Personal Injury Lawyer | Western Suffolk County
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Critical Prerequisites for Suing

The most frequently asked question from a potential new client is “what is my case worth?” It’s a very difficult question to answer for any attorney who has not had the opportunity to review the investigative materials nor the medical reports.

Instead of discussing case value I turn my client’s attention to the critical prerequisites for suing in almost all personal injury cases: conditions precedent.

This probably sounds more complicated than it really is. What it essentially boils down to is that an attorney has to prove that certain conditions existed either before an accident occurred or after an accident occurred before a person can be awarded money and compensation for their injuries.

Today I will discuss the conditions precedent for a dog bite case or, in fact, any domestic animal attack that results in injury to a human being. You’ll note that I said “human being” and that was purposeful because I frequently get calls from people whose dogs or cats were attacked by a neighbors pet and even though it’s hard for most people to understand, and as a pet owner myself I understand this is not what you want to hear, your pet is actually your personal propertyand therefore if your pet is attacked and wounded or worse by another animal you are not looking at a lawsuit against the offending pet owner for the pain and suffering that your pet may have endured but rather for the difference in value between what the pet was “worth” before the incident as opposed to after the incident.

People however can sue for pain and suffering, disfigurement and other types of damages after they have been attacked by a domestic animal, but only if these prior conditions are met: the owner or caretaker of the animal must’ve actually known or should have been aware by observation of behavior that their animal had prior vicious propensities. This knowledge is an essential element to be proven as a condition to a victim receiving compensation following an animal attack. That’s what I mean by condition precedent. If you cannot prove that the owner or caretaker knew or should have known this, you will not be able to succeed in your lawsuit.

The question comes down to what is a prior vicious propensity? The courts have many opinions on what constitutes prior vicious propensities. Some Courts require an actual bite that the pet owner was aware of prior to the attack in question. Some Courts find territoriality to satisfy the definition of prior vicious propensity so that if a dog growled excessively or put humans in fear of attack prior to the current attack, even though there may have not been a prior bite, the courts may still find prior vicious propensities.

This is frequently referred to as the “one free bite” rule but it’s not really accurate because there are many behaviors that can be evaluated other than a prior bite that can qualify and satisfy this condition precedent. This is why is it important to have an experienced attorney handle these types of cases! We have been handling cases of this type for over 30 years. Please call us for further explanation.