How Do I Make a Dog-Bite Claim?
If you ever find yourself attacked by a dog, know that you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses and property damage. Montana has a strict liability statute for dog bites. The first time a dog bites a person, the owner is liable for the damages whether or not the dog has attacked before. Mont. Code Ann. § 27-1-715.
There are exceptions, however. The statute applies when a dog-bite occurs inside of an incorporated city or town, and when the victim was either in a public place or legally on private property. If you have been attacked and want to pursue damages, you should follow the steps below.
1. Gather information
You may be immobile and in pain after a dog attack, but gather as much information about the people involved in the attack as possible before anyone leaves the scene. You will need the name and address of the dog’s owner or caretaker. If there any other witnesses gather their information as well.
2. Get medical treatment
As soon as you leave the scene of the dog-bite or attack, be sure to seek out medical treatment. Prompt treatment is important for both your health and your future personal injury claim. Animal bites need to be addressed as soon as possible by medical professionals in case the bite has damaged muscle tissue or caused an infection of some sort.
Obtaining prompt medical treatment is also important for your personal injury claim. Your injuries will determine the size of your claim and any amount of damages you may be entitled to receive. You will need the medical records documenting your injuries to support your claim.
3. Send a Demand Letter
After you have been treated by a medical professional, you can take stock of how your dog-bite injury has affected your life and how large your medical expenses are. If the damage has been severe enough to warrant compensation from the dog’s owner, the next step is to hire an attorney to write you a demand letter.
A demand letter is a vehicle for asking for compensation without initiating a lawsuit. In your letter, you attorney will write to the owner of the dog and describe the incident, even if the other party was there. Next, explain your injury and the medical expenses and property damage you have incurred. Finally, it will ask the other party to compensate you and set a deadline for the dog owner’s reply.
4. Negotiate or Litigate
If the pet-owner responds to your letter you may be able to negotiate a settlement where the dog-owner pays for your medical expenses and property damage. If you do not receive a reply, you will have to file a claim in small claims court. In Montana, the damage limit in Small Claims Court is $3,000.00. If your claim is larger than that you will need to file a lawsuit in district court.
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