Located just minutes away in nearby Jonesboro, The Millar Law Firm has been handling dog bite cases for Ellenwood and other local communities for almost 30 years. Our attorneys take on dog bite claims both big and small, and we know how to achieve a successful settlement that makes you whole after an attack.
Dogs may be popular and beloved pets, but when they attack it can be a terrifying experience. Dog bite victims may be left with physical and emotional trauma that can be long lasting or even permanent. If you have suffered injuries from a dog bite, you may have a legal claim that entitles you to compensation from the dog owner.
In general, you can recover compensation from the dog owner whether the bite was severe or relatively minor. However, the amount of money you receive as a settlement will be based on the seriousness of your injuries and the impact of the attack on your life. An experienced dog bite lawyer knows how to analyze the facts in each case to determine whether the victim may potentially achieve a settlement.
Like other neighborhoods throughout Georgia, Ellenwood has experienced a surge of dog ownership in recent years as more people adopted pets during the pandemic. Unfortunately, more dogs in Ellenwood neighborhoods also means an increase in dog bites and related injuries for residents.
How Our Lawyers Work Hard to Achieve a Dog Bite Settlement
Being the victim of a dog attack can be traumatic and painful, and having to fight the insurance company to get fair compensation for your injuries is the last thing you need when you are healing. When you hire The Millar Law Firm, our attorneys go to work for you immediately, building a strong case so that you receive maximum compensation for your dog bite settlement.
Our lawyers work hard to achieve a dog bite settlement by:
Collecting Evidence to Prove Liability
If you have been bitten by a dog, your attorney should start collecting evidence as soon as possible after the attack. When you hire us, our legal team begins investigating right away to prove what happened and build your claim. Examples of evidence we gather include police reports, animal control reports, photographs, videos, witness statements, and medical records.
To prove liability in a dog bite claim, you must show either that 1) the dog had a dangerous nature that a reasonable owner would have known about, or 2) that the owner carelessly managed a dog that got loose or allowed it to roam free in violation of leash laws. Animal control records, videos, or witness statements from neighbors may help prove that the dog was allowed to roam free or that the owner carelessly managed to control it.
Evidence that shows the owner knew that the dog had bitten or chased people or killed pets on previous occasions may prove knowledge of the dog’s dangerous nature. O.C.G.A. § 4-8-21. In Georgia, owners must register their dogs as a “dangerous animal” after such an incident, and proof of this registration can help establish the owner’s liability if it attacks again.
Determining the Cost of the Dog Attack
When you have been injured in a dog attack, it can take time to properly assess your claim. Your compensation should include all the economic and noneconomic losses you have suffered as well as any future losses, such as ongoing medical or rehabilitation costs, decreased future earnings, and diminished quality of life.
If you accept payment from the insurance company too early, your settlement may not cover all your treatment and expenses because you may not know the full extent of your losses at the time. Unfortunately, once you agree to a settlement, you usually waive your right to any future compensation for the attack.
Our attorneys can determine the full value of your claim and help you understand your current and future losses before you accept a settlement offer. This process includes collecting all the bills and treatment costs associated with the attack, consulting with doctors and other experts to understand the cost of long-term injuries or scarring, and identifying the cost of your pain and suffering.
Finding All Available Insurance Coverage
The value of a dog bite claim can range from a few thousand dollars to several million dollars depending on the severity of injuries. If you have permanent or catastrophic injuries, it is crucial that your attorney identify all available insurance coverage to ensure you receive full compensation.
Typically, dog bites are covered by the dog owner’s homeowners liability insurance policy—this is true even if the attack happens somewhere other than at home or if the owner is not present. If the dog owner’s negligence caused your injuries, the insurance company is required to exhaust the policy to cover your costs. If your costs exceed the policy limit, however, you may be able to file a claim against another policy, such as a general umbrella policy, to recover the remaining amount.
Sometimes, more than one party may be held liable for a dog attack, which means more than one insurance policy applies to the claim. For example, if the dog attack happened at a store or other business, it is possible that both the dog owner and the business owner may be held liable. Our attorneys can help you identify all the parties who may be held responsible and communicate with their insurance companies to make sure they pay your full costs.
Negotiating with the Insurance Company
When it comes to dog bite claims, you can expect the insurance company to protect itself by trying to pay out as little as possible. Often, carriers will drag out the claims process or use certain tactics, such as denying a valid claim or offering a quick settlement that is far below what the claim is worth. Our attorneys know how to fight these tactics and are experienced in negotiating with insurance companies to ensure that they pay full compensation.
Collecting the right evidence and presenting it to the insurance company in a strong demand letter is crucial in getting maximum compensation. Our attorneys have almost 30 years of experience putting together dog bite demand letters and then working toward a settlement with insurance companies.
If I Hire a Lawyer, How Long Will It Take to Get Compensated?
When it comes to dog bite cases, how long it takes to get compensated varies greatly depending on your individual facts and circumstances. Factors such as physical injuries, medical expenses, amount of available insurance, and negligence mean that it can be hard to predict how long the settlement process will take. Some cases are settled in a matter of weeks or months, while others may take years to resolve.
If your dog bite claim can be settled without a lawsuit being filed, however, you will likely receive quicker compensation. When you are represented by an experienced dog bite attorney, your chances of reaching a fair and timely settlement agreement with the insurance company are much higher.
If your claim settles—and most do—it typically takes between 6 and 12 months to resolve. Even if your attorney must file a legal claim, your case may still be settled before reaching trial, though it usually takes longer to receive compensation in cases involving lawsuits for multiple reasons.
When you reach a settlement for your dog bite claim, this agreement will contain terms and conditions that determine how and when you will be compensated. Payment is usually made in one of two ways:
- Lump-sum payments, which are usually paid shortly after signing the agreement or
- Periodic payments, which require monthly or semi-monthly payments until the settlement amount is paid in full.
Cases involving minor children or incapacitated adults may require probate or state court approval. If a settlement requires court approval in Georgia, it typically takes two to four months to receive payment.
Only a small number of dog bite cases go to trial. If your case goes to trial, it may take months or years to conclude. Though insurance companies have 30 days to appeal, most carriers pay shortly after the final verdict. You may pursue collection on the judgment if the carrier does not pay promptly, but collection actions are rarely necessary.
In certain circumstances, you may be able to win a dog bite settlement without the help of a lawyer. For example, if the dog owner admits liability, your damages are straightforward, and the insurance company is motivated to make a generous settlement offer, you may not need a lawyer to receive a payout.
However, insurance companies are not known for their generosity—especially when the claim involves a victim with no legal representation—and dog owners are often unwilling to admit to being irresponsible with their pets. In addition, most people do not understand the full value of a dog bite claim because victims may be entitled to substantial damages for noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering, that can be hard to quantify. Without the help of an experienced dog bite attorney, you may leave a lot of money on the table trying to handle it on your own.
Yes. Even if the bite was minor, you can still hire a lawyer to represent you. An experienced dog bite lawyer can collect evidence, file a claim, and negotiate a settlement with the insurance company on your behalf. We provide a free consultation to help you review your options and decide whether you need a lawyer to handle your claim based on your individual circumstances.
When a dog injures someone because of its owner’s carelessness, the dog owner may be held liable for negligence in civil court. Generally, the dog owner’s insurance company pays for damages, but if the insurance policy does not fully cover the costs, the owner may have to pay the remaining amount out of their personal assets.
In addition, the owner could face criminal prosecution if the dog who caused the injury had been classified as dangerous or vicious. In that situation, the dog owner could be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the seriousness of the injuries and what the owner did or did not do prior to the attack. O.C.G.A. § 4-8-29.
If you have been bitten by a dog, there are certain circumstances that can ruin your legal claim and prevent you from receiving compensation. For example, if evidence shows that you provoked the dog or were trespassing on the owner’s property, you may be considered at fault for the attack (note that a different standard applies when the dog bite victim is a child). If you are deemed at fault, you cannot receive compensation.
Even if you were not at fault, it can be hard to prove what happened if you failed to report the attack to the police or animal control, did not cooperate with the investigation, or failed to seek medical attention. To build a successful claim, it is important to keep track of all your medical bills and records as well as documentation of lost wages. Because Georgia has a statute of limitations on dog bite claims (two years from the date of the attack), you must file a timely legal claim if you want to recover compensation for your costs.
Call The Millar Law Firm for a Free Consultation
If you have been attacked by a dog, you should speak to an experienced dog bite attorney as soon as possible. Our lawyers know how to recover maximum compensation for your injuries and can answer any questions you may have about your claim. Call The Millar Law Firm today at (770) 400-0000 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our attorneys.