If your mental image of personal injury lawsuits comes from billboards and TV commercials, it would be understandable if you thought that personal injury lawyers can only help people who had been injured in car accidents or motorcycle crashes. In fact, personal injury laws apply to all situations in which one person’s negligence (failure to meet the standard of care) directly led to another person’s injuries and financial losses. This means that, if your cousin’s dog bites your child at a family reunion, you have the same rights as a pedestrian who was injured by a drunk driver in a hit-and-run crash. The idea of filing a lawsuit might seem intimidating, especially after an incident like a dog bite, which seems like it is no one’s fault. In fact, a very small percentage of personal injury cases require a trial. You might not ever have to go to court, and your lawyer might even be able to get you the money you need without filing a lawsuit. The Kansas City dog bite lawyers at Foster Wallace, LLC can help you recover from the financial consequences of a dog attack with as little financial and emotional stress as possible.
The Financial Consequences of a Dog Bite Attack can be Devastating
Financial stability is the exception rather than the rule for most American households. While a personal finance maxim says that you should keep an emergency fund with three times your monthly income, that is not practical for most people. More than half of Americans have no savings at all, such that the only way they would be able to pay a $400 emergency expense would be by charging it to a credit card, taking out a loan, or borrowing from a family member or friend. Medical bills are a major contributor to Americans’ lack of financial security. Illnesses and accidental injuries can happen to anyone, even people who are frugal and careful about their health. Even if you have health insurance, the medical bills after a dog bite incident can cost thousands of dollars. Imagine how much money you would be on the hook for if you had to pay for all of these things, even if your insurance paid for its share:
- Emergency room visit
- Transportation by ambulance
- X-rays or other diagnostic imaging tests
- Blood tests
- Antibiotics or other prescription drugs
- Physician services in the hospital (the doctors who treat you in the hospital often send you a bill separate from the hospital bill)
- Outpatient physician services
- Physical therapy
- Medical devices such as crutches
Your Dog Bite Lawyer Understands Your Legal Rights
Unless you are very unlucky or unless your job is to train dogs to behave appropriately in stressful situations that would normally make them aggressive, a dog bite is a once-in-a-lifetime event. You probably have never thought much about the dog bite laws in Missouri. You have the right to represent yourself in a personal injury case, just like you do in a divorce case and in some criminal cases, but it is more difficult to do it successfully than you might imagine. It is very easy to make mistakes that could reduce the amount of money you can collect, or even stop you from collecting any money at all. Some people do not understand that even if they are awarded money after a dog bite attack, they still may be responsible for hospital bills or liens that the victim’s health care provider has asserted against you. Further, anything you stated in a recorded statement to an insurance company can and will be used against you so that the insurance company can pay you as little money as possible. You might even incorrectly assume that because you were petting the dog, as opposed to it running up to you and attacking you while you were just minding your business, that you do not have a case.
A dog bite lawyer, on the other hand, understands Missouri and municipality dog bite laws. Dog bite accidents are almost always the dog owner’s responsibility in Missouri, even if the dog is friendly and has never bitten anyone before. (This means that Missouri is a “no bite” state, as opposed to “one bite” states, where it makes a difference whether the dog has ever bitten a person before.)
Preserve Your Relationship with the Owner of the Dog
In most dog bite cases, the dog owner and the victim know each other. The victim is usually a dog owner himself and has interacted with the dog numerous times before it bit him. The last thing you want to do is to get into a legal battle with your neighbor, your daughter’s friend’s parents, or your brother-in-law. Hiring a dog bite lawyer can actually prevent damage to your relationship with the dog owner instead of damaging it further. Contacting a lawyer does not mean that you are pressing criminal charges against the dog owner. (It is rare for criminal charges to result from a dog bite incident unless the owner actively encouraged the dog to attack the victim.) It is more like having your insurance companies settle up after a car accident. In fact, your lawyer might be able to get you enough money just by negotiating with the insurance company. This method is less likely to damage a friendship than if the dog owner informally promises to pay your medical bills, but the bills keep piling up, and he or she becomes resentful that you keep sending him bills that he struggles to pay. This why, after all, people purchase either homeowner's or renter’s insurance that usually cover dog bite attacks.
A Dog Bite Lawyer Can Help You Get the Money You Need
In a dog bite injury case, you can request and receive compensation for all the money you lost as a result of the incident. This can include past and future medical bills. If your injuries are severe enough that you had to miss work because of them, you can also seek damages for lost income. In the most severe cases, you can collect non-economic damages for emotional distress and loss of enjoyment, but that only applies in cases in which your injuries are permanent or very severe.