Nine Legal Mistakes Dog Bite Victims Should Avoid (Part 3 of 3)
A continuation from Nine Legal Mistakes Dog Bite Victims Should Avoid (Part 2). (https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/mistakes-dog-bite-victims-should-avoid-part-two)
Mistake #7(continued)- Also, if you appear too eager to settle the claim, this can negatively impact the case. Insurance adjustors are trained to look for signs that may weaken your negotiating position. If you are in debt or need money fast, the insurance company will use this fact to its advantage by making much lower settlement offers then might otherwise be warranted. In one case of mine, the client had tried to negotiate a settlement on his own. But during negotiations he also revealed that he had substantial debt and needed the money fast. When I got into the case, the insurance adjustor used this information against me to keep the settlement unreasonably low. The client ultimately had to accept this unreasonably low offer because the insurance adjustor knew that filing a lawsuit would delay resolution of the claim for at least another 18 months.
The insurance adjustor knows that a person who really needs the money fast is in a much weaker position to ask for a higher settlement. Therefore, don't appear too eager to settle. Take your time. In fact, be willing to negotiate the claim over a period of days or even weeks. Patience is usually met with a much higher settlement figure.
Mistake #8 - Not being absolutely honest with your doctors and the authorities. The credibility of the dog bite victim is extremely important. Oftentimes an incident or claim can only be proven based on what the victim says and what the dog owner says. Thus, if you give statements to your doctors or the authorities that turn out to be false, this will likely cause severe damage to your case—if not completely destroy it. Although it sounds like a cliché, honesty is absolutely the best policy. Be above reproach when it comes to describing what happened in the incident and how the injuries have affected you. Even minor exaggerations or incomplete versions of the incident to the doctor can cause major problems in the claim. Also, be aware that statements you make to others can be used against you. If you make a false statement to someone like a witness or co-worker or friend, that person can be used as a witness against you. So being honest to everyone is the best policy.
Mistake #9 - Failing to hire a lawyer if the injuries appear to be serious, disfiguring or permanent. If your injuries are serious or permanent, then it is usually in your best interest to hire a lawyer to help you resolve the claim. Please remember that insurance companies go to great lengths to train their adjustors on how to dig up information to use against you, and then teach them how to use this information to negotiate and minimize your claim. Adjustors usually handle thousands of claims every year so they are expert negotiators and evaluators of injury claims. Many times the insurance company will assign a dog bite case to the person who has the most knowledge and experience with these types of claims. So that adjustor will be well-versed on the law and understand the defenses and arguments available in a dog bite case. In most cases involving severe injury or scarring, the experienced dog bite lawyer will be able to obtain much more compensation then the unrepresented victim can recover on his or her own (and this is even true after the attorney subtracts his fee!). I handle dog bite cases on contingency so there is no out-of-pocket cost to see me, and I can usually tell you whether the case is worth pursuing with a lawyer or if you can go it alone (please refer to the last chapter of the book if you wish to speak to me about your dog bite case).
Also, by attempting to settle your case on your own you take the risk that you might do or say something that might permanently damage the case in some way. Even if you hire a lawyer later on, that lawyer is pretty much stuck with whatever has happened in the case. If you make statements that contradict the medical records, or say something to the adjustor that reveals what amount you are willing to accept as a settlement, or seek out inappropriate treatment, this can make it virtually impossible for the lawyer to resolve the case for maximum value. Oftentimes the best thing a dog bite victim can do is to immediately hire counsel to act on his or her behalf to ensure that no mistakes are made and that everything is handled professionally so the chances of recovering a satisfactory settlement is maximized.