John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and today I’m here with Robert Mazow and Kevin McCullough, of the Law Firm of Mazow‑McCullough, a personal injury law firm, with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Robert and Kevin have a great deal of experience as dog bite attorneys, and today we’re going to be talking about how to get the maximum compensation for a dog bite. Welcome, Robert and Kevin.
Robert Mazow: Thank you.
Kevin McCullough: Thanks for having us.
John: Sure. What legal strategies might you use to help a dog bite victim get the most compensation possible?
Kevin: Like any case, compensation is based upon a variety of factors. With dog bites, in particular, many times we’re talking about permanent scarring, sometimes, unfortunately, loss of use of a body part. Many times we’re talking about facial scarring [and] nerve damage, depending upon how deep the bite or attack is.
The way we see clients maximize their ability to recover, certainly what they’re entitled to recover for, is using a variety of strategies.
First and foremost, if scarring is involved, getting plastic surgeons involved is critical. We tend to work directly with the plastic surgeon that might have taken care of the victim, have discussions with them about the possibility of future scar revision, to make the scar look less drastic and dramatic. We discuss with them the likelihood of permanent disability, whether or not, in a year or so, somebody’s hand will come back to full capacity.
If the plastic surgeon is either unavailable or unwilling to assist us and the client, we have the ability to retain plastic surgeons [or] experts to work with. We’ll have the client evaluated, and we’ll get an opinion from the plastic surgeon to determine whether or not there’s permanency involved.
I think that is perhaps the most critical point of maximizing compensation is that to make sure that if, in fact, the victim is going to have to go back in for multiple surgeries over the course of [several] years, that the compensation they get now for their injuries is going to have to make up for those future expenses that they’re going to have.
Robert: Exactly. Either the future expenses, or if there’s nothing that can be done to perhaps revise a scar that’s on somebody’s face, you need to know that because the person will be living with that for the rest of their lives, this is the time that they need to be compensated for that.
If it’s a young child who has a scar on her face, she’s going to have that when she graduates from high school, when she gets married, when she has children. She’s going to have it forever, so that is an important factor when it comes time to seeking compensation for these kinds of injuries.
Kevin: Robert talked about some of the different components of the damages and the injury, but from a practical perspective as far as legal strategy, I think the most compelling thing when we’re presenting a claim is having the insurance representative, and often times, the insurance defense attorney meet with the client and get a chance to physically inspect the scarring.
Photographic evidence is great, but sometimes it doesn’t show the full extent of an injury. It is along the lines of a strategy, but it really is within the presentment to have the insurance representative come out and meet with the client and take a look at the injury.
John: That maybe gets us into the next question which is, “Is there anything that a dog bite victim can do to help increase the amount of the settlement?”
Kevin: Definitely. The dog bite victim can help and assist by listening to the doctors, to make sure they do what they’re supposed to do, which can be cumbersome, taking care of a wound, changing the dressing, [and] doing what is necessary on their part. [Also] keeping that information, retaining it, [and] taking photographic evidence throughout the healing process.
Often times, when we as attorneys are trying to resolve a claim with an insurance adjuster or an insurance defense attorney, and often times a jury, it’s a few years later after the incident and the scarring may look pretty good. It may still be there, but it looks better. We need those people to appreciate what the client went through during that first six months.
Robert: The healing process, right, I think that’s an important factor. Keeping a journal, perhaps, a photographic journal, would be critical, because like Kevin said, by the time it comes to a jury, it could be many, many years after the incident. It could look a lot better, but the jury, the claim representative, or the defense attorney needs to understand what it was like looking in the mirror every time over those years, to see what this scar looks like.
John: Is it also to show the jury perhaps that they did everything possible that they could have to resolve the situation? You said it’s important to show that they went to the doctor, that they got advice, that they followed the doctor’s advice, and that’s to show that they did everything in their power to resolve it and get better?
Robert: Absolutely. Juries, as they should be, are critical. They should be skeptical any time somebody’s making a claim for injury. So if, as Kevin said, the person is not taking care of their scar, is not keeping it covered perhaps when they’re out in the sun, or not caring for it, a jury or a claim representative could be critical of that and say, “Hey, you’ve made this worse.” That would be a way to not maximize the recovery.
John: What should a dog bite victim do if the insurance company offers a settlement that is lower than the actual damage, like medical bills, et cetera?
Kevin: The first thing they should do is not be offended. It’s something that the insurance industry does. They assess and evaluate risk, and assess and evaluate claims and injuries. That includes whether or not they paid defense attorneys and whether or not there is an attorney representing the injured party. It’s something that you wish weren’t true, but it is.
If someone who has suffered a dog bite or a dog attack and they’ve gone through the process on their own and they’ve gathered the medical information and submitted their claim to the insurance company, and they’re faced with what they believe to be a low settlement offer, they should certainly speak with an attorney, someone who’s experienced to review that with them.
Because maybe there is an explanation as to why the offer that was made was said to be fair and reasonable, or maybe things just weren’t presented to the insurance company in an effective way.
But if you’re in that position where you’ve gone through that process, and you’ve received what you believe to be a low settlement offer, you should definitely speak with an attorney and go over that and make a plan to move forward and try to maximize your recovery.
John: Is there an opportunity, in that case, to go back to the insurance company and say, “Hey, I think that’s really too low based on the situation,” and maybe make a counter proposal, or is it a matter of at that point you have to have an attorney and you’re going to be going to court or something?
Robert: I would always recommend, when you’re dealing with an insurance company, [that] it’s an adversarial relationship. I don’t think that it’s in a victim’s best interest to be negotiating themselves, because it’s hard to be objective.
If it were handled by an experienced attorney, there would certainly be negotiation. The first offer made by the insurance company is very rarely their best offer. The option would be to continue to negotiate. Many times, it may require filing a lawsuit and going through the discovery process, and perhaps seeing, as Kevin said, if there was something that was not presented properly or could have been presented better to the insurance company.
These things are influx. There’s no set schedule as to how to determine a value, so there are multiple ways to continue to negotiate and press forward.
John: All right, great information. Robert and Kevin, thanks for speaking with me today.
Robert: Thanks, John.
Kevin: Thank you, John.
John: For more information on dog bite cases, or other personal injury cases, visit the firm’s website at helpinginjured.com, or call 855‑693‑9084