Get a bigger payout from the insurance company for your dog bite injury with these tips for negotiating pain and suffering compensation.
When you handle a dog bite claim without an attorney, you’ll be dealing directly with the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance company.
The first hurdle is getting the insurance adjuster to pay your special damages, like medical bills and lost wages. Special damages, also called “hard costs,” are expenses you can prove with medical bills, receipts for out-of-pocket costs, and a wage statement from your employer.
Negotiating general damages gets trickier. There are no objective measurements for general damages, which include your physical pain, emotional distress, inconvenience, and other impacts to your life. General damages tend to be lumped together under the term ”pain and suffering.”
Here’s where we walk you through some tips to help increase your total compensation by negotiating a better payout for your pain and suffering.
Tips On This Page:
Tip 1: Know What Counts as Pain and Suffering
When it comes to claim negotiations, there’s more to “pain and suffering” than just the physical pain of your dog bite wounds. To get the most compensation for general damages, it’s important to know everything that counts as “pain and suffering.”
Pain and suffering claims can include:
- Physical Pain: May come from torn flesh, stitches, injections, bruises and abrasions, and more
- Fear: The fright and terror of a vicious dog attack
- Anxiety: May include fear of dogs, general nervousness, worry about the future
- Psychological Damage: Recurrent bad dreams, phobias, weeping, or anger
- Emotional Distress: Caused by the inability to care for dependents or pets because of your injuries
- Inconvenience: Disruptions to your regular routine, missing planned events because of your injuries and treatment
- Humiliation: Embarrassment because you need help with bathing, dressing or personal hygiene
- Loss of Consortium: The inability to be intimate with your partner
Think about all the ways the dog attack and injury treatments have impacted your daily life, and what you can use to convey those losses to the insurance adjuster.
Tip 2: Gather Evidence of Your General Damages
The adjuster will assume your pain and suffering claims are exaggerated unless you can back up those claims with medical records and other evidence.
Evidence that can support your pain and suffering include:
- Doctor’s notes in your medical records describing your wounds
- Doctor’s notes restricting you from lifting, weight bearing on a leg, or other limitations
- Witness statements describing the dog attack, and your fear and distress
- Photos of your bloody, torn clothing
- Your injury diary, detailing your terror and helplessness during the attack, and dated entries describing daily pain levels, nightmares and more
- Statements from family and friends who have had to help with daily activities such as housework, childcare, and lawn care
The more evidence you have to substantiate your pain and suffering, the easier it will be to persuade the adjuster to increase your compensation.
Tip 3: Manage Your Settlement Expectations
The insurance adjuster has no obligation to pay anything for your alleged pain and suffering. Most adjusters will tack on a little extra in addition to your hard costs for your “inconvenience” but will make you work for anything more.
Even with terrific evidence, don’t expect a large amount of money for your pain and suffering if you’re handling your own injury claim.
Big pain and suffering awards for dog attacks only happen with severe injury claims that are handled by a skilled attorney.
You can always talk to a personal injury attorney if you aren’t sure about the value of your dog bite claim.
While you won’t be able to get a huge amount of money on your own for general damages, you can still maximize your compensation by following the basic steps toward settlement.
To get a reasonable amount of compensation for your pain and suffering, think like an adjuster. You’ll need to present such a good case that they’ll be willing to pay more to keep your claim out of court.
Tip 4: Use Vivid Language to Describe Your Pain and Suffering
Your dog bite wounds might be healed in a few weeks, but even relatively mild injuries can significantly affect your daily life while you recover.
Use vivid language (not exaggeration) to describe how your injuries impacted your life during and after the dog attack.
Use lots of details that include what you saw, heard, felt, and thought.
For example, you might describe:
- The gut-wrenching fear you experienced when you heard the ominous growling and turned to see a huge, powerful dog charging at you with teeth bared
- Your terror as you tried to run while the dog closed in on you
- The blinding pain as the snarling beast sunk its teeth into you, how you felt the skin and muscle ripping from your leg
- Your frantic attempts to protect yourself after you’d fallen to the ground, kicking with your feet as the dog bit deeper, twisting and tearing your flesh
You can convey an equally vivid “word picture” of other people struggling to get the ferocious dog away from you, your experience at the hospital, and every other physically and emotionally painful experience you’ve had since the attack.
Don’t underestimate the power of daily personal struggles during your recovery. Even describing your difficulty navigating the bathroom with your hand or leg bandaged can be compelling.
The last thing the adjuster wants is for your compelling story to be heard by a sympathetic jury.
Remember to mention to the adjuster that you would not have had to endure the pain and suffering of a dog attack if not for the negligence of the dog’s owner.
Tip 5: Negotiate Down from Your Demand
A common way to calculate injury claim values begins with adding up your hard costs, then adding one or two times that amount for pain and suffering.
Go ahead and ask for the higher claim amount when you start negotiations, with the understanding that you’ll negotiate down from your original demand for compensation.
If you’ve already gotten the adjuster to agree to pay for your hard costs, you need to be willing to compromise on the pain and suffering portion of your claim. Your goal should be a reasonable settlement, not a financial windfall.
If negotiations fail, your only option might be filing a lawsuit. Claim negotiations can easily break down when the discussion turns to pain and suffering.
Try to keep the big picture in mind:
- Litigation takes longer than settling out of court
- You’ll have to sue the dog’s owner, not the insurance company
- You might not end up with more if you go to court
- If you choose to litigate without an attorney, you’ll be up against skilled defense attorneys
Insurance companies have a “duty to defend” their insureds. When you sue the dog owner, their insurance company will almost always hire a lawyer to defend their insured.
Tip 6: Don’t Wait to Get Legal Help
Most of the time you can reach a reasonable injury settlement for your dog bite claim if you’re willing to stay calm and negotiate with persistence. However, there are times when you need some reliable legal help to get a fair settlement.
You can consult with an attorney at any time during the claim process.
Whether you talk to an attorney from the start, or when negotiations stall, you can get the professional advice you need to make good decisions.
Most injury attorneys don’t charge for their initial consultation, and there’s no obligation on your part. It costs nothing to find out what an experienced personal injury attorney can do for you.
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