When to Call a Lawyer


My dad was recently bit by a dog while on a walk in my neighborhood back home. At first he thought he was alright, but the bite actually turned out to be pretty bad. He spoke with the neighbor who owned the dog, and the owner was very apologetic. They agreed not to report the incident, and that the neighbor would cover any of my dad’s medical bills. Well, now a few weeks have passed, and my dad hasn’t been able to get the guy to pay up. He says this neighbor has basically made himself really hard to reach, and when my dad does manage to talk the guy, he just says he’ll pay (and keeps not paying). What should we do?

We all want to believe the best about people. So when we get into an incident--whether it’s a fender-bender or a dog bite--and the other person wants to keep it out of official channels, we’re tempted to do what your dad did and handle things between us.

The problem, of course, is that there is some safety in the official way of doing things. With police reports and insurance companies, we have a record of what happened and a structure within which to defend our rights. And, if necessary, we can consult with a lawyer.

Your father’s situation has turned a bit messy, because he began by trying to help his neighbor keep things quiet but now much find a way to make sure that his rights are respected. That could present a bit of a headache as things move forward, but one this is clear: no matter what, it’s time for your dad to sit down with a lawyer.

When you need a personal injury lawyer, experts say, nothing else will do. Only a personal injury lawyer will have experience with similar cases and the legal know-how that can help your father get out of this mess with his finances intact and his rights respected. Does your father have a case against his neighbor? Will a lawyer’s letter be enough to get the neighbor with the program? Will your dad need to take this issue to court? None of those are questions that you can answer on your own, and they’re also not questions that experts can--or should--answer in this format. The solution is to sit down with an attorney and explain the specifics of the case. Only that will give your father quality legal advice that’s specific to his unique situation.

Your father needs to take this seriously, because dog bites can cause all kinds of problems, including infections. If costs mount, this situation could get even messier. While it’s unfortunate that your neighbor wasn’t more of a stand-up guy, it’s time to get help through legal channels.

“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.” -- George Bernard Shaw

Marcus Williams is a Senior Financial Consultant in Financial Services and Advisory at EY.

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