Swift Justice: Dog bite liability and borrowed car damage

Dear Jackie,

I was walking my dog on a leash in a recreation park when a kid came by on a scooter and got too close. This caused my dog to take a nip at him. I didn't realize anything had occurred because the kid did not yell or bring anything to my attention. About 5 minutes later, his parents confronted me. I apologized and then we went to a well-lit parking lot. I inspected the bite and noticed a small puncture wound, but there was no bleeding. I told them my dog was current on all vaccines and offered to pay for the medical bill. When I returned home, within 20 minutes, police and animal control showed up at my house to inspect my dog and paperwork and, after doing so, they told me to quarantine my dog in a home kennel for 10 days. A few days passed, and I received a letter from an attorney's office requesting my side of the story and asking if I have homeowners insurance. I told them I do have insurance, but it will not cover this type of incident. What should I do? -- Fernando from Downey, Calif.

Hi, Fernando,

The very first thing you should do is contact your insurance company. Start by calling your agent. Your homeowners policy might cover you. If you are covered, then the insurance company should handle the claim. You don't have to talk to the other side's attorney at this time. If you don't have coverage, I suggest you wait until you receive a demand letter that lays out what they want you to pay for. You will need to see the supporting documentation of the claim. If you think it is reasonable, then I would suggest you pay it, but only in exchange for a written full release of all claims against you. Then the matter is done. If they sue you, you should consult with an attorney who handles animal bite cases.

Dear Jackie,

In January 2012, some friends of mine used my car to drive to Bend, Ore., from Portland, Ore., with the understanding that they needed to wait for daylight so the roads would be safer. Needless to say, they didn't and left with my youngest child around 2:00 a.m. Because the roads were icy, there was also a mandatory chain advisory. I did not have chains, and they didn't buy any. One hour away from Bend, they hit some black ice and rolled my car with my child inside. I did not have insurance, but we had a verbal agreement that my car would return just as it left, which it did not. Due to negligence, they said they would replace my vehicle or make payments, which has not been done. I was also forced to pay for the title transfer to sell it to the tow yard to avoid towing and storage fees. What are my rights for obtaining my money? -- Tim from Portland, Ore.

Hi, Tim,

I hope that your child was not injured in this accident. Does the person who borrowed your car have insurance? I would suspect not, but you never know unless you ask. Since they admitted they were wrong, that the accident was their fault and that they would pay, you should come up with an agreed upon amount that they will pay you. Put this in writing along with a payment schedule, and have them sign off on all of it. If they fail to pay, then you have evidence to use if you have to sue them. If they won't sign anything, then you have to decide how much they owe and file a lawsuit. The maximum you can sue for in Oregon Small Claims Court is up to $10,000. Go to the court website for more information.

(Jackie Glass is a lawyer and former district court judge from Las Vegas, Nev., who is the new host of CBS's daytime legal affairs program, "Swift Justice With Jackie Glass." Visit http://www.SwiftJustice.com for more information, local show times and to submit your legal questions to Jackie.)

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