When trying to settle a dog bite injury out of court, the victim seeks pretty much the same thing they would have sought through litigation, which is the maximum achievable compensation for their injury and consequent suffering. In order to reach a settlement that brings them said compensation, many factors would need to align properly.
Every dog bite is different from the next in the legal sense, but when it comes to a settlement, two general things hold significance: how the involved parties predict a jury will rule, and whether the defendant thinks he or she can be proven liable.
The Defendant Must Believe They Will Lose the Case
For a defendant to even consider settling, they must sense a certain risk in going to trial. For that, the circumstance of the dog bite should satisfy the applicable legal requirements in the state of California. With a strict statute in place, California makes it relatively easy to gauge whether a violation has been committed. In states with less strict laws in place, or none at all, the parties generally need to form their own guesses on what the plaintiff can make the jury believe regarding matters such as the dog’s tendency to bite.
If it is fairly obvious that the dog bit the plaintiff, there are high potential damages, and no clear defenses can be brought, then going to trial is something the defendant would seek to avoid by settling for some amount. This has a greater chance of happening if their insurance company is supporting the lawsuit.
The Plaintiff Needs to Have Suffered Actual Damages
Other than the liability faced by the defendant, there is also the question of the losses which the plaintiff incurred due to the dog bite, as well as how much he or she would be able to recover in damages. No matter how good a guess one makes of potential recovery, it would still be a ballpark figure, owing to the fact that it is the jury that eventually decides what the defendant rightly owes the injured party.
Some damages are a lot easier to work out for settlement purposes, such as lost wages and medical bills, for example. While a jury would have the final say, they usually base compensation on what the plaintiff has already paid, as well as what he or she is going to pay in the future. When discussing a dog bite settlement, there would be less disagreement on the extent of such “concrete” damages.
With more subjective damages, such as “pain and suffering”, no prediction is reliable enough. One could go by similarities with past dog bite incidents, although even this might not be enough to factor for any radical changes which the current jury may bring to the verdict.
Extent of the Damage
If the bite only left the plaintiff with puncture wounds, and no other complications can be proven, then the plaintiff would not have much leverage when negotiating a settlement, at least not in terms of pain and suffering damages. If, on the other hand, serious injuries are involved, and the victim has suffered from disfigurement, then subjective damages can go through the roof.
If the parties work towards a settlement on the latter kind of case, the lawyers on both sides are bound to place significantly different values on the case. As a result, discussions could get complicated. If high damages are a distinct possibility, then a settlement has more chances of being arrived at. If the damages under pain and suffering seem likely to be high, and liability is reasonably clear, the defendant would be ready to settle for a higher amount than otherwise.
How the Injury Affects the Particular Plaintiff
A lot of importance is assigned to how the injury has and will affect the plaintiff. If they were bitten on their wrist and this left permanent damage, for instance, and this has affected their ability to play golf, then they can claim compensation for “loss of quality of life”. This would hold more weight before a jury, than if the plaintiff rarely left their house.
Where the Case is Filed
The place where the suit gets filed is important – the jury is usually made up of residents of that area, and this is normally also where the defendant lives. Juries in rural areas are generally prone to granting more conservative damages. If the jury is made up of people who come from places which have had well-publicized dog bites and attacks, they are likely to rule more heavily in the plaintiff’s favor. As long as the defendant know this and sees it coming, he or she may concede to paying a higher settlement amount. A competent dog attack lawyer would be able to walk you through the specifics of this.