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What is a Dog Bite Claim?
A dog bite claim begins with a written demand on the dog owner and/or his insurance carrier, which prompts an investigation for resolution through settlement or trial by judge or jury.
What Items of Damages Can be Claimed?
Any person bitten by a dog in Pennsylvania (including non-residents) may be entitled to compensation for pain, suffering, disfigurement, medical bills, co-pays, gas/mileage for trips for medical treatment, lost wages and/or lost earning potential, damage to property/clothing, embarrassment, and emotional distress.
Further, the spouse of someone attacked by a canine may recover for loss of consortium, or loss of companionship from the injured spouse. Click here for information about child claims.
What is the Law in PA Regarding Dog Bite Liability?
There are two ways that a person responsible for a dog may be liable to pay for its bite: (1) by violating a criminal statute (regarding the failure to control his animal or if the bite was particularly serious), or (2) by being generally negligent. It is sufficient if the dog owner knew or should have known that the animal was a probable cause of harm. See Snyder v. Milton Auto Parts, 285 Pa.Super. 559 (Pa.Super. 1980) citing Proof of Facts, 2d, Vol. 13, pg. 473. A landlord/property owner (where the dog is harbored) may also be liable. Click here for more analysis.
While some Pittsburgh lawyers decline dog bite cases lacking proof of (1) the dog having bitten previously or (2) violation of a criminal statute, we are different. We have received five and six figure recoveries in where no statute was violated and no prior bite had occurred. Click here for independently verified reviews. Contact our lawyers for a free case evaluation: 412.780.0008.
What Should I Do First?
First, focus on your medical care and work with the authorities to evaluate whether the dog has rabies, if you have not done so. Click here for more information about notifying authorities. Otherwise, do not talk to, text, or email anyone (except your lawyer) about how the bite happened. Take pictures of your injuries and preserve relevant evidence. Call us any time for a free consultation 412.780.0008.
How Long Do I Have to File Suit?
You have two (2) years to both retain counsel and file suit in Pennsylvania. That said, you should not delay. First, you lawyer should serve a "preservation letter" ASAP on the owner of the dog, which triggers consequence if evidence "disappears." Click here for more information. Your lawyer also needs to perform research to identify all possible parties who may be responsible, so they can be sued within two years of the bite. If the the government was somehow at fault, you only have six (6) months to make a formal claim on the same.
Where Does a Financial Recovery Come From?
The dog owner may have home owner's insurance coverage. There are rarely, if ever, liability insurance exclusions for certain breeds of dogs, contrary to the assumptions of many, so the breed of dog rarely triggers an insurance exclusion. The dog owner may also have general "umbrella coverage," which covers claims that exceed the available home owner or other liability coverage. Our Pittsburgh lawyers look for all possible sources of coverage.
How is a Dog Bite Claim Made?
You lawyer will write to the responsible party to (1) place him or her on notice of your claim, (2) ask him to notify his or her liability insurance carrier of the claim, and (3) caution him against destroying evidence, via "preservation letter." Then, if coverage exists, the insurance company will contact your lawyer. Your lawyer will investigate the case and relate relevant details to the insurance company for the dog owner to try to facilitate early resolution, when possible. If your lawyer does not get the case settled, a timely law suit must be filed.
Will I Have to Testify in Court?
Probably not. A Cornell University study found that 94.5 percent of cases filed in PA are resolved before trial. but you may have to sit for a deposition recorded in one of the attorney's offices. Whether you have to testify in a deposition depends largely on whether your lawyer performs a detailed and timely investigation to convince the dog owner or his insurance carrier that (1) significant litigation would be a waste of time and (2) the facts in your case warrant a settlement on the higher side early on.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Resolution?
This will depend largely on the skill level and persistence of your attorney. An attorney experienced in dog bite claims will perform a thorough and early investigation to discover both admissible and credible evidence that the insurance company for the responsible party must take seriously, such that your demand for money (even if it is on the high-side) will be entertained.
Parenthetically, a demand that is greatly out-of-line with the high range of other settlements over the past few years will force the dog owner or his insurance carrier defend the case and place it in line for trial such that the jury can teach your inexperienced lawyer a lesson, to deter outrageous claims in the future. This will drag out the process if, for example, your attorney exaggerates your $200,00 - $300,000 claim as one for $5oo,000.
Also, persistence pays off. Making a high demand, then letting the case sit will rarely result in success. Inactive cases get the least attention from those responsible to pay. You should stay in frequent contact the insurance company defending the dog owner, to make sure that your case gets the attention it deserves.
How Are My Medical Bills Paid?
Ultimately, the dog owner may be responsible to pay all your bills, but in the interim, you do not want your bills to go into collection while your case is pending, so injured parties often turn those in to their own health insurer, such as UPMC, Highmark, DPW, Medicare, etc. Then, said insurer may seek to be paid back out of one's settlement, so the total amount of your settlement should include not only your claims for pain, suffering, and disfigurement, but also the amounts that your insurer (UPMC, Highmark, DPW, etc.) paid for your medical bills even though you did not pay those bills. The law in PA allows --- and often requires -- you to do this.
This area of law concerns claims for "subrogation" -- where a medical insurance company that made any payment on your behalf (such as UPMC, for medical bills) seeks to re-paid out of your settlement. Your lawyer should stand poised to negotiate with UPMC or any other medical insurer to lower the amount you re-pay for medical expenses (subrogation lien), to put the most money in your pocket. We do this frequently.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Bring a Claim?
Yes. The dog owner may not have insurance or need convincing to forward your claim to his or her insurance carrier. Statistically, liability insurances companies pay significantly more money to those having counsel compared to those unrepresented. Plus, call us any time: we tell you candidly whether any offer you receive (without counsel involved) is something you should accept or, conversely, we could get you significantly more money. Plus, rarely will a dog owner or his insurance carrier pay you anything unless you sign a release, but settlement carries risks, which you should discuss with counsel.
What Factors Should I Consider at Time of Settlement?
You want to make sure your case is valued properly. Plus, your health insurance company (Highmark, UPMC, etc.) who pays for some or all of your treatment may be a lien against the recovery you get, which a lawyer should handle this part of it (2) to maximize the money you recovery, ultimately, and (2) make sure you do not accidentally settle a case for an amount insufficient to both cover your losses and re-pay your health insurer for your treatment.
Importantly, when you settle, the insurance company for the dog owner will not pay you unless you sign a release, baring any future claims that could be made for your injuries. Do not settle your case before you are 100% sure that there is no subrogation claim, as this could make you responsible to re-pay your medical insurer and/or lose future medical coverage. Call any time for a free consultation (with no obligation to hire us) to learn your rights.
How Much is My Case Worth?
Every case is different. We frequently handle cases rejected by other lawyers. We put in the extra effort to maximize the value of every case. A lawyer who aggressively works up your case -- and convinces the dog owner and/or his insurance carrier that a trial would be waste of time -- will position your case for the highest possible settlement as early as possible.
Efficiency and credibility pay off. For example, it is important to sound reliable early on when dealing with the opposing party when discussing the law and facts; otherwise, the opposing party will be forced to budget pay the hourly fees of defense lawyers, which may impact the total amount offered to settle, ultimately, often depriving you the opportunity of a significant recovery, early on.
Free Case Evaluation - No Fee, Ever, Unless We Win
This article should not be construed as legal advice. Call any time. At our 12 lawyer firm, you can speak with a named partner right away to get answers to your questions with no obligation to retain us. Our Pennsylvania lawyers come to your location to provide a free and confidential consultation. We answer your questions, explain the law in Pennsylvania, and start our investigation, early.
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Click here to read frequently asked questions (FAQs). Recover money for not only pain and suffering, but lost wages, medical bills (and co-pays), scaring, embarrassment, interruption of your life, and more. We study details about your injuries, and keep the pressure on the responsible party to maximize your recovery. We explain to you concepts like "subrogation," and "med pay," and how your medical bills get paid regardless of fault. A quick settlement is great, but do not release any party until you are compensated in full for future losses. Our law firm in Pittsburgh handles complex claims and special problems. We litigation claims by guardians on behalf of minors for scars. We also handle special lien issues such as claims by UPMC, Highmark, or Medicare for re-payment for medical bills from any settlement or recovery we get for you. We study liability, and Pennsylvania's so-called "one free bite" rule, which provides that claims are not based on strict liability but negligence, and thus the injured person must show that the dog owner knew or should have known of the dog's dangerous propensity, which can include a history of growling, lunging at people, attacking other dogs and more. Pennsylvania also has a leash law and the fact of a doing being unrestrained can create liability. Click here to links for resources on the web. You might ask, how do I sue for a dog bite in PA? Or, how do I find a lawyer who handles dog bite cases in PA? Click here for Frequently Asked Questions and answers. First, we identify all responsible parties and sources of insurance coverage. Early and aggressive work-up pays off. We thoroughly investigate the attack and your injuries. We communicate to the responsible party why it would be futile to deny you a significant recovery.
Answering Your Questions: How are medical bills paid? Can your health insurance provider sue you for money spent on your treatment? We also gather details to build your case block-by-block to ultimately convince the responsible party (or his insurance carrier) to compensate you fully. You, the injured person, should not have to pay for another person's mistakes especially if you are left with unpaid bills, scars, and other damages. How long will this take? It will take time for your doctors to fully evaluate the long-term impact of your injuries. We meet in person, early on. During that free, no obligation consultation, we also answer all your questions. When you make your demand for compensation, you need to have all your "t"s crossed and "i"s dotted to maximize your leverage during negotiation with the opposing party. Get compensation for your injuries. We find every possible source of compensation. You may recover if you were hurt while fleeing from an unrestrained and aggressive animal and no bite occurred, for example. Plus, try to preserve the evidence following a dog (or other animal) attack. Take pictures of your injuries, comply with hospital or doctor orders for follow-up treatment, and get a medical release from work if needed. We will fully evaluate every detail of the dog attack. We will work to convince the dog owner (or his insurance company) that the incident happened exactly as you say. An insurance company for the responsible party can deny coverage if not placed on timely notice of your important claim. We handle claims for postal workers, mail carriers, mailmen, the mailman, delivery people, UPS (united states parcel service), FedEx, carriers and delivery people, Comcast cable, vios and verizon workers, food and pizza delivery people, and more, for the owner or neighbor's dog or other animal. Click here to read a disclaimer about our services.
Our firm litigates dog bite and other animal attack cases throughout Western Pennsylvania. Our Pittsburgh attorneys talk to you over the phone, at your home, or hospital room. Each lawyer in our dog bite practice group can assist you in Allegheny County Courts (Pittsburgh), Beaver County, Butler County, Westmoreland County, Washington County, Lawrence County, and Green County. Get an appointment for a FREE consultation with an attorney. Know how to get maximum benefit from the medical and liability insurance available. Get compensation for injuries, disfigurement, lost wages, pain and suffering and more. Talk to a Beaver County dog bite attorney and it will not cost you anything. Preserve the evidence and put the insurance companies on notice. We will do everything. Each lawyer in our firm can come to you in Fayette (Uniontown), Johnstown, Cambria County, Greene County, Monongahela, Monroeville, South Hills, North Hills, Ross, Monaca, South Side (Pittsburgh), Shadyside (Pittsburgh), North Side (Pittsburgh) Avalon, and Bellevue. Our Pittsburgh dog bite lawyers will forward with litigation and be aggressive in convincing the insurer the dog bite / animal attack happened as you say. Our Pittsburgh attorneys handle all kinds of personal injury cases not limited to one breed of dog. We will take your personal injury, damages, hospital stays, and other damages very seriously. Call us today and check out these links.
No particular result is guaranteed, however. Every case is different and past success does not mean any given result will happen in your case. Our attorneys in Pittsburgh are here waiting to assist. An efficient lawyer in Pittsburgh can save you money. Go ahead and challenge our lawyers in Pittsburgh. You will glad to retain our lawyers in Pittsburgh, PA.
We gather all your medical and billing records and allow some time to go by to let you heal and evaluate whether your scars are permanent. When you settle, you give up the right to sue so you want to gauge the level of nerve damage (if any) make sure that you have fully retained felling in the areas of the wound (as much as possible) and that no longer term infection or disability can be ruled in or ruled out. Don't worry. We will build a compelling case for liability and work to convince the dog owner that your damages are very serious and should garner top dollar. Learn about the dangerous dog statute, and Pennsylvania dog law about civil and criminal penalties and about how unexcused violation of the Dog Law constitutes negligence per versus strict liability. Learn what happens if a dog is not firmly secured by means of a collar and chain. Let a Pittsburgh attorney explain about your rights against the owner of a dangerous dog in Pennsylvania, including pit pulls, German shepherds, doberman pinschers, Rottweilers, Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Chow Chows, boxers, and Dalmatians. Click here for a blog.
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