Injured when my dog was attacked on a sidewalk by another dog...
(New Orleans, LA)
While walking my dog, a dog attached to a very long chain on a porch charged aggressively, resulting in dog-dog fight on the sidewalk in front of the house. Then a second, unleashed dog charged from the house, resulting in a 3-dog fight.
I pulled back on my dog's leash to separate her, but fell back into the street, shattering my elbow. I actually landed in front of the neighboring driveway. When the owner came out, she did not witness anything. There were no witnesses.
I required surgery to place a metal plate and several screws to hold the bones together. Now I'm facing months of physical therapy to get the use of my arm back. The dog owner is a student, a renter, with no insurance, so lawyers won't help me. The owner denies any fault, but to avoid going to court, has offered to pay half my medical expenses in installments over one year.
The contract she had drawn up relieves her of all liability and any future actions, and does not cover the possibility of her defaulting, my side is not protected at all. Should I sue? My total out of pocket for medical is $6,300, half would be $3,150. Pain and suffering is not mentioned in her papers.
What can I do?
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ANSWER for "Injured when my dog was attacked on a sidewalk by another dog...":
Anne (New Orleans, LA):
From the facts you present, if the dog owner has agreed to pay, that sounds like a bargain. You’ve already mentioned you can't find an attorney to accept your case. That is understandable as the student likely has little or no attachable assets, and no insurance.
This means your only realistic alternative would be to sue her in small claims court. In Louisiana, the jurisdictional limit (the maximum amount) a person can sue for is $3,000. In light of the fact the dog owner has agreed to pay more than you could possible sue her for in small claim court, your choice should be obvious.
There is an option, but it is not a realistic one. You could sue the woman in a higher court. Unfortunately, to do so you would have to know how to draft a lawsuit and then proceed to try the case in court. Unlike small claims court, higher courts do not "bend" the procedural and evidence rules.
As a result, you would likely find a judge to not be sympathetic with your lack of a law license. Moreover, if the judge realizes you could have settled the claim for half, the judge would likely suggest you dismiss the suit and accept the amount already offered by the student.
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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