Understanding Liability in Dog Attack Cases
When a dog attack someone, the owner can be held liable for the damages. To understand liability in these cases, you’ll want to know a few key things:
1. Degree of Owner Negligence
The degree to which an owner was negligent in handling or confining the dog plays a role in determining liability. If a owner was grossly negligent by failing to properly secure a dog known to be aggressive, liability will likely fall on the owner. Less severe negligence may result in shared liability between owner and victim.
2. Location of the Attack
Where the attack happened also matters. If it occurred on the owner’s property, they will usually be presumed liable. But if it happened in a public place or someone else’s property, liability may be disputed and require investigating the specifics of the situation.
3. Provocation of the Dog
If a person provoked the dog or trespassed on the owner’s property, the owner may avoid liability or share liability. But unprovoked attacks, especially on public property or someone else’s private property, typically result in owner liability.
4. Strict Liability Laws
Some areas have “strict liability” laws for dog bites meaning the owner is liable, regardless of the situation’s details. But most follow common law which determines liability based on the circumstances. It’s best to check with a lawyer regarding the laws in your city or state.
Ways to Find an Experienced Dog Bite Lawyer
When looking for a dog bite lawyer, you want someone with experience handling these types of cases. Dog bite laws vary in each state, so you need an attorney familiar with the laws in your area. Some things to consider:
- Look for a lawyer who has successfully handled dog bite cases. Ask about their experience, expertise, and track record with settlements and trial verdicts. An experienced dog bite attorney will know how to investigate the case, determine liability, and negotiate the best possible outcome for you.
- Meet with lawyers for a free initial consultation. Discuss the details of your case, injuries sustained, and who is liable (the owner, landlord, insurance company, etc.). See which lawyers you feel most comfortable with and confident in.
- Inquire about their fees and billing policies up front. Most dog bite lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning they don’t get paid unless you win or settle your case. The standard fee is 33-40% of the final settlement amount. Get their terms in writing.
- Check online reviews from former clients. Look for praise regarding the lawyer’s communication, handling of the legal process, outcome of the case, and overall satisfaction. But be aware some reviews may be fake or overly critical. Consider the general themes.
- Ask friends or family members for a referral. Personal references from those who have used a dog bite attorney before can be extremely helpful. But still do your own research to find the right fit for your needs.
A caring, competent lawyer can make the legal process much less stressful. With the right representation, you have a good chance of recovering damages from the responsible parties in a dog bite claim.
Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Dog Attack Attorney
When interviewing dog attack attorneys, there are several important questions you should ask to determine if they are the right fit for your case.
1. Experience and Qualifications
How much experience do you have handling dog attack and injury cases? An ideal attorney will have several years of experience in this area of law. They should also be licensed to practice in your state.
2. Success Rate
What is your success rate for dog attack cases that go to trial? Look for an attorney with a proven track record of winning sizable settlements and verdicts for their clients. They should be able to provide examples of past cases and outcomes.
How do you charge for your services? Most dog attack attorneys work on contingency, which means they only get paid if you win your case. Typically, they will take 33-40% of the final settlement amount as their fee. Be wary of any attorney asking for money upfront.
4. Trial Experience
Are you willing and able to take a case to trial if necessary? While most dog attack cases do settle out of court, you want an attorney prepared to go to trial to get you the maximum compensation. Ask if they have actual trial experience, not just settlement experience.
5. Communication and Availability
How responsive are you and how available to answer my questions? Look for an attorney willing to take the time to explain the legal process, address your concerns, and keep you regularly updated on the status of your case.
Asking the right questions will help ensure you find an attorney with the experience, skills, and dedication to handle your dog attack case.