Adjuster X

Puppy Problems

By: | October 1, 2015 • 2 min read
This column is based on the experiences of a group of long-time claims adjusters. The situations they describe are real, but the names and key details are kept confidential. Michelle Kerr is the editor of this column and can be reached at [email protected]

Fred Barnes, a deliveryman for Standard Messenger Co., was bitten by a dog while delivering a package. The wound was on his right index finger and resulted in a trip to the emergency room.

“That dog is intimidating!” Barnes said when I met with him. “Must weigh 80 pounds. It’s a pit bull.”

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I asked, “Where on the customer’s premises did the bite occur?”

“In the foyer, waiting for a signature for the delivery confirmation.”

I asked how he was in the home without the owner securing the dog.  He said he knew the dog, named Achillles.

“If that dog wanted to hurt you, he could have crushed your hand and left it a bloody pulp.”

I was surprised that Barnes knew the dog.

I took down the homeowner’s information.

“What were you doing when Achilles bit you?” I asked.

“Nothing. Just standing there,” replied Barnes.

Barnes said he had not done anything to antagonize Achilles.

“I still have to speak with the customer. His homeowner’s insurance will be placed on notice for your medical bills. Do you intend to pursue a liability recovery against him?”

Barnes asked, “What would happen to Achilles if I did?”

“That’s difficult to say. If he’s bitten anyone in the past, there’s a chance he may face being put down.”

Barnes appeared upset. “No, no — no liability claim.”

I met with the homeowner, asking that the dog be placed in a secure room during my visit. When I rang the doorbell I immediately heard the sound of a barking dog.

“I’m terribly sorry that Fred got bit,” Joe Giddens, the owner, said.

“Do you know what Barnes was doing when Achilles bit him?” I asked.

“Yes, the usual when he comes here — giving him treats he keeps in his pocket.

I was confused. “If Fred and Achilles are such good friends, why did Achilles nip him?”

Giddens said Achilles grew over-excited and accidentally bit Barnes. Giddens said he offered to take Barnes to the emergency room but Barnes insisted he drive there himself.

I asked to meet the dog and in came a pit bull with a head on him that seemed the size of a bear. He was wagging his tail and obviously excited. Giddens said the dog was 13 months old and expressed concern about what could happen to him.

“No, I’m sure nothing bad will happen, but I have to ask you for your homeowner’s insurance information so I can submit our comp medical bills to them,” I said.

“I’ll pay that out-of-pocket,” Giddens replied. “The last thing I need is my insurance company giving me a bad time over this breed.” After giving Achilles an ear rub, I left.

I met with Barnes again.

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“Why didn’t you tell me the truth? You were giving dog treats to Achilles when he nipped you by mistake.”

“We’re not supposed to interact with any customer’s animals,” Barnes answered.

“I didn’t want to get into trouble. I’ve known Achilles since he was a puppy … he waits for me to give him treats. This time he just got a bit excited.”

“If that dog wanted to hurt you, he could have crushed your hand and left it a bloody pulp,” I said.

“The claim is compensable, but you better be more careful in the future, for both your sake and the dog’s.”

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]