Help needed with legal response

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  #1  
Old 12-18-06, 08:51 PM
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Help needed with legal response

I just found out that I am being sued for a dog bite incident

I have 18 days left to file a response to the complaint

Is there a website that has legal forms that I could go to, I found a couple but am not sure if they are what I want

I have already talked to a lawyer on the phone who advised me that it wasn't worth getting a lawyer involved at this point and gave me some basic info on how to respondbut he talked fast and I write slow
 
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  #2  
Old 12-19-06, 04:56 AM
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You might go to Google and search "legal forms". Also "dog bite". Lots of info and you should find something that'll help.
 
  #3  
Old 12-21-06, 02:13 PM
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First check with your homeowners or renters insurance company. You may even have coverage through an auto insurance if the dog was in your car, though I doubt it. You may well have homeowners coverage for this and you don't want to risk them disclaiming because you tried to DIY and messed it up making admissions you shouldn't have. If it is just a small claim in a court of limited juristidicition you need to find out the max $ they can recover. If it is less than your deductible it may not be something the insurance company will get involved with since there policy will not be exposed. The court itself, if it is small claims or limited monetary jurisdiction will be fairly used to pro se litigants. Speak with them about answer. Some states if it is small claims you may not need to file an answer and you just show on the date of the trial. I have not come accross form answers for cases in unlimited monetary jurisdiction courts because you are responding to the complaint and have to be flexible to do so (depending on the paragraph admit, deny, no personal knowledge, plaintiff pleads a legal conclusion, etc). There are however standard affirmative defense for different types of cases you may in your state have to plead in the answer or waive. The law is very different in different states and only a local attorney can tell you how. Some states have stict liability statutes (your dog bites you are responsible for damages) others have a one free bite rule (you get one bite then you are on notice your dog bites and you are liable for the next bite) others may go by a regular negligence standard (obviously prior bites goes to proof of negligence, as does no leash, etc.). I would recommend an attorney unless you are in a small claims court know exactly how much $ max they can recover and are OK with losing that amount if you mess up the case. Frankly, pro se litigants often mess up and the trial does not give you any time to correct mistakes. If you do represent yourself be very prepared reviewing the law and rules of evidence prior to the trial. Unlike DIY home improvement you can't stop the project/trial to get help. FYI - If you make any admissions over web or discuss fact of the case your converstations are likely discoverable by your adversary and are not protected by the attorney client privilege.

Now for the legal disclaimer, this is not to be regarded as legal advice. If you have a legal question you should consult an attorney in the state in which your legal question pertains.
 
  #4  
Old 12-21-06, 03:32 PM
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sometimes free advice is worth just what you pay for it

the fl bar offers a lawyer referral's service , you get half hour for 25.00

I've used it several times and found it well worth while

once you get to court and wish you had a lawyer its to late

http://www.floridabar.org/divpgm/lronline.nsf/wreferral6?OpenForm
 
  #5  
Old 12-22-06, 09:51 AM
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Home owners insurance does not cover the bite except for up to $1000 in medical costs, maybe

The reason I was served is because due to some misunderstandings the insurance company did not notifiy the lawyer.
I thought the fax number given was the number of the office of the adjuster but it was to a home office fax bank.
So ,the faxed letter from the lawyer never made it to my rep.

I have no intention of representing myself in circuit court, which is where this may be going.
I just don't believe that it will go that far.

The organization representing the plaintiff are known ambulance chasers who do not like to go to court and I have absolutely no assets.
Even if they get a judgement the worst they can do is lien my house.

At the time of the bite the child was antagonizing the dog, as he had a varifiable history of doing, and somehow caused my gate to come open .
(three different stories have come out so far)

The bite was a simple nip in the butt with no bleeding.
They refused ambulance transport and ten minutes after the bite he was limplessly walking around with his pants leg hiked up to show off his wound, after removing the dressing.
The father made him ride his bike home from my house and told him to shutup the crying..

The next day the mother came over and I agreed to pay the med bills.
She also suggested that he should get something out of it. I made a vague uncommital response "Yeah, we've talked about that".
My personal thought is that he should walk away with a lesson well learned not to pick on dogs bigger than you are

Two weeks later I got a letter from Dog-Bites-Are-Us legal team.

I jst have to file a response within 20 days to avoid a default judgement for an amout "in excess of $15,000" for loss of earning capacity among other things.

The lawyer I talked to is my mother and step fathers lawyer and was a close personal friend of my step father.
He advised me to simply file the response and see what develops before bringing in a lawyer
 
  #6  
Old 12-22-06, 10:10 AM
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Mango Man is right about the free advice, assuming he wasn't talking about mine. I can hardly believe a lawyer would tell you it wasn't worth getting a lawyer involved at this point. What point then? After you have already answered with admissions you are bound by at the trial? Unless he knew you were in a small claims court with a max 1K jurisditional limit or something I am not sure how he could say that. I would not feel comfortable telling anyone that without first looking at the papers myself in case they are wrong about what venue they are in. Keep in mind when you are calling an attorney like that he is almost certainly a plaintiff's attorney. The defense bar rairly has ads anywhere because they deal with insurance companies for the defendants 99.99% of the time. The insurance company knows who and where we are and don't look in the yellow pages. So, that attorney may never have done defense work. Plus he doesn't know how much exposure you face unless he is certain about the court's jurisdictional limit. Even if you tell him it was a small bite to the arm or hand, you don't know if the plaintiff is going to neurologists, having surgery for carpal tunnal, etc., and is going to try to put that all on the dog's bite. Finally, THE FIRST THING he should have told you was to go to your homeowners insurance company to see if you have coverage and they will defend and indemnify you. Why would you want to do this by yourself if your insurance company will pay for an attorney and pay any adverse verdict. If you retained him as your attorney the first thing he would have to do to responsibly respresent his client is contact your insurance co., something you can do yourself. He can't take the case to trial get a $25,000 verdict against you then call the insurance company looking for coverage who would then disclaim coverage for your failure to notify them of the suit. You could be out 25,000 plus legal bills that would have been paid for by your insurance company if you/he had contacted them. That would be $25,000+ of legal malpractice. If he contacts your insurer first thing, as he should, and they cover dog bites, they take the case from him and assign it to law firms they use. He get next to nothing in billable time to you. So, in reality I suspect he was really telling you, in different words, is the case wasn't worth it for HIM to get involved. He should have told you to contact your insurer. It may in the end be something you can/will deal with yourself, but he would have to know a lot of facts to tell you that. The FL bar association referal system is an acceptable place to check but ONLY after you go to your insurance company first. Remember, defense attorney firms work primarily for insurance companies and usually don't need to, and don't, belong to such attorney referal networks. There are good attorney's who belong to such networks who could defend you, but see above as to why they probably won't and why they should first tell you to go to your insurance co., at which point they would likely be off the case (unless you want to pay them yourself on the side on the chance that a verdict exceeds your policy limits). Further, if the plaintiff has an attorney they will likely send you legal questions asking about any insurance policy that may cover a potential verdict because it is easier to collect from an insurance co. than to try to forclose on your house or sieze your accounts to get money from you if you don't pay up. Plus, they know the insurance co has money any you may not and may effectively be judgement proof(no money to pay a judgment). So, your insurance company is likely going to get involved or find out about the suit anyway, if you are worried about your premiums. Plus, almost all policies require the insured to contact the carrier about any possible claim. So, if they cover dog bites and you don't tell them you could risk coverage for this event and possibly for other events. In short, CALL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY!

P.S. please do not respond with any facts regarding your case as they will not be privileged. This should not be construed as legal advice.
 
  #7  
Old 12-22-06, 10:54 AM
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As indicated, dog bite laws tend to vary from area to area. There are many factors that can affect the outcome of your case. You may find the following article helpful: http://www.dogbitelaw.com/PAGES/legal_ri.htm

Most insurance companies tend not to cover certain breeds of dogs and many will not issue insurance if one of these breeds belongs to you. Thus, breed of dog may be a factor as well.
 
  #8  
Old 12-22-06, 12:11 PM
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As I said

I did not get the lawyer out of a phone book and he was advised about all pertinent facts of the case.
Such as insurance will not cover it, it is being sent to circuit court with a request for damages in excess of $15,000.
And the entire 2 page complaint was read to him

His instructions as far as answering were to admit to my address and deny everything else and to claim "without knowledge therefore denied and positive proof demanded" on the disability claims

Also as indicated he is a family friend and a lawyer for my parents who they have trusted and been well served by previously.

He gave me a price on filing the motion and then instructed me on the basics of answering myself.

The questionnaire from the plaintiff's lawyer was sent to the insurance company who told me that they would handle it, they did not.
In the meantime I had to deal with the death of my step father, best friend and father and lost track of the case until the second letter came.
After two weeks of not hearing anything I called the insurance company back and they had sent the letter the day before I got the summons the next day.

i believe that if I had been more diligent in this the lawyers would never have served me knowing that the insurance company wasn't going to cover it.
 
  #9  
Old 12-22-06, 12:23 PM
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not to be a wise azz but whats the point of this thread ?

if your confident with the legal advice you've been given by a lawyer whose advice you respect what do you hope to get here ?
 
  #10  
Old 12-22-06, 12:37 PM
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Is there a website that has legal forms that I could go to, I found a couple but am not sure if they are what I want
 
  #11  
Old 12-22-06, 01:02 PM
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Just the fact that you are looking for an online form to download is indicative that you lack the experience and knowledge that is needed to protect yourself legally. Please consult with an attorney to make this response for you in order to protect yourself.
 
  #12  
Old 12-22-06, 01:03 PM
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A nip in the butt on your property while uninvited and teasing the dog ?????

If these are the facts then you don't have a thing to worry about

Another case of someone with nothing seeking something for nothing
 
  #13  
Old 12-22-06, 02:25 PM
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Even if there is nothing to worry about, the legal response must be made. If there is a hearing, then one must show up. Failure to respond will likely be interpreted as an admission of guilt.
 
  #14  
Old 12-22-06, 03:04 PM
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failure to respond results in a default judgement against you.

I found a sexual harassment answer to a request for admissins to coincides with what viking and the other lawyer told me.
I'll tweak itsome and file it Tuesday
 
  #15  
Old 12-23-06, 04:20 PM
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As I have repeatedly stated I have consulted an attorney and am following his advice.

The fact that I am looking for an on-line form is indicative that I am looking for an on-line form. nothing else
I just want a form similar to the standard form letter complaint that I got from the plaintiff's lawyer, they do exist.

There is a site that lawyers can go to to get these forms but I do not want to spend the $100 to get the entire set.

I am familiar with the law enough that I have successfully represented myself in court twice
 

Last edited by twelvepole; 12-23-06 at 04:39 PM.
  #16  
Old 12-23-06, 04:55 PM
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Your local court house may be able to provide you with a form if there is one available. Requirements for your response may be simply a letter in response. Most legal forms that are available online are those that deal with such issues as divorce, incorporation, wills, power of attorney, real estate, etc. Perhaps you can use the 'form letter' you received to model one of your own for the response. You may want to consult with an attorney before responding, just to make sure you have all your bases covered. Good luck and keep us posted on the outcome.
 
  #17  
Old 12-24-06, 06:59 AM
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looks like my last response came in without me seeing your response. Good to see you went down the insurance route. Even if they only cover 1K in medical make sure they know about it and the can cover any meds to that limit. Since you said default will be in excess of 15K I believe the jurisditional $ amount of the court is probably unlimited. It sounds like you offered to pay meds, which could be interpreted as an admission depending on what was said and may be used against you depending on the laws of your state. You want to keep that out of any trial and may be able to do so. Your local court often has a law library with a librarian who, if they are nice and you are extra nice, can help you research such issues. Even in a stict liability state like mine the antagonizing the dog is an affirmative defense. Affirmative defense means you have to plead it in the answer after your answers to his numbered allegations and you have the burden of proving it (you bring in actual witnesses who saw it, saw brat bragging, etc). You may also be able to allege the brat was trespassing. Look into that, but he is a kid so trespassing may be tough. If you just want to see the format for an answer go to the court and ask to see one on another file. Legal pleadings are public documents. Go to the clerk and ask to see one or ask your family friend/ lawyer for one. It is the plaintiff's burden to prove your dog bit the kid so don't admit to anything in the answer, except maybe who you are and where you live. Sounds like you didn't see the bite so deny it in the answer and make him prove it. Our answers generally are just: admit; deny; plaintiff pleads a legal conclusion and accordingly is left to his/her proof thereof, this defendant has no personal knowledge of the allegations in paragraph 1, etc. Your court system in a big state like FL likely has lots of info online. Finally, generally court procedures for pretrial motions, discovery, and pleadings are in the court rules and are available in a book that has case annotations to the rules. If they have that in FL, that is likely your primary source of info for this case until you get to trial at which point the rules of evidence with annotations is very importiant. Other than those two books you will probably only have a couple statutes, or common law citations you will need specifically regarding dog bites. Know your hearsay rules prior to trial so you can get in your evidence and exclude theirs. Good luck. As always this is not legal advice, go see an attorney for legal advice that applies in your jurisdiction.
 
  #18  
Old 01-09-07, 12:25 AM
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I found the form I was looking for on-line apparently the lawyer found his on the same site.

I have submitted my answer and he has denied all of my affirmative defenses and demanded strict proof (surprise, surprise)

I'm just trying to decide when the best time to approach for a quick settlement.

He apparently filed the day before my insurance company informed him that I was only covered for actually medical costs
So I see no reason that he would be anxious to take an unemployed non insured person to trial whose only assets are his primary dwelling and a truck that is an untouchable inheritance.
Even if he wins big all he can get is a judgement, which while it may hurt me it will not put dollars in his pocket.
 
  #19  
Old 03-30-07, 10:22 PM
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Just to update
My form worked it's over, for now
 
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