Should my daughter go through small claims court or hire an attorney to get the owner of the dog who bit her to pay her medical bill?

My daughter was bitten by a dog in a public place when she walked by the dog. She had to get medical treatment and is now left with a bill of over $500. The owner of the dog will not answer her phone calls regarding payment so now she will have to try to get the money from him another way. Should she go through small claims court or hire an attorney? The police were called and she is able to get the statement from them. Also, she doesn’t have medical insurance.

Asked on September 6, 2011 under Personal Injury, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Your daughter would be better off, for the amount of money you describe, suing in small claims court court and representing herself. In NYS, attorney hourly rates, even for small practioners, generally range from a (rare) low of $100 per hour to $250 per hour or more. For less than $1,000, it is very likely that if she hired an attorney, even if she won, she'd end up owing more in fees than she recovered in compensation. In small claims court, he main expense for this type of suit may be the filing fee, which is less than $50. Small claims court also generally moves "quicker"--i.e. her wil get to trial sooner (assuming the other party does not settle at some point). Good luck.

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