Part 1: Tips for Negotiating Hard Costs…
Negotiating dog bite insurance claims can be tricky. Personal injury attorneys have years of experience dealing with adjusters. They also have the ability to file a lawsuit if the insurance company won’t negotiate, which you can’t do. But with a little know-how you can successfully negotiate your own claim without an attorney.
If you decide to pursue a dog bite insurance claim on your own, you must negotiate with confidence and present your case convincingly to the claims adjuster.
This page gives some tips and strategies for negotiating an injury settlement after a vicious dog attack.
Tip #1: Be Prepared for the Adjuster’s Call…
In most dog bite cases a claim is filed against the dog owner’s Homeowners Insurance Policy. After you submit a claim you will receive a telephone call from the insurance company’s representative, known as a “Claims Adjuster”. Be prepared for the telephone call.
You will not begin to negotiate a settlement for your injuries and lost wages during this first call. Normally on the first contact the claims adjuster identifies herself and confirms your identity. Speak with the adjuster as you would any other professional. In all likelihood, if you treat her professionally she will return the favor.
You want the adjuster to take you seriously. Commanding her attention and begrudging respect will go a long way toward a positive consideration of your claim. Keep ind mind the following…
- Stay in control and organized.
- Your voice should be steady, and never shrill or insulting.
- Do not sound desperate.
- Pace yourself.
Tip #2: You Can Wait to Give a Recorded Statement…
During the first phone call the claims adjuster may want to take your recorded statement of the dog bite incident. Although referred to as your “Statement” it will in fact be a recorded question and answer session.
This statement is very important and in many ways binding, so you must be of clear mind before you give it. You may be taking strong pain medication for your dog bite injuries so it may not be a good idea to give your statement during this first call. Be honest with the adjuster and tell her you’re not up to giving a statement quite yet because the medication makes you lethargic or confused, or just too groggy to be able to remember the details of the dog attack.
If you are not feeling well enough to speak with the adjuster it’s quite alright for your significant other to explain your condition and request a call back. The adjuster should not have a problem calling back to discuss your dog bite insurance claim at a later time.
Tip #3: Friends and Family Can Help…
Because you may not be entirely clear headed at the start of your recovery it may be helpful to get the assistance of your spouse or a good friend. Before speaking with the adjuster you want to have your facts straight and prepare the relevant documents for your reference.
Tip #4: Don’t Try to Make Friends With the Adjuster…
You do not have to please the adjuster. You don’t want to become friends with her and you shouldn’t care if the adjuster likes you. Your dog bite insurance claim is not a popularity contest. Your communications with the adjuster should be business-like and detailed in content.
Hopefully the adjuster will be polite and amiable. She’s probably learned from her training that being angry or mean during business hours not only does a disservice to the company, but doing so is bound to either make her ill or burned out. So try not to ruin her “Karma”, she will then hopefully not want to ruin yours.
Tip #5: Don’t Blow Your Case…
While recovering from dog bite injuries the last thing you want to do is be active. For example, after a week recovering a man may start feeling bad he hasn’t been able to throw the ball around with his young son, or help his wife while she goes food shopping.
Although it’s not very likely you’re being watched by the insurance company, the possibility does remain. It will be very difficult to negotiate a claim for pain and suffering if the adjuster has video of you changing a tire or lifting groceries out of your car. These days with high quality cell phone video technology there’s always a chance someone might record you being active.
Tip #6: Recording a Statement is Legal and Common Practice…
If you don’t already have a cell phone which can record a telephone call, it would be a good idea to invest in a small tape recorder for your phone. The adjuster will be recording your conversation. There is no reason why you shouldn’t record the conversation as well.
When the adjuster tells you she is about to record your statement don’t be surprised or anxious. What she is doing is perfectly normal and legal.
Tip #7: The Questions Will Get Personal…
Let’s imagine you’re feeling well enough to speak with the adjuster and give your statement. Before doing so make sure you are entirely clear in your own mind about the facts and details of that terrible day when you were viciously attacked. Be aware and ready to answer some personal questions that you may think have nothing to do with your dog bite insurance claim.
An example of a question you are sure to be asked is if you were taking any prescribed medication that day; or if you had that day, or the night before, personally ingested any illegal narcotics. You will also likely be asked if you’d been drinking any alcohol the night before or the day of the injury.
The adjuster will continue to refer to the dog attack as the “incident,” or the “accident,” but you can be sure she will never refer to it as an “attack.”
Tip #8: Have the Right Attitude…
Don’t enter the dog bite negotiations presuming anything. The adjuster doesn’t haveto pay anything for pain and suffering. Going into a negotiation thinking it’s all about seeing how high you can “jack up” the insurance company is foolish and can set negotiations back before you even get started. Remember the adage, “Don’t engage the mouth until the brain is in gear.”
Tip #9: Never Imply or Invite Collusion…
There are many examples of dog attack victims misunderstanding something an adjuster either said or implied and using it as an invitation to propose something untoward or illegal. If that occurs you can be sure the negotiations will come to an abrupt halt.
If you “cross the line” you may be waiting for the adjuster to return your calls and wondering why she’s not. Don’t hold your breath! You’ll probably receive a letter from the insurance company’s legal department telling you they have decided to cease any negotiations with you. Period.
At that point they owe you nothing, and will wait to be contacted by your attorney. Any hope of settling your case without an attorney is long gone. These things happen, and although you’re probably smart enough never to engage in such behavior, you should at least be forewarned of the consequences if you do.
Tip #10: Use Descriptive and Emotional Language…
Be prepared to effectively communicate to the adjuster how the dog attack affected you on a personal level. Include such things as the sheer terror of the attack, and the helplessness you felt as each time you tried to pull away from the dog it bit deeper into your flesh.
These are powerful emotions and must be used in your dog bite insurance claim negotiations. Feelings like these are certainly not commonplace. You must be able to vividly convey those emotions to the adjuster.
Tip #11: Don’t Embellish Your Story…
During the recorded statement you will be asked to explain what happened in the time preceding the dog attack. You will be guided through the minutes of the attack itself and then to the aftermath. Remember to tell the truth without embellishment!
Too many people, in an effort to do what they think will bolster their dog bite insurance claim, try to exaggerate facts, add facts, omit facts, and worse lie about them. Doing so is the fastest way to damage your chances of an optimal dog bite settlement. The facts are the facts. Describe them emotionally, but don’t change them.
Tip #12: Negotiations Come Later…
The initial interview will not include negotiations. The interview is similar to “setting the stage” for the rest of the negotiations. You will receive the dog bite insurance claim number and the adjuster’s telephone number. She will ask you who your treating physicians are, which hospital you visited when “injured,” the name of the hospital and the names of any physicians who treated you in the emergency room.
Don’t worry if you don’t have the answers to all her questions, but the more you can tell her now the less work she’ll have to do later.
The adjuster will also probably say you’ll be receiving a “Medical Authorization,” requesting you sign and mail it back to her. The adjuster will need the Authorization to secure medical records related to the dog attack, your injuries, and your treatment then, now, and into the future. You do not have to sign the Authorization, but not doing so will certainly impede the progress of your dog bite insurance claim.
During the initial interview the adjuster will set out the procedure for negotiations and eventual final disposition of your case. She will tell you to continue your treatment and recovery. She will probably not offer any amount of money at that time, whether for wages or medical bills. In fact she may leave you feeling cold and unnerved. Remember Tip #4, It doesn’t matter how she leaves you as long as she does her job.
After the interview you can relax and continue with your treatment and recovery. Weeks and maybe months will pass as you are getting better. During your recovery the adjuster will be collecting medical updates from your physicians. She will also be working on many other cases. As you begin to approach full recovery it will also be time to begin negotiating a settlement of your case.
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