If you get bitten by a dog, the first thing on your mind is probably how to get medical attention quickly. But after you see a doctor and start healing, other issues start to arise. For instance, how are you going to pay those medical bills? How will you recover the wages you lost while taking time off work to heal? What about the fact that you now suffer from anxiety around dogs and it isn’t getting any better?
One dog bite can cause long-lasting injuries, both physically and emotionally. Most likely, the dog owner has insurance that will help cover the costs of your injuries, and you might feel relieved that the insurance agent is going to help you answer those difficult questions. However, there are many reasons to be on your guard with an insurance company settling your claim.
Who Is the Insurance Adjuster Working For?
The most important thing to keep in mind when trying to settle a claim for a dog bite is that the insurance adjuster is working for the insurance company. Although the insurance adjuster has been assigned to handle your claim, at the end of the day, the adjuster answers to the insurance company. The insurance company wants to settle your claim for as little as possible. So even if your insurance adjuster seems nice and helpful when they communicate with you, remember that the adjuster has the insurance company’s best interests in mind, rather than yours. In fact, an insurance adjuster has no duty to you at all and does not have to be fair or honest about the value of your claim.
How Is an Insurance Adjuster Trained?
Insurance adjusters are trained negotiators. Negotiating is a skill, and people who are not trained in it may not realize they are being negotiated out of something to which they have a right. An insurance adjuster may try to dominate the negotiation with tactics they are professionally trained to use against you. For instance, an adjuster might:
- Say that nothing is negotiable
- Make an initial offer far below what they are authorized to make
- Say that everything has to be approved by someone with more authority
Saying that Nothing Is Negotiable.
Perhaps the most common tactic that insurance adjusters will try to use against you is saying that “Nothing is negotiable.” Here are some things the insurance adjuster might say if he or she is using this tactic:
- “This is the only amount I can offer.”
- “This is as good as it gets. We can’t go any higher.”
- “I’m sorry but I can’t consider counteroffers.”
An insurance adjuster also might use actions rather than words to show that he or she will not negotiate. In this case, the insurance adjuster might:
- Refuse to return phone calls
- Walk away from a meeting
- Cut off any conversation that turns to a settlement price adjustment
Any of the above words or actions are designed to make you think that you don’t have options. However, the truth is that everything is negotiable, and the insurance adjuster knows that from the beginning. If you show the insurance adjuster that you also know that everything is negotiable, then he or she may give up that strategy and be more willing to negotiate a fair settlement. Remember that the insurance company probably doesn’t want to go to trial over your claim. Going to trial will cost the insurance company money because they’ll have to pay attorney’s fees and pay their employees to do a lot more work on the case thn they would have to do if they settle. So, insurance companies are almost always willing to increase their initial offer if you refuse it, even if it’s just to save on litigation expenses. If the insurance adjuster tells you they’re not willing to negotiate, that’s just a negotiation tactic to get you to take an offer that they know is not fair.
Offering Well Below What Has Been Authorized
Often, insurance adjusters will make offers that could start as low as 50% of what they are authorized to offer, even if they know that your claim is worth much more. These adjusters know that negotiation is possible and they’re protecting themselves by starting out low. Insurance adjusters will feel successful if they can settle the claim for less than what they’re authorized to give you. However, you don’t have to take that initial offer. In fact, it is almost always best to reject the initial offer and negotiate for a higher price. Remember—negotiation is possible. Don’t think of the first offer as an insult or a dead end. Rather, it is an opportunity to negotiate.
Blaming People “Higher Up”
Insurance adjusters will tell you that their hands are tied because their supervisor would never let them get away with giving you more money. This is a successful tactic because it encourages you to believe that the adjuster is on your side, would help you out if it were possible, and that the person telling you “No” is actually some unknown person with greater authority. This might make you more inclined to trust that the adjuster really is giving you the best settlement offer they can. However, insurance adjusters know going into a claim settlement how much they are authorized to offer and they do not have to get permission to offer you a higher amount unless it goes over the limit authorized for the claim. Telling you otherwise is a deflection tactic that helps the insurance adjuster get the best deal for the insurance company.
Are There Insurance Traps to Avoid?
There are some general rules you should follow when working with an insurance company to settle a claim. For instance:
- Do not agree to the insurance company’s version of events until you have thoroughly reviewed them for accuracy
- Make sure to document all medical expenses
- Recognize when an insurance company is using delay tactics
Review the Insurance Company’ Version of Events
In a phone call or meeting with the insurance adjuster, he or she may ask you to agree with the insurance company’s version of the dog bite incident. It may be easy for you to just agree. After all, you’ve been injured and you may not be as focused on the details of the attack or the implications of what the insurance adjuster is saying. However, once you agree to the insurance company’s version of events, it is very hard to go back and contest them.
The insurance adjuster is likely to portray the events in the light most favorable to the insurance company. Some details that they got wrong may seem insignificant, but it could end up being quite significant later. For instance, if the insurance adjuster leaves out some small but very important fact, it might change the whole narrative of the story. You want to make sure that you don’t agree with any version of events that are not accurate. To make sure that the insurance company has the facts right, it is best to get an experienced dog bite attorney to review a written statement of the facts or help you submit your own statement of facts to the insurance company.
Make Sure to Document All Medical Expenses After a Dog Bite
Insurance companies may try to avoid paying medical expenses by suggesting that you are exaggerating your injuries or the cost of the medical treatment. Keeping all of your bills and evaluations from your doctor will support your claim. If you present the insurance company with evidence to back up your expenses, it will be much harder for the insurance company to argue that you are exaggerating.
Don’t Give in to Delay Tactics
If you do not accept the insurance company’s initial offer, the insurance adjuster may start avoiding calls and emails. This is a tactic designed to see if you will give up and accept the amount offered. It also may be a tactic to delay until the statute of limitations on your potential lawsuit runs out. A statute of limitations is the window of time you have to bring a complaint to the court. If the statute of limitations runs out before you file a lawsuit, you will lose your right to file the lawsuit at all. If you think that an insurance company is delaying on purpose, it is best to get an attorney to deal with the insurance company on your behalf.
Be on Guard for Insurance Company Tactics After a Dog Bite Accident
Dealing with insurance companies can be difficult, especially after a dog bite has left you injured and traumatized. You want fair compensation for your injuries as quickly as possible so that you can recover from your injuries and move past the event. Because of this, it might feel simpler to just agree with the insurance company and accept whatever settlement it offers you. However, if you do that, you will likely get far less than you should. To protect your interests, you must be on guard for the tactics the insurance adjusters will use against you.
Insurance adjusters are working to save the insurance company as much money as possible, at your expense. The only way to combat this is to recognize their negotiating tactics and push back against them. Don’t settle for the first offer they make, always negotiate, and remember that adjusters usually do not need authorization from their supervisor to make you a higher offer. On top of that, be careful before you sign anything or agree with the insurance company’s version of events, and always document your medical expenses.
Contact Our Experienced Kansas City Dog Bite Attorneys Today
The best defense to an insurance adjuster’s tactics is to hire an experienced dog bite attorney who knows the tactics that insurance adjusters are trained to use against you and who will fight for your best interests. If you have suffered a dog bite injury and need someone to advocate for you, call the attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC. We are best suited to negotiate with the insurance company and make sure that you get a fair settlement. We have years of experience negotiating with insurance companies and litigating dog bite cases just like yours. Don’t let an insurance adjuster talk you into settling for anything less than you deserve. Contact the attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, today.