If you have been injured after a dog bite or similar incident, you may be thinking about hiring an attorney to help you recover an insurance settlement or to sue the dog owner. (Learn more about Injury Claims Versus Injury Lawsuits.) As part of the lawyer selection process, you will likely meet with one or two candidates free of charge in order to find a qualified attorney who is the right fit for you. This article addresses the questions you’ll want to ask during this free consultation, in the context of a dog bite injury case.
Qualifications and Experience
You should begin your meeting with questions about the attorney’s background, qualifications and experience. Any attorney you hire should be familiar with the dog bite statutes in your state, key court decisions that affect dog bite lawsuits, as well as local rules (at the city or county level) on owning and controlling animals.
Examples of questions related to the attorney’s qualifications and experience include:
- How long have you been practicing law?
- How much of your practice is devoted to dog bite cases?
- How many dog bite lawsuits have you handled in the past, and what were their outcomes?
- What next steps should I expect if I decide to sue the dog owner for my injuries?
- What sets you apart from other dog bite attorneys?
Case Management and Legal Strategy
You want to get a feel for how your case will be managed, what the attorney’s legal style tends to be, and his or her typical strategy in settling and litigating dog bite cases. You want to make sure the attorney’s style matches what you are looking for. Here are some specific questions to ask:
- Who will be handling my case on a day-to-day basis?
- Will I receive updates on my case’s progress and, if so, how often?
- What is the best way to reach you and how long will it typically take to get a response?
- Which decisions will I be making regarding my case, and what decisions will be left to you?
- Is your approach with the opposing side adversarial or cooperative in dog bite cases?
- What is your philosophy on settling a dog bite case versus suing and going to trial?
- What questions will I get asked at a dog bite deposition?
- How long will my dog bite case take?
Many dog bite cases are straightforward, but you may have specific questions that you would like answered. For example:
- What are the strengths and challenges of my case?
- Does it matter what type of dog bit me?
- I was roughhousing with the dog before it bit me. Will that affect my ability to recover for my injuries?
- The dog owner is a family member. If I want to get compensation for my injuries, is my only option to sue my family member?
- Does the dog owner's homeowner's insurance cover my dog bite injury?
- After I sustained my injury, the dog’s owner told me that the dog had bitten someone before. Will that statement be admissible in court?
- The dog’s owner has since gotten rid of the dog. Will that be helpful to my case?
Fees and Costs
Finally, it's always important to discuss the fees and costs associated with your potential case beforehand, specifically:
- Do you work under a contingency fee agreement? What is the contingency percentage? Is it fixed or scale?
- Will I be responsible for the costs associated with my personal injury case?
At the end of the consultation, you should have a good feel for whether you trust this attorney to handle your dog bite case and get you a favorable result, and for whether the two of you are a good fit from a personal standpoint. Learn more about Working With a Personal Injury Attorney.