Get a bigger payout for your dog bite case 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 economic damages, like medical bills and lost wages. You can prove these losses with medical bills, receipts for out-of-pocket medical costs, and a wage statement from your employer.
Negotiating non-economic damages gets trickier. There are no objective measurements for your physical pain, emotional distress, inconvenience, and other impacts on your life. These damages tend to be lumped together under the term pain and suffering.
6 Tips to Boost Dog Bite Pain and Suffering Compensation:
- Know What Counts as Pain and Suffering
- Gather Evidence of Your Damages
- Manage Your Settlement Expectations
- Use Vivid Language for Your Pain and Suffering
- Always Negotiate Down from Your Demand
- Don’t Wait to Get Legal Help
Tip 1: Know What Counts as Pain and Suffering
When it comes to negotiating a personal injury claim, there’s more to “pain and suffering” than just the physical pain of a dog bite injury. To get the most compensation, it’s important to know everything that counts as pain and suffering.
Types of pain and suffering:
- Pain From Physical Injuries: May come from torn flesh, stitches, injections, broken bones, 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: Recurring bad dreams, phobias, weeping, or anger from the emotional trauma of the attack
- 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 of disfigurement or because you need help with bathing or personal hygiene
- Loss of Consortium: The inability to be intimate with your partner or care for your family members
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 to support your pain and suffering claims:
- 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
- Animal control reports verifying a pit bull or other attack-dog breed
- Photos of your bloody, torn clothing, and other damaged personal items
- 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
- Physical therapy notes describing your struggle to regain movement in the wounded limbs
The more evidence you have to prove 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 animal attacks only happen with severe injury claims that are handled by a skilled dog bite lawyer. You can always talk to a lawyer 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 pain and suffering, you can still maximize your compensation by following the steps of the claim process.
To get a reasonable amount of compensation for your pain and suffering, try to think like an adjuster. You 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, but 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.
Examples of emotional descriptions of a dog attack:
- The gut-wrenching fear you experienced when you heard the ominous growling and turned to see a huge, dangerous 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
- The agony of medical treatment in the emergency room as your wounds were cleaned and stitched while you shook with tears
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: Always 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. Always ask for the higher amount when you start negotiations, understanding that you will negotiate down from your original demand.
If you’ve already gotten the adjuster to agree to pay for your medical expenses, property damage, and lost income, 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 to file a dog bite lawsuit. Claim negotiations can easily break down when the discussion turns to non-economic damages.
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 them.
Tip 6: Don’t Wait to Get Legal Help
Most of the time you can reach a reasonable settlement for your dog bite claim if you’re willing to stay calm and negotiate with patience and persistence. However, there are times when you need some reliable legal advice to get a fair settlement.
You can consult with an injury law firm at any time during the claim process.
Whether you talk to a personal injury attorney from the start, or when negotiations stall, you can get the professional advice you need to make the best decision for you and your loved ones.
Most dog bite attorneys offer a free consultation, and there’s no obligation on your part. It costs nothing to find out what an experienced personal injury lawyer can do for you.
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