Dog bites pose a serious problem in the United States from both a medical and legal perspective. Medically, dog bites can be difficult to treat, especially in cases where it’s unknown whether or not the animal was up to date on its vaccinations. Legally, the thousands of cases that tie up the courts each year show that this is a growing problem, forcing more and more victims to seek damages in a lawsuit. Even though cases of dog bites are still rare in comparison to the other types of personal injury lawsuits , it’s still important to know what to do in the event you are attacked by a dog.
Immediately Following a Dog Bite
While these same suggestions apply to any animal attack, dog bites are most common and that will be the focus here. The first priority in dealing with a dog bite should be to treat the wounds. Failing to treat the wounds promptly can increase your risk of further injury, infection, or, in rare cases, death. Accordingly , the bite should be treated as soon as possible with first aid, because it’s unlikely that you will be able to receive immediate medical care.
To treat a dog bite with first aid, Web MD suggests that you first stop the bleeding by placing a clean towel over the wound and lightly press to help the bleeding clot. Once the bite no longer bleeds, it’s important to clean the wound. Keeping the wound elevated, use soap and warm water to clean it. Next, apply an antibiotic ointment to the wound to protect against infection and wrap the area with a sterile bandage or cloth. The dressing should be changed daily.
Even after you have treated the bite with the first aid procedure, it’s still important to seek professional medical care. Your doctor will likely have questions and they will be similar to those an attorney may ask, if the incident leads to legal action against the dog’s owner.
Be as prepared as possible to answer the following questions:
- Who owns the dog?
- Is the dog up to date on its shots, including rabies and tetanus vaccinations?
- Was the dog provoked to bite you?
- Do you have any pre-existing medical conditions?
While a question about your medical history may not be legally relevant, your doctor will need this information to help you. People with liver disease, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases are at a greater risk of serious infection from animal bites.
The doctor will conduct a deeper examination of the wound. He’ll be looking for damage to the muscles, tendons, and bones, which may pose greater obstacles to recovery. Next, your doctor will clean the wound. Even though you may have already treated the wound at home, there could still be debris, other foreign objects, or dead skin in the open wound. Whether or not the wound is sutured varies on a case by case situation, because closing the wound can raise the risk of infection. If the bite is in a visible area, such as the face, suturing the wound can minimize the development of permanent scars. Depending on the severity of the wound, you may require plastic surgery, after you have recovered from the injury.
Seeking Damages from the Dog’s Owner
After you’ve been treated, your next concern will probably be to seek compensation from the dog’s owner and, for that, you may choose to hire a lawyer. It’s important to seek out an attorney who has previous experience in dealing with dog bite cases, due to the specific legalities that are involved in these types of cases, reports FindLaw.
The attorney will ask you to make a very detailed account of the incident, including asking you to provide the name and contact information for the animal’s owner. Additionally, you should also provide details for any witnesses of the dog attack.
The owner’s liability is determined by state laws, so this will vary depending on the state in which the dog bite occurred. In some states, the law places a burden of “strict liability” on the owner, meaning that the pet owner is responsible, even if he took reasonable precautions to protect others from the animal or if the owner had no reason to suspect that the dog would bite. Conversely, some other states only hold the owner liable, if he or she knew in advance that the dog had aggressive tendencies, or had reason to suspect “dangerous propensities” in the animal. If it was reasonable to suspect the dog could cause harm to people, the pet owner can be held liable for damages.
An attorney representing a dog bite victim may name others in a lawsuit in addition to the owner of the animal. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the dog bite, there may be third-party entities who are also liable. For instance, animal keepers are often named as co-defendants in cases where the owner had placed the dog in another’s care. This can include a kennel, a grooming facility, or an individual hired as a pet sitter.
Under certain circumstances, the liability of an animal keeper may also extend to parents, if the owner or caretaker of the animal was a minor. Since the minor can’t be held legally liable, the liability can be extended to the parents of the minor. This is true, whether or not the parents have had direct contact with the animal.
In other circumstances, Property owners and landlords may also be held liable for dog bites, if the attack occurred on the property. Additionally, property owners who knowingly permit a tenant to keep a dangerous dog may be liable, if that animal does bite another person.
Dog bites can cause serious and sometimes fatal injuries. For that reason, immediate medical care is necessary. Since treatment can be intensive and costly, it can be just as important to seek damages from the owner of the dog. By consulting with an experienced attorney, you can get a better grasp on the legal situation surrounding your dog bite and you’ll be able to make a better-informed decision.
If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite or dog attack, the dog bite attack attorneys at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk provide free case evaluations with no obligation – call 1-800-753-5203 today. We are available 24/7.