This is the next post in our series on the handling of dog bite cases in Fort Worth and elsewhere in Texas. Our last article discussed the calculation of damages when one has been the victim of a dog bite. It is important that victims retain a lawyer who has the experience and resources necessary to handle such matters, especially if they involve serious injuries. In this article we will discuss what one should expect from the trial in such a case. Trial is a complicated process and it is crucial to retain an attorney with extensive courtroom experience.
We have previously discussed what to expect at trial in a head injury case. Many of these same concepts apply to matters involving dog bites. The case will begin with the selection of a jury through a process known as voir dire. Once the jury has been selected then each side’s lawyer will make an opening statement. The Plaintiff will present their evidence and witnesses. The defense will then present their evidence and witnesses. Once the defense has concluded the presentation of their case, the Plaintiff will present “rebuttal” evidence. Rebuttal is not a time to make new arguments or to raise new issues. A Plaintiff may only use rebuttal to directly address points which were made by the defense. After rebuttal, each side will make a closing argument and the jury will be asked to deliberate. The jurors will decide the issues of fault and damages. Again, this is a complicated process.
Dog bite trials often boil down to a few different issues. First, the jury will have to decide whether the owner of the animal took “reasonable steps” to protect the public from harm. The meaning of “reasonable” will, by and large, be up to the jury. Second, there may be a dispute as to the extent to which a victim will require future medical care. As we discussed in a previous article, each side will present medical experts to the jury. It is up to the jurors to decide which expert, if either, should be believed. Finally, in extreme cases, the jurors will decide whether or not the dog’s owner has engaged in reckless and wanton conduct which warrants the award of punitive damages. Given the complexity of these types of cases, it is important to select a firm which has conducted many jury trials.
When selecting a Fort Worth personal injury attorney, we often suggest that you hire a firm in which the lawyers are Board Certified in personal injury law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, which employs an on-staff investigator, and which has the financial resources necessary to deal with large defendants.