Obstacles to obtaining fair compensation
There are three types of obstacles to getting the amount of compensation that you deserve. The first type is a liability problem. The dog bite statutes do not provide genuinely strict liability, because courts have applied defenses such as comparative fault and provocation even though the statutes generally do not seem to permit such defenses. If there is no dog bite statute, then the victim must prove that the dog owner or defendant knew that the dog was vicious prior to the current incident. This is a difficult thing to prove in many cases. (To find information about a state’s liability laws, one can go to any page of www.dogbitelaw.com and enter the name of the state into the search box.)
The second type pertains to the nature and extent of the injury. The bite may cause a scar, infection and disability. The consequences of the bite may include medical treatment costs, future treatment costs when future surgery is needed, loss of income, loss of earning potential when there is a disability, and other types of out-of-pocket costs. Then there is the pain and suffering, including the emotional distress that many victims feel when they encounter dogs after being bitten. There are only two categories of people who can put an accurate monetary value on a bodily injury, namely the people who champion the cause of the victims (meaning trial lawyers and all of the experts they rely on) and those who work for insurance companies.
Which gets us to the third type of obstacle, namely the issue of collectability. As with any other case, the liable party must have the insurance or assets to cover the victim’s losses. Homeowners policies and renters policies protect dog owners in most cases. However, some policies exclude pit bulls and other breeds associated with attacks on people. The victim has to hope that the liable party in her case was insured in some way. One must never rely upon the dog owner himself to give accurate information about his insurance, because many of them do not know that their homeowners or renters policy covers dog bites, and also because many of them lie about it in an effort to sweep the incident under the rug.
For more information, read Does an Adult Need a Lawyer for a Dog Bite Claim? or Should Parents Get a Lawyer for Their Injured Child?
Why you must not deal with the insurance company on your own
If you are dealing with the insurance company without an attorney, then, as seriously as you are taking your injuries, the insurance company isn’t — you can be assured of that.Other people with similar injuries have retained attorneys to present their claims to that same insurance company. One thing that all those people have in common is an attitude of seriousness about what happened to them, and a driving desire to make sure they are treated fairly. The insurance company will pay the proper amount to those people, but not the ones who don’t take the initial step of protecting their rights by retaining an attorney.
The person at the insurance company that you are dealing with (called the “adjuster”) might well appear sincere and sympathetic — a very, very nice person, a caring person. However, he or she has to report to other people you will never talk to: a supervisor, a claims examiner, a regional manager, and finally the corporate office. The adjuster is paid a salary and has a family. He or she wants to continue working for that company, and maybe get a raise and a promotion. None of that will be risked for you.
Even if the adjuster wants to help you, because of some bond that you believe has developed between the two of you, you will not necessarily be treated fairly by the supervisor, claims examiner, regional manager, and corporate office. They don’t know you. To them, you are nothing but a person without an attorney.
You are not dealing with the adjuster, you are dealing with a faceless corporation, and to that corporation you are nothing but a file, a liability, someone who wants money that otherwise would be distributed to the shareholders as profit.
If you do not retain an attorney, you are on your own, against all those people at the insurance company, and all of its lawyers. When was the last time that you heard a happy ending to that story?