, Derry, New Hampshire


July 11, 2013

About the Law: It's a dog bites dog world

My dog bit someone else’s dog when I was walking past their house. I agreed to pay vet bills. They sent three different bills and I paid all three.

Now, they’ve hired an attorney and they’re demanding much more. What should I do?

Call your homeowner’s insurance company. Most often, homeowners will cover such claims and provide a legal defense if required.

If not, hire an attorney to do two things. First, scrutinize the vet bills to assure that all charges in the bill in fact directly relate to the bite. Second, pay nothing for “pain and suffering” of the animal.

Under the law, animals are “chattel.” That means, in the eyes of the law, an animal is on the same level as an inanimate object like a rock. So, there is no pain and suffering. I know people don’t like it, but that’s the law.

The most important lesson here, never pay anyone for post-accident damages ever without getting a valid release. This terminates the claim forever with no going back. This is what insurance companies do and what a knowledgeable lawyer will do for you.

This column recently answered a question from someone who agreed to settle a case in mediation, and then tried to back out of the deal. But what about an email exchange between opposing parties who come to an agreement. Without a formal release, is this binding?

The federal courts recently confronted this issue. The plaintiff backed out of a deal to purchase a truck stop business after loan applications failed. He sued to reclaim his $250,000 deposit.

Buyer and seller went back and forth in emails and agreed to settlement terms. But, before the deal could be written up, a court receiver was appointed to take over the business and killed the deal.

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