Tag Archive for Insurance companies

Bikes Have Rights™*

The Danger in Dog Day Afternoons

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

   
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP 
 

Recently, at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Open House, JJ Hoffman was telling me a story about her daily encounter with dog a couple of years ago. JJ said every day when she was riding to work she’d meet up with this same woman who was walking her dog unleashed.

Every day the dog took after JJ, which set the woman off who would run yelling behind her dog. It got so bad that JJ had the pepper spray out before she got to the street where she’d meet up with the dog. All that dog wanted, JJ said, was a taste of her calf.

JJ really didn’t want to spray the dog, though spraying the owner was tempting, and, luckily for everybody, JJ never actually had to take action.

Like JJ, I really like dogs. The dogs are doing what their instincts tell them to do: to chase prey. Irresponsible dog owners are another matter. They put the cyclist, the dog, and especially themselves in danger.

Bitten by a Dog

In California, if you are bitten by a dog, the owner is at fault. It doesn’t matter if the dog is leashed or not. It doesn’t matter if the owner knew or didn’t know that the dog had a “vicious nature.” California holds owners to “strict liability.” If you are bitten, the owner is liable for your injuries. There is no “free bite” in California.

Collision with or because of a Dog

When a dog begins chasing a cyclist, most cyclists tend to try to outrun the dog. When that happens, the dog’s brain goes into get-the-fleeing-prey mode, and the race is on.

Whether or not you can really outrun the dog, the real danger is in possibly colliding with the dog or colliding with something else because you lose control of the bike or you hit a pot hole or even getting hit by a motor vehicle when swerving or not being able to stop at a light or an intersection.

If you suffer serious personal injuries or your bike is damaged, again, the dog owner can be held liable. Your bicycle accident attorney should be able to obtain compensation for your injuries.

Compensation for Dog-related Collisions or Bites

The dog owner may be held negligent for:

  • Ineffective control of the dog.
  • Violation of the leash law and other Animal Control Ordinances.
  • Inadequate supervision or management of the dog.
  • Putting the dog in a condition in which the owner could have seen that the dog could cause injury to somebody.

Individual cities also may have their own animal control ordinances. For instance, one city limits the number of dogs that can be walked by one person at a time and a number of cities consider it a misdemeanor if a dog is tied to a parking meter, sign or bus bench without food or water nearby.

Some cities have ordinances specific to a breed. In Santa Monica a pit bull on public property must be muzzled.

The dog owner may be held responsible for compensating you for:

  • Medical bills from doctors, emergency rooms, hospitals, therapists, plastic surgeons, and for prescriptions.
  • Future medical bills to remove scars or to repair disfigurements. If the money for medical care is not recovered at this time, your health insurance might not cover any future medical procedures you need later, calling them “cosmetic.”
  • Time you had to take off from work resulting in lost income.
  • Lost future earnings because of disfigurement or disabilities.
  • Emotional counseling.
  • Pain and suffering.

Of course you can only recover compensation for injuries you suffer and care you actually need.

Hesitations to Holding an Owner Liable

One of the major hesitations a cyclist who is bitten by a dog often has in reporting a dog bite is the fear that the dog will be destroyed. A dog that has no history of biting is rarely “put down.”

The court takes into account the severity of the bite and the number of times it has bitten. It may rule that a dog must be muzzled in public or restrained in a particular way, such as kept behind a certain type of fence of a certain height.

Self-Defense

We all have heard that we have the right to defend ourselves against an attack from another person. What few people realize is that the law says you can defend yourself as much as is necessary to foil the attack. Your defense must be proportionate to the attack, and when the danger is past, so is your right to defend yourself.

This is a common law concept, and there is no explicit statement in common law that this also applies in a dog attack. More and more dog owners are counter-suing for compensation when their dog has been injured either intentionally or through someone else’s negligence.

So if you are going to use self defense, be sure that it is proportionate to the attack and that once the attack is over you stop, similar to how you would defend yourself with a human. That is a legally defensible act, though you could still find yourself in a lawsuit with the dog owner.

Personally, I subscribe to the belief that it’s rare to find a bad dog, but bad owners are much too plentiful.

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Bikes Have Rights™*

Insurance Companies Are Not Your Friend

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

 
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP
 

Behind the warm and fuzzy jingles, the precocious animal mascots, and the deep-voiced spokespersons, insurance companies are faceless, heartless corporations whose one purpose is to increase premiums and to decrease payouts in order to make the biggest profits possible.

Simply put, THAT is why you need your own lawyer if you have a bike accident.

If insurance companies were “fair,” I’d be out of a job. I am pretty confident that unemployment due to insurance companies deciding to do the “right thing” is not something I have to worry about in my lifetime.

The reality is, after you have had a bike accident and the friendly insurance adjuster calls you, his (or her), goal is to come up with a reason not to pay you. If he can’t outright deny you compensation for your damages, he wants to diminish your case so the company has to pay you as little as possible.

Rest assured, everything you say to that nice insurance adjustor can and will be used against you in a court of law. That is why I – and every other personal injury lawyer – will tell you to refuse to speak to an insurance adjuster or insurance representative. Give the adjustor your lawyer’s name and phone number and hang up.

If you cooperate with the insurance adjuster and you are offered a settlement, it is likely that you are getting 10 cents on the dollar of the value of your case. I was once told by an adjuster that he received a bonus if he could settle a case within 48-hours.

Let me tell you about a case I handled. A client who had a Los Angeles bike accident injured his shoulder. He talked with the kindly insurance adjuster who sympathized and sent him to a doctor (an insurance company sending you to a doctor is a rare occurrence).

SURPRISE! The doctor recommended by the insurance company said my client’s shoulder was fine. The company offered my client $5,000 to settle his case.

My client’s shoulder really hurt. He finally engaged a lawyer (me), and I sent him to a doctor. The doctor I sent him to diagnosed a torn rotator cuff. He underwent surgery. We settled the case for $150,000.

Never forget that insurance companies have more knowledge than you do. They also employ an army of lawyers. They can throw more resources at your case than you even know exist. They have all the power, all the money, and the wherewithal to fight you when you are fighting alone.

You need an experienced personal injury lawyer to level the playing field. I have written here before about how to choose a lawyer, but it bears repeating to say you should look at how or where you got the referral, the lawyer’s experience in your type of case, and the results the lawyer has achieved.

Now go increase your uninsured motorist insurance to the maximum the insurance company will permit, and the next time you see an insurance company commercial, remember, they are not your friend.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .

For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.

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