Written by attorney Christopher Michael Davis

How to Determine the Value of a Dog Bite Case: No Two Cases Are Alike

No two dog bite cases are alike, even if the incident and/or injuries involved are nearly identical. This means that the evaluation of two cases where a dog attack occurred that appear to be similar on the surface may actually produce widely different evaluations due to plenty of different factors. For example, a dog bite that causes a permanent scar to a person who relies on his or her appearance for his or her livelihood (e.g., a model, television personality, etc.) will be worth much more than if the person works as a coal miner or construction worker.

People need to understand that evaluating dog bite cases takes a lot of knowledge, experience and some hard-earned intuition. Without these traits you may be at a serious disadvantage when negotiating with the dog owner's insurance company. And unless you are in the business of evaluating and settling dog bite cases for a living, you should look to an experienced personal injury attorney for guidance.

The dog owner's insurance company will evaluate the case by deciding the odds of winning against the range of a likely verdict. The company will decide on a settlement range that will always be less than the expected range of a jury's verdict. It's important to understand that the insurance company's settlement offer can never be introduced at trial. The jury will also never know that an insurance company exists, or how much the last offer was received. These facts are routinely kept away from the jury according to Washington State's rules governing the admissibility of evidence.

If the attorney for a dog bite victim makes a settlement demand that is too far over the insurance company's settlement range, then negotiation of the claim is usually terminated. You cannot ask for a huge amount of money and expect the insurance company to take you or your lawyer seriously. Insurance companies rigorously keep track of verdicts and settlements in similar types of cases. They also keep track of which attorneys will take cases to trial and how well they do. Consequently, those attorneys who have a good reputation as trial lawyers, with a proven track record, will usually command the best settlement offers from the insurance company.

In the end, the attorney must balance the risk of loss at trial, or the risk of a jury verdict for less than the last settlement offer, against the likelihood of a larger verdict being awarded. There is no magic formula for this analysis, and it is often an uncertain "guesstimate." That is why the wise person will usually consult with and retain an experienced attorney when it comes time to settle a dog bite case.

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