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What to Do After a Dog Bites You

How to File a Dog Bite Injury Claim

Each year, roughly 4.5 million people are bitten by a dog. These bites can lead to all sorts of complications, ranging from severe infections to PTSD. If you want to get compensation for your injuries, you need to know how to file a dog bite lawsuit.

Document Your Injuries

Often, the very first step to filing a claim is just documenting everything you can as soon as possible. This step is important because it is surprisingly easy to forget essential details after the fact. If possible, make sure you get contact information for any witnesses at the scene of the injury. Seeking medical care is always a good idea because it gets you appropriate treatment and adds official documentation to your records. Try to take pictures of the affected area both when the injury occurs and as it heals.

File an Official Report of the Dog Bite

Once you have sought adequate medical care for your injuries, you need to report the problem to the authorities. This starts a paper trail that can eventually be important for your case. It also ensures that the dog's owner starts taking appropriate steps to manage the dangerous animal. The agency you report the issue to will depend on your local government. In some places, you might call the police department, while in others, animal control or the county health department may handle your case. If you are unsure, you can always call animal control and ask how to report a dog bite. Depending on your region, you may just be able to call in the report, but some areas will need you to fax in a form or fill out an online document.

Understand How Dog Bite Laws Work in Your Area

Before you file, it can be useful to understand how that type of lawsuit works. In dog bite cases, you typically need to prove a few key things:
  • You were bitten by a dog.
  • The dog bites caused some sort of injury, whether it be physical or mental.
  • You were bitten due to some sort of negligence.
  • The person you are suing is the person who was negligent.
Ultimately, most cases spend a lot of time focusing on the idea of negligence. The person who owns or otherwise cares for the dog may be negligent if they fail to properly confine their dog on their premises or keep it on a leash when it leaves the property. Furthermore, Pennsylvania law states that the dog owner will be liable if the dog severely attacks a person or if the dog has bitten someone before the current attack.

Consult With a Personal Injury Lawyer

Fortunately, you never have to figure out Pennsylvania dog bite laws on your own. When you have an experienced Allentown personal injury attorney, you can get help with all the legal details of a case. It is a good idea to contact a lawyer as soon as you possibly can. They can help you navigate every step of the process. Typically, the process will start with an initial consultation. You can discuss your situation with them, and they will let you know if they think you have a case. If they agree to take you on as a client, you can then give the lawyer the go-ahead on your case. They will notify the person who is liable for your injuries about their plans to file, and they will file preliminary documents with the court.

Gather Information to Prove Your Case

A lot of the work that goes into a personal injury lawsuit is simply collecting the information that your lawyer uses to argue in your favor. If you have already begun to document your injuries, you already have a head start on your case. Your lawyer may further help by recommending specialists who can document your injuries. They may subpoena witnesses to provide official statements, and they can also formally request other evidence like security camera footage or past records of the dog. Expect this stage to last for quite a while. Gathering evidence is important both in proving that the other party was negligent and in showing the extent of your injuries. By carefully documenting the full impact of the dog attack, you may be able to argue successfully for more compensation.

Try to Negotiate a Settlement

The majority of dog bite lawsuits do not actually go to trial. Instead, most of them end up being settled. A settlement happens when the other side recognizes the validity of your claims and suggests paying you a set amount to avoid all the hassle of a long, drawn-out legal battle. Settlement negotiations are usually far shorter than an actual court proceeding, but it can still take some time. Either side may suggest an offer, and then there may be various counteroffers to go over. The settlement is only complete if both sides agree to the settlement and sign the necessary documents. When you are negotiating a settlement, there may be several different parties you and your lawyer will talk to. In addition to discussing things with the owner of the dog, you might also be negotiating with their insurance company. Many homeowners have liability insurance, so the second a personal injury claim is filed against them, their insurance company will get involved.

File a Lawsuit

If you cannot reach an appropriate settlement that provides you with adequate compensation, your next step is to file a personal injury lawsuit. You will need do so within the statute of limitations. In most cases, this means you have two years from the date of the dog bite to file your lawsuit. Once filed, the court will set up a calendar which will indicate what steps need to be taken. This may involve submitting documents to the court, exchanging information with the other parties, and going through discovery. Eventually, you will have a court date, and the trial will commence.

Plead Your Case in Court

On your court date, you and the other party will both have turns to testify about what happened and the circumstances of the attack. You can display all the evidence you and your lawyer have collected and explain why you think you deserve compensation. The jury will consider your claims and make a decision on whether or not you should prevail. If you do, the amount that you are awarded can include reimbursement of medical expenses, an amount that might be needed for future care and treatment, lost wages, and pain and suffering, among other types of damages. Dog bite injury claims can be complex, but they do not have to be stressful or confusing. With an Allentown personal injury attorney on your side, it is easy to navigate every step of filing a personal injury lawsuit. At Metzger & Kleiner, our team of lawyers has plenty of experience with these sorts of cases. If you would like to discuss your case with an attorney, schedule a free consultation today. You can reach our Philadelphia office by calling us at 215-567-6616 or our Lehigh Valley office by calling us at 610-435-7400.

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