According to the Center for Disease Control, US citizens suffer 4.5 million dog bites each year. Of those, 25% become infected and need long-term medical care. Illinois is second only to California in the number of dog bite claims each year.
The unfortunate truth is that most dogs who bite don’t have the care they need. Many are not neutered or spayed and do not see a veterinarian on a regular basis.
Neglectful owners often have their dogs on a chain due to their aggressive nature. After an attack, victims seek medical help and report the incident to animal control. Not everyone will look for legal advice, even in the most severe cases.
But, as medical treatments and trauma drag on, out-of-pocket costs can soar. An insurance company will be eager to settle. The amount may cover costs, but little else.
If you are a victim, here are some tips to get the dog bites attorney you’ll need to resolve the case in your favor.
Knowledge of the Insurance Claim Process
The owner of the dog is liable for the medical treatment necessary for dog bites. Their homeowner policy has coverage in place. But, filing a claim with an insurance company can be a daunting experience.
Most people are not familiar with the process. We expect that the insurer will look for ways to cut their costs. Often they’ll want to settle as soon as possible. Getting an attorney right away will ensure you’ll not give up your rights.
To get the best representation, ask about their experience with Insurance companies. They should have experience in several areas of personal injury.
If so, they’ll have a long record of dealing with many types of insurers and their claims processes.
Settling VS a Trial
The truth is, most personal injury cases, including dog bites, do not go to trial. The cost of a case for an insurance company goes up when a jury trial takes place.
But, it is vital that a victim receives a fair amount. An attorney with a successful track record will know how to gather evidence. And how to deal with claims personnel and insurer’s counsel.
This not only alleviates your stress but puts an advocate on the victim’s side through the entire process.
When choosing your attorney, ask them to outline the case step by step. Make sure they’re putting you first.
Why A Free Consultation is so Important
For personal injury cases, many attorneys will offer a free consultation. During this time, they will gather information about the incident. This includes facts about the injury, any police reports, and medical procedures.
A consultation is a perfect time to ask questions. Many dog bite victims seek retribution, and they are right to feel angry. An attorney with experience understands this.
They also know that dealing with a personal injury is not a personal fight. The process is to meet a fair settlement in your favor. Though the dog owner may be at fault, it’s their insurance company who represents them.
It is vital to seek a professional who explains the right way to approach your case.
The Contingency Process
Many dog bite cases proceed without any cost to the victim. Then, when the case settles, the attorney will take a percentage of the proceeds.
If there is no settlement for the case, there is no fee for the services. The explanation should be clear. If there is anything you don’t understand, make sure to ask.
Though some believe they may get a higher amount on their own, this is not the case.
History shows the amount the victim receives with representation is much higher. Even with a percentage going to the attorney.
Your attorney should tell you every possible outcome.
Understanding Your Rights and the Law
Of course, we get an attorney to help guard our rights. After all, they are the experts. But, you also need to understand the process yourself. Anyone can read through an insurance policy.
But, understanding key points often escape even the most intelligent among us.
Your attorney should impart their knowledge of your case in terms you can understand. You should also know your options. And the evaluation insurers use to value claims and your rights.
Make sure your attorney takes the time. You deserve a full understanding of what lies ahead.
Best Practices in Your Favor
To get all the facts, a reasonable attorney will investigate the dog bite incident. It serves to reason they will want all the supporting evidence in your favor.
The negligence of the dog owner will be a question, as well as the behavior of you and the dog.
In Illinois, there is no less validity given if the dog had no previous bites to humans. Many times, a dog owner will insist the victim was at fault.
In this case, the “he-said-she-said” needs a full investigation. An attorney on your side will pursue statements from neighbors or witnesses.
There may also be evidence of the dog owner’s lack of care for the dog. The more evidence your attorney can gather in your favor the better your case.
Make sure your attorney can show you their prior success in investigations.
The Amount of a Fair Settlement
Know that compensation for pain, suffering, and trauma are not part of insurance. Victims can only pursue these damages by hiring an attorney.
The amount for which a victim asks is not arbitrary, though. Insurance companies do not want a jury trial if possible. They will analyze critical items when arriving at an offer for settlement.
For example, are there witnesses? And, how might they perform at a trial?
The victim’s account of the incident, the injuries, and evidence of neglect are critical, too.
For scale, dog bite settlements in Illinois range from $30,000 to a record-setting $900,000. State Farm and Insurance Journal report 700 million dollars in dog bite claims in 2017.
Today, they represent one-third of all homeowner claims. Your attorney should be aware of the range of your claim, and the least amount acceptable for settlement.
Their case history and industry standards should align with the amount.
How the Insurance Company Decides on an Offer
For those who attempt to settle a claim on their own, they have little idea what a fair settlement may be. The medical costs from a dog bite may be explicit, but any expenses from the injury count.
Coverage should include time lost from work or work to correct scarring, too. If there is nerve damage, rehabilitation is necessary.
Many do not consider future costs when they get a settlement offer. Insurance claim professionals work with a history of similar claims.
Then, along with their counsel, offer the lowest possible amount. A private attorney also uses the history of similar claims, but they also know that no two cases are the same.
They can represent a victim for pain, suffering, and the trauma from the attack. If there is a settlement offer, the attorney and the client decide to accept or counter-offer.
Dog Bites Attorneys Handle Third Party Claims for the Victim
Victims are often responsible for their medical costs from their injury. Once there is a settlement claim, any outstanding bills can become a third party claim. Doctors, hospitals, and health insurers seek reimbursement for their services.
So, they will file a claim for payment. There are laws which protect victims. But, health insurers or government entities still need to recover the victim’s debt.
This is not something with which most people are familiar. Only an attorney with experience in third-party claims can assist.
Because they represent the victim, they can negotiate the amounts necessary to settle.
We Work for Victims
In our decades of helping victims with injuries, we often field common questions. Most want to know if their case is worth pursuing. They often ask what they should do next.
In some cases, victims are in the hospital and cannot speak for themselves. Then, we hear from families whose loved one is suffering and in need of a dog bites attorney.
The moment we begin representing the victim we know for whom we are working. Our decades of experience helps us first ensure victims are on the road to recovery.
Then, we make sure they know their rights. And, we protect them every step of the way. Our work with insurers over decades prepares us for ensuring no victim is left on their own.
If you are in need of help for yourself or family member, we are here 24/7 to answer your questions.