Cat bite personal injury claim...

by Dianne
(Miami, Florida, USA)

In January 2011, I was bit by a neighbor's cat. The cat was on my property and appeared friendly so I pet the cat and it suddenly bit my lower forearm and wrist area. It resulted in a seven day hospitalization, two I&Ds and a synovectomy.

I am a court reporter and was out of work for 1 month, bit on my dominant hand (left). My attorney says the homeowner and tenant both have insurance, but the claim was denied, partly because we did not establish whose cat it was, that cat did not have a history of attacking others and nobody witnessed it.

I have approximately $43,000 in hospital bills. My attorney said I have substantial damages, but liability is a problem. Also, Animal Control documented that the cat appeared friendly and upon petting it, I was bitten.

My attorney is going to send a final demand to the insurance company. I have taken numerous pictures of this cat in my house and on my property. He gets in through the sliding doors. The owner has had this cat for only one year. It is a large male and not neutered. He is an aggressive cat.

I did confront the owner, asking if she owns a large gray and white male cat. As we were speaking, the cat walked towards us. I said, that's the cat, and she admitted it was her cat. My attorney also advised me to try to get a picture of the cat leaving the owner's premises.

What are my options if the claim is again denied? And with this information, would you have handled the case in the same manner? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Cat Bite Personal Injury Claim...":

Dianne (Miami, FL):

Presuming you had not been harboring a previous infection it appears the offending cat’s bite infected a localized area of your wrist. Without the incision and drainage (or “I and D”) procedures your blood cells might have carried the infection throughout your entire body; an occurrence which is usually life threatening. As you well know those procedures can be quite uncomfortable, and even painful.

The Synovectomy procedure performed indicates the previous infection may have already damaged some of the localized membranes necessitating their removal.

Your attorney seems to clearly understand the difficulty with this case. She has correctly surmised the cause and effect, or what we attorneys call the “But for” effect. There is no doubt you suffered serious and even life threatening injuries. The next step though is the most crucial.

Causal effect is paramount in establishing liability. In other words your attorney must be able to convince an insurance adjuster, or even a judge, that "but for" the cat biting and infecting you, you would not have suffered nor continued to experience the Pain and Suffering and actual damages such as emergency room bills, hospital and pharmacy bills, and even the parking lot and gasoline costs you expended as a result of your injury.

The statement from Animal Control indicating they believed the cat to be friendly should be of little effect, as even Pit Bulls can appear docile right before one jumps up and takes a bite out of its victim.

If your insurance claim is denied you will have three options. The first will be to walk away and forget about the entire matter. The second would be filing a lawsuit against the cat owner. The third would be to dismiss your present attorney and attempt to hire a new one who might have another perspective on the case. At this point we believe dismissing your present attorney to be ill-advised.

Remember if you do seek another attorney your first attorney will most probably retain a 1/3rd claim on the settlement or court awarded judgment.

It seems to us your attorney is doing everything she can at this point, and would recommend you stay with her. She will get you where you need to be.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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