You may hear dozens of common legal myths every day, both on TV and in advice from friends and family. That doesn’t make these myths true, however. Legal misconceptions can put you on the wrong path and keep you from getting counsel that can help win your case.
4 Common Legal Myths Versus Facts
Here are four myths about common legal issues cleared up with facts and real-life examples.
1. Are Dog Bites Worth Suing Over?
A dog bite that requires medical attention is a serious injury worth suing over. More than 800,000 people in America require medical intervention due to dog bites every year. A court may award a large settlement if the dog bite left scars, required surgery, took a psychological toll in the form of PTSD or led to permanent disability.
The law recognizes a dog owner’s responsibility to keep their pet from injuring people. You can sue over a dog bite to potentially recover money from the owner for medical bills, lost work, scarring and pain and suffering. This is provided you were not trespassing on private property and did not provoke the dog into biting you.
Harm to the Dog
Among the most common legal myths surrounding dog bites is the idea that if you sue over a dog bite, the dog will have to be euthanized if you win the case. This is not necessarily true. You can sue over a dog bite and win without causing any harm to the dog.
In many states, the owner is at fault for the bite, not the dog. A dog must have a proven history of biting before a court will consider euthanization. Often, after a first bite, the owner must take steps to reduce the risk of a bite, including muzzling the dog in public, putting up a “Beware of Dog” sign or seeking verifiable dog training.
2. What Is Premise Liability and Does It Affect Me?
There are many common legal myths surrounding premise liability — laws that determine property owners’ liability if someone experiences an injury on their property. One often-repeated urban legend involves a burglar who sued because he fell through the skylight of the house he was robbing. In reality, the reason the injured person was on the property factors heavily into the outcomes of these cases.
People conducting any business or transactions on a property, including customers and renting tenants, have the broadest legal protections. The property owner has a duty to actively make sure the premises are safe for these people.
A business may face a lawsuit if, for example, a patron slips and falls because of an unmarked puddle from mopping. To mitigate this risk, the business owner should put up signs and remove any potential safety hazards. If you suffered an injury at a business that didn’t take precautions to protect its customers, you may want to sue the business for medical bills and other damages.
Despite what common legal myths may say, guests in a person’s home have legal protections as well, but these protections are slightly more limited. A homeowner could be liable for a guest’s injuries if there is a hazard on the property that the homeowner knew about, didn’t fix or warn their guest about, and that isn’t visible to a reasonably observant person. Otherwise, the guest is often viewed as responsible for their own safety.
Anyone who enters the property without the owner’s knowledge or permission is a trespasser and receives little legal protection. A person doesn’t generally have any responsibility to make sure their home is safe for trespassers or roof-traversing burglars.
3. Are Police Officers Allowed To Lie?
One of the most harmful common legal myths is that it’s illegal for police officers to lie or that an undercover officer has to answer truthfully when asked about their identity. Police officers can and do lie to obtain information and confessions.
Talking to Police
If there’s a chance you may be a suspect in a crime, don’t attempt to explain yourself to the police without a lawyer present. The Fifth Amendment protects you in these cases, and remaining silent doesn’t suggest that you’re guilty. Here are a few of the many reasons to wait for a lawyer instead of talking to the police right away:
- Almost no one can remember stressful events with perfect accuracy. The prosecutor can use any small inaccuracies against you in court, even if you told the police the truth to the best of your ability.
- Police often lie to obtain confessions. They can claim to have evidence that doesn’t exist or falsely suggest that confessing will lead to fewer consequences.
- The police officer may misremember or deliberately misinterpret what you said if there was no lawyer present.
- You can always talk to the police later after consulting a lawyer.
4. Am I Better Off Without an Attorney on My Side?
You have the right to represent yourself in legal proceedings if you so choose. Many civil cases involve people representing themselves. Contrary to common legal myths, the facts state it’s better to have a lawyer help you in these cases.
A 2017 study from the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless found that in eviction cases, 90 percent of defendants with a lawyer were not evicted from their homes while 68 percent of defendants without a lawyer were evicted. The Florida Bar Foundation found that many self-represented cases in family court had to be re-tried due to errors an attorney could have prevented.
Affording an Attorney
One myth is that only wealthy people can afford to hire a lawyer. In criminal cases, you have the right to a free public defense lawyer. Many attorneys take personal injury cases on contingency, meaning the attorney gets paid from the judgment only if they win the case. You also may be able to find a lawyer to take your case pro bono (at no charge).
Where To Find a Lawyer and Avoid Falling for Common Legal Myths
Don’t rely on tidbits, advice or anecdotes when it comes to something as important as your legal standing. MDK Law Group has experienced lawyers that can cut through common legal myths and give trustworthy, factual guidance. Contact us for a free consultation.