The Legal Insider

August 2012

Personal Injury: Dogged Preparation for Bites

People have been domesticating animals for centuries. You probably didn’t know that there are more than 65 million dogs in the US. Ownership of any animal entails a set of responsibilities to keep your family and friends safe.

Each summer it seems dog bite incidents continue to increase.  They account for roughly $480 million worth of medical attention for those unlikely enough to be bitten.

Even worse is the rise in personal injury claims. The average cost of a dog bite personal injury claim is $24,000. That’s a new car!  Additionally, you may be ordered to have your dog euthanized depending on the circumstances and frequency.

On average, 1 in 4 animal-related injuries result in some type of settlement or legal resolution. There are a handful of precautions every pet owner should take including obeying leash laws, keeping your backyard adequately fenced, and even dog training classes.  However, sometimes these events are unavoidable.

Below we’ve come up with a little acronym to help you remember how to deal with a dog bite:

  • Be as calm and accommodating to the victim as possible.
  • Instant medical attention. A doctor can immediately decipher if it’s a minor flesh wound or something more serious.
  • Take names and phone numbers of any witnesses.
  • Evaluate and keep quiet. You don’t want to be making statements that could later be used against you.
  • Save your animal's records. Proof of rabies shots and other medical records can be used as vital evidence in a personal injury claim.

DUI/DWI Timeline: It’s Not Just for Celebrities

DUI and DWI cases involve a wide range of factors, which are covered in state and local motor vehicle codes prohibiting driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Driving while intoxicated is prosecuted based on the level of intoxication, which intoxicants are used, and if you are arrested in conjunction with some other incident such as an accident or red light ticket.

DUI/DWI laws vary from state to state, but the process is basically the same. This means you would face the same steps below if you were featured in the Celebrity DUI Countdown on TMZ, the Illustrious 10 Funniest DUI Arrests, or just nabbed in your hometown on a normal Saturday night.

  1. Arrest—This is when you get your rights read to you and then taken “downtown.”
  2. Booking/Bail—After you’re arrested you are put in jail, or “the drunk tank.” The paperwork is then filed and you are told whether you will have to pay bail or not. This is when you should be contacting a lawyer.
  3. DUI/DWI Arraignment—You appear in front of a judge who formally reads your charges and you enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, etc.).
  4. Plea Bargaining—DUI/DWI defendants can be offered a lighter sentence in return for pleading guilty.
  5. Preliminary Hearing—The judge decides if there is sufficient evidence to conduct the trial.
  6. Pre-trial Motions—At this point you should have been working with a lawyer since your booking or, at the latest, arraignment. Your lawyer will submit motions regarding evidence, witnesses, and so on.
  7. DUI/DWI Trial—This is the day to shine for you and your lawyer. A decision of innocent or guilty is determined by a jury.
  8. DUI/DWI Sentencing—If found guilty, a judge formally sentences you to pay fines, go without your license, and/or be sent to jail.
  9. DUI/DWI Appeal—Petition for a higher court to examine your case and determine if there were legal errors.

Top 5 Most Super Important Things to Ask Your Lawyer

So you have some type of legal “situation” that must be resolved: divorce, personal injury claim, criminal charges like a felony or misdemeanor, maybe you’re just looking to draft an iron clad contract or will. Regardless of your legal woe, there are certain things you should do before hiring a lawyer.

When you’re looking for a lawyer you should be asking these 5 questions:

  1. Are you in good standing with the State Bar Association?  Unless you use LegalMatch (which pre-screens their lawyers to ensure they are all board certified), you will want to research your prospective lawyer to make sure they can practice law and haven’t been subject to any disciplinary actions.
  2. How often will you update me on the status of my case?  The client-lawyer relationship can sometimes be volatile. One of the most common complaints people have is that their lawyer doesn’t call or email them back. Set ground rules at the beginning - it will pay off in the end.
  3. How do you charge for your services?  This is more of an all-encompassing question that should also entail “how much.”   Will you use PayPal, check, cash, or credit? Will you be charged weekly, monthly, or when you either win or get your settlement?
  4. Do you handle all legal problems or just your specialty?  Many lawyers elect to specialize in one or two areas of law and only practice within their specialty.
  5. Are you the lawyer who will be doing my work?  Law firms employ a wide variety of young and aspiring lawyers who research and fill out paperwork. Sometimes that means you’ll get a price-break. Ask questions.

What is the Standard of Care for Medical Malpractice Claims?

Medical Malpractice lawsuits have become more and more prolific despite continued attempts by some states to put caps on recoveries. For example, the Missouri Supreme Court decided their $350,000 cap on economic damages violated the right to trial by jury. Conversely, Virginia still holds to their $2 million cap on economic and non-economic damages, while California stands firm at $250,000 for non-economic damages.

So how can you tell whether you suffered Medical Malpractice worthy of a damage award?

Medical Malpractice cases have one common principal: a standard of care. The standard of care is based on how a similarly qualified practitioner would have performed under the same or similar circumstances.   That definition can also be used as the National Standard of Care, one of the three basic standards.

The Locality Rule requires a doctor to have the reasonable caliber of skill and knowledge that is generally possessed by surgeons and physicians in the locality. So, if you’re in deep swampland, there’s probably a different standard of care when compared to some place like the Mayo Clinic.

Finally, the Respectable Minority Rule is when the doctor did not follow the same course of therapy commonly prescribed by other doctors, but there is a respectable minority of doctors who believe the course acceptable.

Most cases involve proving negligence on behalf of the doctor. The key to any successful case is working with a lawyer from the moment you suspect malpractice. That way your lawyer can help you select the best course of action and more rapidly resolve the issue.

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