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In the aftermath of a dog bite and attack, you’re likely facing lingering pain and discomfort as the result of your injuries, and wondering what lies ahead. You may be suffering psychological trauma - a dog attack is a traumatic event, and one that isn’t soon forgotten. As you begin the process of healing, moving forward with your attorney in seeking compensation for your injuries can go a long way towards easing your mind and providing you with a sense that justice has been served. At the same time, litigation can be a lengthy process. Here’s what to expect moving forward, and the steps you can take to facilitate healing.
Dog owners are liable for the vicious actions of their animals under the New Jersey Statutes, section 4:19-16, provided the person did nothing to provoke the attack. In seeking payment for damages from the dog owner, your attorney will first begin by thoroughly investigating your case. We’ll look at any evidence, such as pictures of your wounds and medical bills and physician reports for treatment. We’ll talk to any witnesses of the attack, and get statements. Often times, a dog owner will be covered in the event their dog attacks someone through their homeowners insurance company. Unfortunately, it is often the case that, while the insurance company may be willing to settle your claim for a certain amount of money, the amount they are offering will fall far short of the actual amount of damages you may have suffered. It is at this point that a civil lawsuit may be initiated.
Filing a Complaint: In order to receive compensation for damages as a result of the attack, you would be required to initiate a personal injury case with the filing of a complaint. The person filing a complaint is the plaintiff, and the person against whom the complaint is filed is the defendant. Your attorney will file the complaint on your behalf, and the complaint will include the following information:
The cause of the action, which would be the attack and the injuries suffered as a result;
A statement establishing jurisdiction in order for the court to hear the case;
A statement regarding the relief that is being sought, such as payment for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering; and
A request for the judge to grant the relief.
Once filed, the complaint is then served upon the defendant, often by a sheriff, along with a summons, which informs the person being served that a civil case has been filed against them. The defendant then has 30 days in which to provide an answer to the complaint through their own attorney - or the attorney for the insurance company - in which they admit or deny the charges filed against them.
Discovery: The period known as discovery in civil cases is when each side submits to questioning and discloses any evidence they have pertaining to the case. The discovery period can be particularly lengthy, lasting as long as 300 days. During this time you may be required to give sworn statements attesting to the circumstances surrounding your injury, as well as provide medical documentation in support of your claims.
Arbitration: The court will assign an arbitrator and schedule a date for an arbitration hearing. The arbitrator is an attorney appointed by the court who will impartially meet with the attorneys and case parties. He or she will hear the issues surrounding the case, and make recommendations on how the case should be settled. Arbitration is not binding, so if you or your attorney don’t agree with the opinion of the arbitrator, a jury trial can be requested.
Jury Trial: Prior to a trial, you will be scheduled to meet with the judge for a settlement conference, a final effort to settle the case before the jury trial is scheduled. Oftentimes, case can be settled at this time. If not, the jury selection process will begin, and a trial will be scheduled.
There are two types of damages you may be entitled to receive for your injuries: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages involve direct financial losses, such as medical bills and expenses, lost wages, and any form of temporary or permanent disability. Non-economic damages are those things you can’t put an exact price on: loss of enjoyment of life or hobbies as the result of your injuries, as well as pain and suffering, both physical and mental.
In calculating both types of damages, it’s important to be thorough. Physical damages as a result of your injuries may require ongoing physical therapy, pain medicine, and even surgeries such as skin and bone grafts. Emotional damages as the result of dog bites and attacks may be severe enough to warrant visits to therapists, counselors, and the need for anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications.
The physical wounds resulting from a dog attack can take a long time to heal. Often times, victims are left with scars and disabilities that they never recover from. Dealing with the long term ramifications of your injuries is hard enough, but there is also the emotional trauma of having been through a dog attack, and victims often report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. In dealing with the after effects of your attack, follow these steps to help you heal both physically and emotionally:
Be patient with yourself and give yourself time.
Realize that recovery might be slow, but you will get back to feeling ‘normal’ again.
Don’t berate yourself for how you feel. Accept any feelings of anger or fear as being natural after what you’ve suffered.
See your doctor regularly, follow their suggestions, and take medicines exactly as prescribed.
Realize you are not the only person who has been through something like this. Look for bite victim support groups, and don’t be afraid to talk about what happened to you with others.
If you’ve been injured as the result of a dog bite or attack, contact The Pearce Law Firm today. Our experienced New Jersey dog bite attorneys can provide you with the compassionate, caring service you deserve, with the aggressive legal representation you need at a time like this. Call our office today for a free consultation.