If you have received a bite from a dog, the owner of the dog or the owner’s insurance company might contact you with a settlement offer that compensates you for any injuries. In exchange for a settlement payment, the insurance company might ask you to sign a document that prevents you from filing a lawsuit. The question is should you settle or should you take your chances with filing a civil lawsuit.
A personal injury attorney represents an excellent resource for answering questions that concern a dog bite incident. The most important question to answer determines how much money you get for suffering one or more dog bite injuries. Dog bite injuries can generate medical bills that run into the thousands of dollars, as well as put you in a financial hole because the injuries keep you out of work for a significant amount of time.
Knowing when to settle and when not to settle boils down to compensation for your dog bite injury or injuries.
Types of Compensation for Dog Bite Settlements
Compensation for one or more dog bite injuries is intended to reimburse you for a wide variety of expenses.
- Past and current medical bills
- Estimated future medical bills
- Lost wages because the injury makes it impossible to work
- Replacement of property such as clothing and/or an electronic device
- Expenses for paying someone to do household chores
- Scarring and disfigurement
All of the expenses associated with a dog bite injury come with receipts that prove you paid out-of-pocket for things such as medical care and a replacement electronic device. What does not come with a receipt is called pain and suffering, which can include nightmares about the dog bite incident and/or difficulty passing canines while you walk around the neighborhood.
Since you cannot quantify pain and suffering, you should consult with a California-licensed dog bite lawyer to determine how much money, if any money, you deserve for pain and suffering.
How to Evaluate a Settlement Offer for a Dog Bite Incident
Evaluating a settlement offer is the most important decision you can expect to make during the entire process. Your dog bite attorney has worked on numerous cases, which gives your lawyer keen insight into what you deserve financially. In addition to estimating the cost associated with the dog bit incident, your attorney can also guide you to a decision by explaining the pros and cons of accepting a dog bite settlement offer.
Deciding Whether to Accept a Dog Bite Settlement Offer
Now comes the big decision: To settle or not to settle.
- Receive compensation quicker than going through a civil trial
- You can move on emotionally sooner
- Might result in lower attorney fees
- No court costs
- The settlement agreement remains confidential
- Might have to accept a smaller financial award in exchange for a quick resolution
- Might not be as satisfying as winning a civil lawsuit
- Quicker resolution can miss accounting for all lost wages and medical bills
Taking Your Case to Trial
Civil lawsuits tend to pay out much more money than the money agreed to in a settlement. Since civil lawsuits take longer to complete, you have the opportunity to include more medical bills and statements of lost wages. Civil trials also are a good venue for plaintiffs to present an estimate of future medical expenses to treat and rehabilitate dog bite injuries.
The downside of a civil trial is the uncertainty of the outcome. Even if you seemingly have convincing evidence, the judge presiding over the case might feel otherwise. You can expect higher legal fees, although most personal injury attorneys that litigate dog bite cases work on a contingency fee basis. This means your lawyer gets paid when you get paid. Another disadvantage of a civil trial is the lack of privacy concerning the outcome.
The Bottom Line
You have the final say about whether to settle or not, but your dog bite attorney should have considerable influence in guiding you to the right decision. Experienced dog bite lawyers know when it is the right time to settle and when it is the right time to file a civil lawsuit. Your personal injury attorney can also help you gather and organize the evidence that you need to win a civil lawsuit.
Another important benefit of working with a dog bite lawyer is to ensure you file your civil lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs out. California law gives plaintiffs two years from the date of a dog bite incident to file a personal injury lawsuit.