If you have been accused of contributing to the injury or death of another person's pet, you may very well find yourself in court. In addition to being asked to cover the costs of the pet's bills, you may also be sued to pay for emotional distress. In some cases, you may even be charged with animal cruelty or negligence. Unfortunately, this means you may find yourself in court fighting the charges. This means that talking to an attorney about your situation is your next step. Here are a few things you need to know about the process:
1. Read the complaint thoroughly.
You will receive a summons along with the complaint, telling you that you are required to come to court. You will receive information about the location of the court and who is involved. In a civil case, you will also be asked to file your answer as a response.
2. Your attorney will help you address the allegations properly.
In most cases, simply submitting a form with a response (admit or deny) is enough. It is important not to write in the first person or use informal language, which is where your lawyer comes in. If you fail to respond to a claim, you may be treated as if you admitted to taking the action, so it is important that you act. Filing your answer generally occurs at the court clerk's office.
3. Work with your lawyer to design a defense strategy.
This is why it is important to work with a lawyer: laws differ from state to state and even from city to city. This applies to criminal and civil court, and your lawyer will help you determine which defense will work most strongly in your favor based on local personal injury, property damage, and criminal negligence laws. In some civil cases, your lawyer may find that it is a better idea to cover some damages, like veterinary bills, but not those like emotional distress.
4. You may not need an attorney -- but that does not mean you should not consult with one.
You may not be required to be represented by an attorney, but this does not mean you should totally forget the idea. If animal cruelty is a felony in your state, you could be subjected to a $20,000 fine and up to two years in prison. Lawyers (such as those from Swartz & Swartz P.C.) can also talk down felonies into misdemeanors.