93.1. Kiss FM – Ask A Lawyer – Part 2 – February 2022

Ask A Lawyer - Michael Gopin

Introduction: You’re listening to “Mike and Tricia Mornings” on 93.1 KISSFM.

Mike: It’s your monthly ask a lawyer feature with Michael Gopin. You submit the questions, Michael Gopin will give you some legal advice or at least point you in the direction that he feels you need to go with this, you know, issue that you have.

Tricia: Okay. So Jordan says he works for the city and he was doing a cleanup job over in the Northeast. He got bit by a dog and needed stitches on both hands. So the dog belonged to the house they were in front of, and the owner refuses to help with the situation. He says he has no home insurance, can’t afford to help. He said, does your office handle these types of cases? What can I do in this situation?

Michael G: Well, the best advice I will give you at this point with the facts that you’re telling me is that I would file a worker’s comp claim with the city. You were definitely on the job at the time of the accident. So the city would pay for your medical bills and expenses if they haven’t already. You do of course have a potential claim against the owner of the dog. There is a one-bite free rule kind of in Texas.

Tricia: Oh really?

Michael G: Yeah. It’s kind of unusual, but a dog has to have a propensity for violence. So you kind of get, if he’s had one bite before then the owner’s going to be liable. Of course, without the homeowner’s insurance to back him up, you know, there’s probably a difficult situation for you actually collecting. So it seems like, with these particular facts, the best thing to do is to file a claim with your worker’s comp, get the bill paid, hopefully, you’re back to normal and don’t need any future treatment. But if you do, worker’s comp would pay for it also.

Mike: And then what do you mean by the one-bite rule? It’s like one incident, right? Like he said, he was bitten both hands. It’s not okay. This was one bite and this is another bite.

Michael G: Well, more like two incidents. So if he had a first incident, like a dog bit you yesterday, and then tomorrow the dog bites me, the owner then has knowledge that the dog has the propensity to bite so he has to be more careful.

Mike: Right, right. Okay.

Tricia: Okay.

Michael G: Does that make sense?

Mike: Yeah.

Tricia: Tricia says a person in front of me was hauling some furniture and a shelf fell off the truck and hit my front windshield. The driver didn’t notice and kept on going, what should I do? I did file a police report.

Michael G: Well, I’m assuming that you do not have the license plate number of the truck. In that event, what I would do is call your own auto insurance coverage and tell them what happened. As long as you have collision coverage or uninsured motorist property damage coverage, one of those two, they will cover it and pay for the damages of the vehicle. The police report will be good to give to them just to verify what happened. But if you don’t have any information on this truck, there’s no way to make a claim against this, you know, phantom vehicle that was out there. So the best and only answer would be to go through your own coverage.

Tricia: You know, and the worst thing about it is that you have to cover deductibles. And so a lot of times you look at it and they’re like, “Okay. Well, we’ll cover it to 500 bucks.” And you’re like, “My deductible is 1200.”

Mike: Yeah, that’s my deductible.

Tricia: So, yeah.

Michael G: So yeah, I mean, and then with that type of coverage and making a claim, your insurance may go up. So there’s no free claim rule for that. So if you use your collision coverage, your insurance probably would go up and you have to make a decision. Weigh if the damages are worth making a claim for them.

Mike: Yeah. Would that also pertain to like this time of the year, when the winds blow debris all over the place and sometimes stuff fall, you know, goes on the road and you see it too late and you run over a like a pail or something, you know, and it does some damage to the underpart of your car. It would be the same, you would use that same type of…

Michael G: Exactly the same logic, yeah. So yeah, it’s definitely a problem. I mean, if you, let’s just say, you saw a truck and it was just a brand name vehicle, and you knew who it was, maybe you got license plate number, then maybe you could make a claim against them for, you know, improper storage of their thing in the back of their truck and not securing it well enough to keep it from flying out. But on the highway, you can get hit by lots of different things. And there’s no way to know who actually caused this to hit you.

Tricia: Okay. So this is from anonymous. She says she recently lost her son to a drunk-driving incident where he was the only one involved. But she says, the bar he was served at served him so much that it was almost three times over the limit from the report that the police gave them. Not to mention, he was only 20 years old. She wants to know if the place can be held liable for the accident.

Michael G: It’s certainly possible they could be held liable. We’d have to investigate and find out more facts. This is what they call a dram shop case where you sue the bar for exactly what she’s talking about. So if there’s witnesses, friends of his that were with him at the bar, acquaintances, we’d wanna investigate, find out all the facts, what happened, how he got in. Did he have a fake ID? Why did they serve him? Was he at more than one place? All those questions are important, but yes, it’s certainly possible. And I am so sorry to hear about your son. Just such a horrible, horrible, horrible thing. I can’t imagine.

Mike: I imagine this type of a case would take a while because there’s so much investigating that needs to be done.

Michael G: There’s a lot of investigating and I would imagine that the place or the bar would probably not be willing to settle very quickly. They may be willing to settle after some time, some investigations, some depositions…

Mike: Or if there’s some kind of irrefutable evidence.

Michael G: Correct. And they’re not gonna be cooperating before a lawsuit’s filed with giving you information or, you know, you would have to talk to, you know, maybe the bartenders, the employees that were there yeah who have seen this kid and all those factors.

Tricia: But then you have to ask the bartender, “Oh, by the way, were you over serving this kid?” And then they can be liable.

Michael G: Right. I mean, did he pay cash for the drinks? Did he charge the drinks? If he charged the drinks, there’s more of, you know, you could see exactly what he had drunk. So that would be important too. I would definitely come talk to a lawyer, come talk to us. We’d be happy to try to investigate and help. It’s just a tragedy and there’ll be a lot of work to determine if there’s a valid case for sure.

Michael G: Okay. “Ask a lawyer.” Michael Gopin will be right back. More of your questions, his answers.

Michael J. Gopin

Michael J. Gopin has practiced law in El Paso since 1987. Even after more than 30 years, he still remembers his first jury case. It was two weeks after receiving his license, when he represented a person whose life had been forever changed after being blinded in a work-related incident...


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