a threat to others.
Having an experienced lawyer on your side is also crucial for handling issues of contributory negligence in your case. The owner may argue that you provoked the dog, resulting in the injuries from the bite or attack. If this argument is successful and you are found in any way partly responsible, you will be barred from recovering damages.
2. Assessing Your Injuries
Victims of dog bites may suffer multiple injuries. The bacteria in dogs’ mouths also present a high risk of infection. Some of these injuries can have significant long-term effects, from scarring that alters your appearance to physical disability stemming from damage to bones, soft tissue, and nerves.
When filing a claim against the owner of the dog that attacked you, it is crucial to account for all of the ways that your injuries affect you at present, as well as issues and complications you may experience in the future. A dog bite attorney can enlist expert witnesses to review the evidence in your case and provide testimony concerning how the injuries impact your day-to-day life, your ability to earn a living, and more.
3. Calculating Damages
In addition to the physical and emotional hardships, dog attacks can take a toll on your finances. Medical bills can add up quickly, your ability to pay for monthly expenses can suffer if you are unable to work, and you may incur a number of unexpected costs in adjusting to life after the injury.
The nature and extent of your injuries will have a significant impact on the compensation you may be able to recover after a dog bite. An experienced attorney can calculate the damages in your dog bite claim. In addition to compensation for economic losses, you may be entitled to compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, and more.
Costs associated with these injuries are not always obvious, and they may not be represented on a bill or receipt. Qualified legal guidance is crucial for identifying all of the damages you may be able to recover.
4. Pursuing Compensation
After investigating the dog attack and building a strong case on your behalf, your attorney can file a claim with the dog owner’s homeowners or renters insurance carrier. Insurance companies are not in the business of offering fair settlements, so it is imperative to have a lawyer represent you in these negotiations.
The settlement in your dog bite claim should fairly compensate you for your losses. Though it may not cover every dollar of damages you sustain, the offer will ideally help you recoup the majority of your losses.
If the insurance company refuses to negotiate or won’t budge on an unfair offer, your lawyer may need to present your case at trial. Whether in settlement negotiations or in court, it is imperative to have experienced legal counsel acting on your behalf.
Contact a Dog Bite Lawyer Today
Dog bites should always be taken seriously. After getting medical attention for your injuries, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and start building your claim.
The Whitley Law Firm has extensive experience handling dog bite claims. We understand the complexities of these cases, and our attorneys and staff are committed to pursuing the full compensation you and your family deserve.
Please call the Whitley Law Firm at (919) 785-5000 today for a free consultation. Our dog bite lawyers serve clients in Raleigh, Kinston, New Bern, and throughout North Carolina.