How strong is my personal injury case?
by Dog Bite Victim
BACKGROUND: I was living with a friend of mine at the time, now a former friend, and we were each renting our own room from the owner of the house.
We knew we had to keep our dogs separated at all times due to a previous attack by her dog against mine, which resulted in my dog needing stitches, and it was a constant effort to manage things in a way that prevented them from ever interacting. Her dog had also previously attacked one of their family dogs, leaving a gash with ribs exposed.
Unfortunately, both attacks were off record since nobody ever contacted the police or animal control services and no lawsuits or claims were ever filed. My dog is happy, friendly, and loving, with no history of aggressive behavior.
INCIDENT: One evening a few months ago, I had let her dog out back to run around for a while since she had been inside all day. A little bit later, without thinking, I accidentally opened the door to let my dog outside, forgetting that her dog was already outside, at which point my roommate's dog immediately charged and attacked my dog, resulting in a fight breaking out.
I panicked for fear that my dog would be mauled even worse this time, so I ran in to break them apart. In the process of trying to separate them, I sustained a tooth puncture to the bone in my wrist, and the tip of my finger was torn deeply. After the shock wore off, I realized how severe my injuries were, and I rushed to the ER.
DAMAGES: The finger required multiple stitches, and my nerve damage may be permanent. Physical therapy was prescribed, but I never went because I can't afford it. I do not have medical insurance. Full fingertip mobility might never be restored.
The wrist required surgery. They had to put me under, open and enlarge the wound, go in and clean out the bone puncture, and stitch me back up.
I could no longer work at either of my 2 part-time non-benefit jobs for at least 2 months time, and I had no sick/vacation time, savings, or other means of income. I had nightmares of dog attacks every single night for months, and the psychological damage to myself and my dog could affect us for years to come.
PROBLEM: Needless to say, I now have an outrageous collection of medical bills, and of course I cannot afford them.
My questions are:
1) Is it worth it for me to pursue a claim with the homeowner's insurance company?
2) Does the fact that her dog's vicious history had never been formally logged render my claim useless, since she could argue to have had no previous knowledge of her dog's aggressive tendencies?
3) Does the fact that I accidentally let both dogs outside at the same time automatically release her (and her insurance company) of all liability?
4) If she argues that the injuries I sustained were accidentally inflicted by MY own dog's teeth during the fight, since it can't be proven either way, does this render my case useless?
5) Should I contact the homeowner's insurance company directly before even notifying the owner of my intent to pursue a claim?
6) If the homeowner is unwilling to cooperate, how can I go about getting the name of her homeowner's insurance provider?
Thank you SO VERY MUCH for any information you have to offer.
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ANSWER for "Dog bite victim asks: How Strong Is My Personal Injury Case?":
Dog Bite Victim (USA):
ANSWER 1 It is definitely worth pursuing a claim with the homeowner's insurance company. That is exactly what homeowners insurance is for.
ANSWER 2 The lack of previous documented evidence of the dog's viciousness will not render your claim useless. You were bitten. It's as simple as that.
ANSWER 3 Unless someone can prove your intention when letting the dogs out was to engage them in battle - Something akin to a “cock fight”– you have nothing to worry about. From what you've told us no one would believe you let the dogs out purposely; especially because of their history of fighting.
ANSWER 4 This will be the toughest obstacle to overcome. And it won't be easy. Convincing the insurance company's Claims Adjuster, or in the case of a lawsuit, the Jury, that the neighbor's dog is the one who caused the puncture wound will be extremely difficult.
Your own words underscore the dilemma. "In the process of trying to separate them, I sustained a tooth puncture to the bone in my wrist, and the tip of my finger was torn deeply”. You say “I sustained” instead of “the other dog bit me".
The only witnesses are you and the dogs…. And, as they say, they ain’t talkin'.
And if you are thinking about comparing the dogs’ dental impressions, forget about it. It would take substantial attorney's fees and court hearings. And then the chance of a judge letting the comparisons into evidence is remote.
ANSWER 5 Yes, contact the homeowner's insurance company immediately. The sooner you begin the claims process, the better. Once you've contacted them a Claims Adjuster will be assigned to investigate the case. The sooner you cooperate with the Adjuster, the sooner you will learn if they will accept liability on behalf of their insured, or if you will need to consider legal action.
ANSWER 6 Without cooperation, getting the name of the homeowner's insurance company will be difficult, but not impossible.
If the homeowner won't cooperate, go to your local tax assessor's office. Look up the address and read the titling documents. Normally when a home is purchased the bank or mortgage company insists on proof of homeowners insurance. There is always a chance the homeowner changed policies since the purchase, but it's certainly worth a try.
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,
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