Dog bites are some of the worst accidents that can strike unsuspecting people. Larger dogs can bite, tear, twist, and crush limbs.
Even smaller dogs can take a big bite out of your arm or leg and leave you with a terrible infection.
If you want compensation for a dog bite, you will need to navigate an oftentimes confusing legal system.
Fortunately, a lawyer from the Harris Law Firm can help.
Receive Medical Attention
Your first step is to try and recover physically from the injury. Stop bleeding by applying pressure to wounds and keep bleeding limbs elevated. If the bite is severe, then ask someone to call emergency services so you can be transported to the hospital.
If the bite is minor, clean the wound as soon as it stops bleeding. Use soap and water and cover the bite with a sterile bandage. Because the risk of infection is high, you should still probably see a doctor. If your wound swells or reddens, then that is a sign of infection.
Document Your Injuries
It can take months or longer to resolve a dog bite lawsuit. During that time, your injuries will probably fade, so you want to fully document them while they are fresh. Take pictures of all wounds and abrasions. Take the pictures from many different angles and distances so that the wounds are well documented.
You can document your physical and emotional pain by keeping a journal. Each day, note how you are feeling both physically and emotionally. If you feel pain, note the location and its severity and identify whether the pain keeps you from pursuing your favorite hobbies.
You should also document the events surrounding the injury. For example, you might want to collect:
- Pictures of the property where you were bitten.
- The names of witnesses who saw the dog bite you.
- The names of people who live near the dog, such as neighbors, even if they were not witnesses to the attack.
Hire a Mississippi Dog Bite Lawyer
A lawyer is a huge help when fighting for compensation for your injuries. A lawyer understands the legal process and also knows how to collect evidence to build a strong case. Schedule a free consultation with the lawyer to discuss the case. The lawyer can tell you whether you have a valid claim for financial compensation and can also identify what additional evidence you need to strengthen your case.
Avoid delay. Mississippi law gives dog bite victims only three years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit. If you miss this deadline, a judge will dismiss your lawsuit.
Make a Demand for Compensation
Your lawyer will submit a letter to the dog owner demanding compensation. This letter should explain your injuries and discuss how they have disrupted your life. If the dog owner has homeowners’ insurance, then your lawyer will submit your letter to them.
The dog owner or insurer can reject your request for compensation or make a counteroffer. Your lawyer can analyze whether the counteroffer is fair or whether you should reject it and propose another number. Negotiation involves back-and-forth, which takes time. With luck, however, you can settle your case and avoid the expense and delay of a trial.
File a Lawsuit
If you couldn’t settle the suit, you should file a lawsuit in court. You start the legal process by filing a complaint in court. In this document, you explain the circumstances surrounding the attack and make a demand for compensation.
After filing, you must send a copy to the dog owner along with other legal paperwork so that the defendant can respond. Your lawyer will coordinate the service of this paperwork.
Engage in Fact Finding
To receive compensation for a dog bite in Mississippi, you must show that the owner knew that their dog had a propensity to be violent. If the owner had no reason to believe this, then you cannot win a lawsuit for compensation. This is called the “one bite” rule—meaning, the dog gets one “free” bite before the owner is legally liable for any future dog bite injuries.
Different kinds of aggressive behavior should put owners on notice that their dog has a propensity to bite. Examples include:
- Biting at least one other person before you
- Snapping at other people
- Growling or acting aggressively at other people
- Lunging at people
Helpfully, most lawsuits have a fact-finding phase called “discovery.” In discovery, your lawyer can request information from the other side, such as information about whether the dog has bitten or acted aggressively toward anyone else. Your lawyer can also interview neighbors about whether they have ever seen the dog act aggressively.
During discovery, the dog owner can request information from you as well, such as proof of your injuries and any economic loss caused by the dog bite. You might also need to answer questions under oath in a “deposition.” Your lawyer will make sure you comply with these discovery requests.
Argue Pretrial Motions
Often, disputes crop up between you and the other side. For example, the dog owner might not want to hand over documents relating to the dog’s medical history. In these situations, you need a judge to intervene and rule on the dispute.
You might also file a motion for summary judgment after discovery ends. In this motion, you argue that there is no reason for a trial because the evidence is entirely in your favor. Don’t be surprised if the defense files this motion. The judge will hold a hearing and, if the summary judgment motions are denied, you will schedule a trial.
Reach a Settlement
You can settle a case at any time—before filing a lawsuit, during discovery, or after discovery. Many defendants only feel an incentive to settle after losing a motion for summary judgment. At that point, a trial is unavoidable, so they try to settle the case. After reaching an agreement, you will sign a settlement agreement which will identify how much compensation you get. You also need to sign a waiver promising not to sue the dog owner again for this dog bite.
Go to Trial
At trial, you have the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the dog was dangerous and that it bit you. You can present witness testimony and documents that back up your claim. The dog owner’s lawyer can cross-examine your witnesses and present their own witnesses.
You can have a jury trial if you want or you can have a judge decide the case (called a “bench trial.”) At the close of evidence, the judge or jury will read the verdict. Whichever side loses can usually bring an appeal.
Speak with an Experienced Dog Bite Lawyer in Mississippi
Dog bites leave their victims with many scars—physical, mental, and emotional. Fortunately, Mississippi allows victims to seek compensation in the courts. For help getting the justice you deserve, reach out to the Harris Law Firm today for a free case evaluation.