Dog bites often seem to happen out of nowhere. What seems like an interaction with a perfectly friendly dog can turn into a nightmare of pain and trauma in the blink of an eye.
After suffering a dog bite, it can help to take the following basic steps to protect your health and legal rights. To learn more about your options in the aftermath of a dog bite that injures you or a loved one, contact an experienced dog bite injury lawyer today.
1. Get information from the dog’s owner.
As a dog bite victim, you need to know the dog’s vaccination history, especially whether the dog’s rabies vaccine is up-to-date. Ideally, the owner should provide you with a copy of the dog’s rabies vaccine certificate, which can reassure you that the dog does not have rabies and that you do not need to worry about that dangerous infection.
If you cannot get information from the dog’s owner, or worse, if the dog is known to have rabies, then you may need to seek emergency medical care to protect yourself against infection. Rabies, if left untreated, is almost 100 percent fatal in humans.
2. Report the bite.
Local laws and ordinances dictate the steps the dog’s owner should take to prevent the dog from endangering people. However, once the dog bites, someone needs to notify Animal Control right away. If you suffered severe injuries and need emergency medical care from an ambulance, then you may want to report the bite by calling 911. A call to your local non-emergency line can also let Animal Control know about the dog.
In some cases, especially an off-leash dog on another person’s property or a stray, Animal Control may pick up the dog to ensure that it does not present a hazard to anyone else. You do not want a dangerous dog to continue wandering around your neighborhood or to bite someone else. In some cases, including stray dogs, Animal Control may also isolate the animal and watch it for signs of rabies. If the dog already shows signs of rabies, testing can prove the presence of rabies and get you the treatment you need.
Signs of rabies in a dog include:
- Foaming at the mouth
- Clear disorientation
- Increased agitation
- Clear evidence of seizures
To test a dog for rabies, doctors must remove the brain and examine it. No other test exists that can prove or disprove the presence of rabies in an animal. If you suffer a dog bite, however, this procedure may prove vital to ensuring that you get the treatment you need. Clearly identify the animal that bit you so that Animal Control can isolate and test it as needed.
Responding police officers will also create a report of the bite, which will establish when the bite took place. Obtain a copy of the report, if you can, since it may contain important evidence for your lawyer to use in a dog bite claim.
3. Seek medical attention.
If you have any type of puncture wound or bruising following a dog attack, seek medical attention immediately. Dog attacks can result in serious injuries, including puncture damage, broken bones, or damaged ligaments and tendons.
Severe dog attacks can also lead to other severe injuries. If the dog knocks you to the ground, for example, you may suffer from broken bones. If you hit your head against the ground or a nearby object, you may suffer a traumatic brain injury due to the attack.
Prompt medical attention can help reduce your risks of developing serious complications from your injuries. It can also lead to the creation of medical records that help to prove the nature, extent, and cause of your injuries.
If you do not know the dog’s vaccine history or if you suspect the dog has rabies, then you may need to get rabies shots. Waiting until rabies symptoms develop before seeking care can put your life at risk. Do not wait too long to see a doctor and make arrangements for rabies shots if you feel you need them. You can discontinue shots if you later discover that the dog does not have rabies, but you cannot go back and get them if you do not notify the doctor about your concerns immediately after the attack.
4. Contact an attorney.
Dog owners have a legal liability to victims of a dog bite, even if the dog has never bitten someone before. Dog owners must also take care of their animals and prevent them from going off their property.
Unfortunately, sometimes dog owners try to avoid liability, especially if the owner did not report the dog’s presence to a homeowner’s insurance carrier or did not have adequate fencing or other precautions to protect the public from the dog. Dog owners often worry about the safety of their pets, which is understandable, but the safety of humans comes first in these cases.
Do not accept any informal offer from a dog owner to pay your medical bills or other expenses, in exchange for you agreeing not to report the bite. This is dangerous to your health, jeopardizes your rights to compensation, and may violate local law.
Instead, report the bite and then contact an experienced dog bite attorney right away. Reporting the dog bite ensures that you have a record of the attack and that the dog owner cannot brush it off or pretend it never happened. A dog that has bitten once may do so again, and you have a responsibility to take the proper steps to keep yourself and others safe and healthy.
Speaking with a dog bite attorney can also help you understand your legal rights following a dog attack, including what the law says about your rights to compensation. Chances are high that the dog’s owner has legal liability for your medical expenses, other financial losses, and pain and suffering.
Did You Suffer Dog Bite Injuries?
If you or a loved one suffered the pain and trauma of a dog bite, then you may have grounds for a claim. Contact an experienced dog bite injury attorney today for a free consultation to learn more.