If you are an adult who has been bitten by a dog, it can be very helpful to hire a lawyer to handle your claim, rather than trying to settle on your own. Dogs bite nearly 5 million people in the United States every year and around 15,000 of them get compensation for their injury, less than 1%. In most cases, an insurance adjuster will only pay a victim who files a claim without a lawyer 10 or 20% of what would be given with a lawyer. The other 80 or 90% gets pocketed by the adjuster. A lawyer works on a contingency basis and usually only charges about 33% of the outcome, leaving about 66% entirely for the victim.
The term contingency basis means that the lawyer will not make the victim pay for anything. Payment only comes from a successful lawsuit in which the victim receives compensation, and then a percentage of that outcome will go to the attorney costs. Anyone who tries to settle a dog bite claim on their own assumes the responsibilities of an attorney without the knowledge and experience to do so, and causes resentment with the insurance company that can make dealing with them difficult. By themselves, victims may make unnecessary accusations or say incorrect things that can hurt their case. With a lawyer, they can simply say, “My lawyer said that.”
Therefore, having a lawyer can do away with the stress associated with making legal deals without experience and almost always results in a better outcome. An experienced lawyer knows not to harass or confront the dog owner involved in the case, make them feel guilty, embarrass them, put them in a bad light or act harshly. A rash victim might demand that the dog that bit them be put down, which is a ridiculous suggestion that can damage the victim’s reputation. With a lawyer handling the case, a dog owner will see that the victim is acting rationally and any additional anger on the owner’s part can be avoided.
Hiring a lawyer is not the same thing as suing a dog owner. A lawyer simply knows the best way to present the case to the insurance company and in court, if necessary. About 98% of personal injury cases settle out of court, because the insurance company will not want to go to any added expense. In this way, hiring a lawyer can actually make everything about receiving compensation easier and more effective, not the other way around.
Since how much compensation a victim deserves depends on the individual case, there is no way for an inexperienced victim to know how much money to ask for from the insurance company. A lawyer can more reliably evaluate the circumstances of the incident and request a reasonable sum. For example, if a victim missed time from work because of their injury, a lawyer will be able to gather the evidence needed to prove that wages were lost and receive compensation for that aspect of the injury in addition to any others. A victim on their own may not even realize they can pursue payment for lost wages.
One of the most significant ways a victim can receive money is by proving a loss of earning capacity, which is considered a specialized area even for lawyers. It involves proving that the accident caused enough mental and physical damage that the victim’s quality of work will forever be less than it used to be, which will probably cause a decrease in overall income. If proven, an amount is granted to compensate for this future loss in wages. It is essential that claims like this are handled by a respected lawyer.
Many lawyers gather evidence at their own expense, such as obtaining official copies of medical records, hiring a professional photographer to take pictures of the victim, getting a private investigator to look into the history of the dog’s activity and having a nurse consultant look over the medical records. All of this can cost $1,000 or $2,000, which comes out of the lawyer’s pocket and is paid back by the victim after they receive compensation. This kind of evidence can greatly help in cases like this, though some states do not allow lawyers to do this additional work on a contingency basis.
If a victim’s medical bills are paid for by health insurance or public assistance, third party claims will have to be filed against the settlement. These usually go straight to the dog owner’s insurance, which then gives out a solid payment. A lawyer can negotiate with these third parties and knows when an insurance company or government agency is allowed to collect payment from a victim, since there are laws prohibiting that in certain instances.
Quite simply, when dealing with legal practices, it is always easier to have an experienced lawyer on your side. An attorney knows just what to do in any given situation, what evidence to provide to the insurance company and how much the victim should receive. A victim acting on their own may make mistakes in the process, delaying the outcome and making it harder to receive worthwhile compensation. If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, call experienced lawyer Nick Ortiz at 850-308-7833 for professional assistance in filing your claim.