You have received the necessary medical attention for the dog bite injury, but now what? Here are your next steps if you are interested in suing the dog owner:
Locating a Dog Bite Attorney
First and foremost, before you move forward, you should find an experienced dog bite lawyer. An attorney will help you get a handle on your state's laws, as they vary from one state to the next. Some states follow the one-bite rule, which allows the first bite from a dog to be forgiven under most circumstances, while other states follow a strict liability rule, which holds the dog owner liable as long as the plaintiff did not provoke the dog in any way or trespass on the property where they were bitten.
Compiling Evidence Against the Defendant
After you find a lawyer, you'll need to begin gathering evidence to support your case. A lot of this part of the process will be performed by your lawyer and his or her legal team. However, there are some things that you can do and that your lawyer will likely want you to acquire for him or her. These things include photos of the injury, photos of the incident scene, copies of medical records and medical bills as well as names and contact information of witnesses. The information for witnesses may not be used unless the case ends up going to trial.
Drafting and Sending the Demand Letter
The next step is trying to avoid going to trial. Your lawyer will write a demand letter, which will inform the owner of the dog that bit you of your intention on suing them. This letter will provide information as to why the lawsuit is to be filed, details about the evidence that you have and an outline of the injuries that you sustained as well as an accurate estimate of the expenses that you've incurred as a result of the incident. It will also likely include an amount that you're willing to take to settle the case and avoid trial.
If the settlement amount is accepted by the dog owner, then things are over and you've essentially "won". You will receive the compensation as agreed in the demand letter. However, the dog owner may bring a counteroffer to you in order to bring down the settlement offer. You can agree to this and the case will be over with. If you choose not to agree to the counteroffer or the dog owner refuses the initial settlement offer, then you and your attorney can continue negotiations if you wish to do so.
Filing a Lawsuit (If Necessary)
When a settlement cannot be reached between you and the owner of the dog, then you will likely file a formal lawsuit in order to seek compensation for the injuries you sustained. If you do go to trial, keep in mind that it may not be an easy process and it is time-consuming. Jurors may be selected, opening statements must be presented, evidence must be laid out, witnesses must be called to the stand, etc. Once closing arguments have been made, the jury (if present) will deliberate, make a decision and provide the court with their verdict, which may or may not be in your favor.
For more information on dog bite laws and whether or not you have a case for your injury, contact a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who specializes or is well-versed in dog bite claims.