Dogs provide many meaningful attributes and experiences to the families who love them. However, any dog can bite someone if put in the right (or wrong) circumstances.
If a dog bites you causing injury, you may seek compensation for the expenses and effects from the dog owner's homeowner's or renter's liability insurance.
An experienced Largo dog bite lawyer from Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, can help you understand this process and how our legal team can assist you with your claim.
Working With Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
Physical and financial recovery is crucial after an accident resulting in injury. At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we are champions of the wrongfully injured. No matter whether you have been bitten by a dog or hit by a car, our team of experienced lawyers is standing by to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.
Though we cannot make any promises about the outcome of your case, we can assure you that we will bring the same knowledge, know-how, and vigor that we do to all our cases.
The Dangers of Dog Bites in Largo
There are around 37,000 households in Largo with many family types. While there are a wide variety of families, about 40 percent of all households in Florida have dogs.
Largo is a pet-friendly city, with many hotels, AirBnBs, and businesses that cater to pets and their owners. Additionally, eight beaches in the area allow visitors to bring their pets. Unfortunately, while many visitors and residents welcome these pet-friendly policies, they also increase the risk of dog bites.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs bite more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. annually. Around one out of every five bites requires medical attention, and any bites that break the skin risk infection from dangerous bacteria. Serious dog bites can result in permanent scarring, broken bones, damage to the eyes or teeth, and even death.
Pinellas County's animal services department provides Largo's animal control services. Pinellas County forbids dog owners to allow their pets off leash off their property. Dog bites often occur when people violate this requirement.
Why Do Dogs Bite?
Dogs may bite because:
- Someone or something startles the dog.
- The dog acts to protect itself, its owner, puppies, or the property.
- The dog is tired or not feeling well.
- The dog plays rough.
The Injuries Commonly Incurred Due to Dog Bites
Dogs can inflict serious bodily injury with their bite. The most common areas where people suffer dog bites are on their legs or neck. Several important bodily structures are in these areas, including major blood vessels and nerves.
The neck contains the esophagus—the tube through which food travels from the mouth to the stomach—and the trachea (windpipe), which allows air to pass from an individual's mouth or nose to their lungs. Bites resulting in injuries to these major vessels or organs can result in severe or even fatal injuries.
Other injuries that can result from a dog bite include:
- Severe damage to the skin and soft tissues as a result of punctures, lacerations, or even the tearing away of part of the skin.
- Broken bones due to the significant force placed from the dog's strong jaws.
- Nerve damage resulting in the loss of function or sensation in the part of the body that sustained the bite.
- Damage to the eyes or teeth from the bite. When a dog bites a child, the injuries often occur to the face due to the child's small stature and the face's proximity to the dog's mouth.
- The potential for life-changing or fatal infections, including rabies, tetanus, capnocytophaga, and sepsis.
Florida Laws About Seeking Compensation After a Dog Bite
Florida follows strict liability rules as they pertain to dog bites. This rule means that claimants can seek compensation for the expenses and effects of their injury without having to prove that the owner knew that the dog was capable of biting.
The dog owner is not liable for the injury if:
- The dog bite involved a dog working in an official capacity for law enforcement or the military.
- The bite occurred while the victim was trespassing on the dog owner's property or committing a crime.
- The dog bite victim was teasing or provoking the dog.
The Personal Injury Claims Process in Largo
Through Largo personal injury claims process, individuals who suffer injuries due to a dog bite can seek compensation for the expenses they incur from the accident and the resulting effects on their quality of life. This process consists of several parts, including:
An Investigation of the Claim
After suffering a dog bite injury in Largo, the injured party meets with an attorney for a free case evaluation.
This evaluation provides several benefits, including:
- The opportunity for the injured party to discuss their case with an experienced attorney and obtain answers to their legal questions about the personal injury claims process.
- Gaining information about the law firm and the attorney's experience with dog bite claims to help the claimant determine if they have the legal expertise to handle the case.
- An explanation of the contingent fee billing method that personal injury attorneys use to ensure all claimants have the right to legal counsel. The contingent fee arrangement allows the claimant to wait until their claim positively resolves through a settlement or court award before paying for the attorney's services.
- The opportunity to enter into an agreement where the attorney assists the claimant in their quest for compensation.
Once the claimant and the attorney decide to work together on the claim, the attorney and their legal team will thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding the dog bite. This investigation will help determine who is liable and the liability insurance policy that the dog owner has to compensate the claim.
Determining the Claim's Value
A Largo dog bite lawyer will generally wait until the claimant reaches maximum medical improvement before valuing the case. Maximum medical improvement refers to the point in the claimant's recovery in which their physician determines that they reach the highest possible recovery possible, even if treatment continues. This marker is a prime time to value the claim, as there is a clearer picture of the expenses and effects the claimant has and will endure and the ability to recognize permanent injuries that will affect the claimant's ability to earn an income in the future.
The claim's value is not determined solely by adding up the claimant's medical expenses and wage loss stemming from the injury. Other factors also come into play, including the severity of the injury, the recklessness exhibited by the dog's owner (such as knowingly allowing a vicious dog to wander at large), and the amount of insurance coverage available for compensation.
Demanding Payment from the At-Fault Party's Insurance Provider
Once a Largo dog bite lawyer values the claim, they will submit a demand for the full value from the at-fault party's insurer. The insurance company will assign the claim to one of their claims adjusters, who will analyze it and determine how much compensation (if any) they owe to the claimant. The insurance provider can either accept the claim as submitted, deny the claim and provide the claimant with an explanation of the denial, or offer to settle the claim outside of court for less than its established value.
Negotiating a Settlement
An out-of-court settlement is the most common resolution to a personal injury claim, as it allows both parties to avoid the time, stress, and expense of litigation. Most initial settlement offers made by claims adjusters are far below the claim's established value. An attorney can negotiate with the claims adjuster to get them to increase their offer to an amount that fairly compensates the claimant for their injury. Settlement negotiations can occur anytime between the demand to an insurer until a court decides on a personal injury lawsuit.
The attorney and legal team will gather evidence from the initial investigation. If the parties file the claim in court, the case will enter the discovery phase. During discovery, the attorney can depose the dog's owner or gather evidence from the at-fault party, their insurance provider, or legal counsel. Because of the strict liability rule, the needed evidence includes only enough to prove that the bite occurred while the victim was on public property or legally on private property, including the private residence where the dog lives.
Filing a Largo Dog Bite Lawsuit
If the at-fault party's insurance provider fails to compensate the claim fairly, the claimant can file it as a personal injury lawsuit. This lawsuit is a legal claim filed in civil court that asks a judge or jury to determine liability and compensation. The statute of limitations on Largo dog bite claims is usually four years after the date on which the injury occurred. Failing to file the lawsuit within this time results in a lost ability to use the court process when seeking compensation. Because litigation is the only ramification the claimant has if the insurer fails to pay the claim, a claimant loses the opportunity for a settlement if the statute of limitations expires.
If the parties file a lawsuit and the insurer fails to offer fair compensation before trial, the claimant's attorney will perform several services to present the claim in court. These services include presenting evidence, examining witnesses, filing motions, and delivering opening and closing arguments.
When the dog bite claim resolves through either a settlement or court award, payment goes directly to the attorney. The attorney will deposit the proceeds of the settlement or award into a trust.
From this trust, they will deduct:
- A percentage of the award as payment for their services, as outlined in the contingent fee agreement with the claimant.
- Any amount necessary to satisfy medical liens placed on the award by health care or health insurance providers.
Once the payout satisfies these obligations, the attorney will meet with the claimant to finalize the case and release the remainder of the proceeds to the claimant.
Dog Bite in Largo? We Can Help
If a dog bite injures you, let an experienced Largo dog bite lawyer help you seek compensation for your injury. With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, at (866) 826-1298 or online.
Largo Office Location
10225 Ulmerton Rd, Building 6A-2
Largo, FL 33771
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