Legal Guide

Time Frame For Settling Dog Bite Cases

Just like other types of personal injury litigation, dog bite cases can essentially be settled at virtually any time between the bite event itself and the issuance of a verdict. However, there are certain points in time in which settlement is most likely for claims of this sort, and it is useful to examine what they might be.

Pre-Suit Dog Bite Settlements

When a dog owner and injury victim have a basic consensus on what occurred, which party was responsible or liable and the details of the harm sustained or losses incurred, it is often possible for a settlement to be reached without the need to file suit.

This tends to indicate that the injuries suffered were relatively minor and unlikely to get worse, that no prior injuries were exacerbated by the bite, that the dog owner was the only potentially liable party and that an insurance policy was in place to handle the claim. We will discuss the role insurance plays in injury case settlements a bit later.

Of course, cases of this nature in which liability seems obvious will still require evidence in terms of causation and losses, meaning that there may need to be written eyewitness statements, photographic documentation of the scene, medical records, proof of lost earnings and the like. When all of this is accessible, there are few remaining issues for resolution through a lawsuit. It should not take more than 30-90 days to determine whether settlement can be achieved during this period.

Discovery And Motion Practice

Once a plaintiff files a dog bite lawsuit, the discovery stage will commence. This is when each side works to collect information for use at trial. This can include sworn testimony of witnesses and parties as well as the submission of written interrogatories or questions for the parties to answer. Greater detail will be provided later on about the types of questions typically asked of plaintiffs in dog bite case depositions. At this point in the case, critical questions pertaining to liability will come into sharper focus, as will questions relating to the true extent of injuries claimed by the plaintiff.

As an illustrative example, if the plaintiff was revealed during discovery to have approached the dog in question while it was on a leash and after the owner issued a verbal warning, it can become apparent that liability was at the very least shared. It may even emerge that the plaintiff was the real cause of his or her own injuries due to the conduct in which they engaged prior to the bite.

Discovery tends to take approximately six months to a year after the initial filing of a lawsuit. Once this phase has concluded, if the defendant dog owner and his or her insurance carrier have determined that the plaintiff has failed to plead the necessary elements of the claim, they will be able to argue a motion for summary judgment of the case in their favor. If granted, the case will effectively come to an end without the plaintiff receiving any award of damages.

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