NeuwirthLawCase Matters, For Lawyers

I love a good dog bite case. There really is no defense to the claims and so it is really just a question of how much money the insured dog owner has on their policy. The risk in these cases is the lack of insurance. What is the best dog bite case? Well, the easy ones are where a pit bull bites your client out on the street, preferably in Wynnewood. Why? Well, you have a dangerous seeming breed, in a well-off neighborhood meaning there is likely insurance coverage for the dog owner’s negligence, and the dog is not on their own property. What is the worst case? We run into a lot of trouble pursuing these cases when a landlord rents out a property and is arguably unaware of the dog and may even have a no dog policy written into the lease. The out of possession landlord has a variety of defenses here, but most rental landlords are somewhat involved with their properties and may over the course of the case be shown to be aware of the dog. Once you have that fact established, then the type of dog and prior aggressiveness will come into play. A labradoodle is not your ideal dog bite defendant.

I was recently contacted about a case where a mailman was bitten on his route. This is initially a workers compensation case, because the mailman was working at the time of the incident. But, workers compensation does not compensate for pain and suffering.  It only compensates for lost wages and medical bills. You have to file a personal injury claim to get pain and suffering damages. Nevertheless, despite any possible humor about the mailman being bitten is part of the job, the focus really is on the dog. This is why the cases are indefensible.

What sort of defense can the insurer put up? The dog cannot testify or be cross-examined. Why a dog goes and bites someone is wholly unknowable when you get down to it. Your client can always say he or she did not provoke the dog and the dog cannot dispute that. The owner could, but really defending the dog is a lost cause.

The other interesting aspect of these cases is often aggressiveness. Owners may be used to the dog and its habits, but strangers and property boundaries that are important to the dog may be unwitting traps for the mailman. Further, triggering actions for the dog may be wholly unknowable to the mailman. Most people with large dangerous dogs could have really good control over them when the dog is leashed, but off leash control really takes some professional training and most every bite case involves a lack of control.

So, even if these cases go into suit, meaning they cannot be settled before filing the case in court, they are going into suit for the purpose of having a full examination by the Insurer’s lawyer of the injured Plaintiff, the circumstances of the event and the severity of the injury. I have never heard of dog bite cases in Pennsylvania going to a jury on the simple facts like those above. Even were a landlord to fight a case because of a lack of knowledge that the tenant had a dog, I would guess that most jurors put landlords on the same plane as lawyers and politicians in terms of their sympathy and concern for them as trustworthy sympathetic and believable witnesses.