Bartis Law Office, PLLC

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Bartis Law Office, PLLC

Comparative or contributory negligence does apply to dog bite cases. It’s going to be a fact-based argument. For example, kids are going to be kids, but what happens when neighborhood kids get together and tease a neighbor’s dog? What happens if they tease the dog through the chain link fence? What if they’re doing something to entice the dog to get riled up like rattling the chain link fence, running a stick up and down the chain link fence, and/or dangling something over the fence? Of course, that’s going to be examined. Ultimately, the homeowner at first blush is going to be 100% liable for the dog. They’re going to examine whether the fence was closed; what was the height of the fence? Low enough for a kid to climb or reach over? Why were kids able to get up close to the dog? What steps did the dog owner take to prevent a situation like this? All of these factors are going to be examined.

However, at the end of the day, if you’re enticing the dog, teasing the dog, trespassing into an area that you shouldn’t, then yes, there could be a comparative analysis applied to your case and limit the damages awarded.

Can I Negotiate With The Dog Owner Directly Instead Of Hiring A Lawyer And filing A Claim?

It may be easier to negotiate with the dog owner directly instead of hiring a lawyer and filing a claim, but you will not be getting the recovery that is rightfully owed to you. Some of that recovery may be subject to recapture by insurance company creditors. Thus, when someone gets bit by a dog, the police are going to be involved. The police will take a report and obtain documentation to confirm that the dog has the appropriate health certificates and shots. If the dog does not have the appropriate health certificates and shots, they have an obligation to notify the victim of the dog bite so that appropriate medical treatment can be applied. The victim of the dog bite or the parent of the victim can certainly contact the dog owner’s insurance carrier and look to settle the case. But at that point, the extent of the damages is unknown.

Oftentimes, an offer is presented. Somebody sees a cash grab or wants to resolve it, put this matter to bed, or have closure on the case, and the extent of the injury that the child sustained is not fully known. Will it cause infection in the future? Will it cause permanent scarring? Will some type of cosmetic surgery need to be done to remove the scarring? Will some type of counseling be necessary to address the needs of that child for fear of animals in the future? Settling too soon might not give you enough recovery in your pocket. Secondly, the recovery in your pocket is subject to recapture. The insurance company can ask – why are we paying out health insurance costs to Mr. and Mrs. Victim? The only reason Mr. and Mrs. victims were injured is due to a third-party’s negligence. The third-party needs to be responsible for paying the health insurance company back. For example, Blue Cross health insurance, hypothetically, pays out for Mr. and Mrs. victim’s injuries. Blue Cross is going to say we as a company is out of dollars and cents, we’re happy to pay it to our customers, but we now want to go after the homeowner’s insurance company to put money back into Blue Cross’s pocket. The only reason that Blue Cross paid it out was because the homeowner was liable and their client Mr. Victim did nothing wrong.

Therefore, if you settled your case too quickly, and your health insurance carrier calls and says that they want the money back because the only reason they paid it was because of the homeowner, you may be paying a health insurance carrier back on treatment that you’ve already received. Another error that a lot of people make is that as parents, they take the money from an injured child. That is not appropriate, and that is technically against the law in New Hampshire. Even though you are the parent or guardian of the child, it is still the child’s money. Any money that the child would receive for pain and suffering and future medical costs need to be escrowed. It needs to be monitored by the court. You also have to file annual reports to show that there is money put away for the child, or that it’s in a structured settlement so that the child will not receive these funds until he or she is of age. If the child was the person injured in the accident, the parents cannot spend it on something else like bills, expenses or vacations. It is the child’s monetary award.

Consequently, this system and these types of scenarios are fraught with problems and situations where an innocent parent and victim could be led down the wrong road. They could be missing out on receiving recovery to the fullest extent, having to pay the money back, and getting in trouble with the local court for not escrowing funds for the child. People ask – how is that ever going to happen? Well, the moment that parents get divorced a lot of things tends to come out in the open. One parent can accuse the other parent by saying that he or she used the child’s money to pay off credit card debt or purchase luxury items. Now, you’re in divorce court reopening a personal injury case, and that’s going to be a nightmare.

Therefore, in conclusion, always use an attorney. Make sure that the funds are escrowed for the child, and make sure that you’ve addressed any type of lien or repayment back to the health insurance company acting as a creditor.

For more information on Comparative Negligence In Dog Bite Cases, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (603) 267-4436 today.

Robert Bartis, Esq.

Contact For A Personalized Case Evaluation
(603) 267-4436