We all love our furry friends. They’re great companions and, let’s be honest, sometimes we even like them more than other humans. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 36% of households own at least one dog. They have been proven to decrease stress, increase exercise levels, and make great playmates for children. However, they are animals after all and sometimes they bite.
Types of Dog Bite Injuries
Dog bite injuries can range from minor abrasions to severe lacerations causing nerve damage. Often the injuries sustained can be treated at home with proper care, but the more severe injuries will need to be evaluated and treated by a medical professional.
- Abrasions – These superficial injuries include grazes and scrapes that don’t go past the surface of the skin. There generally isn’t much bleeding, but they can still result in scarring.
- Punctures – Perhaps the most common injury from dog bites are puncture wounds. Though small, they are deep which increases the risk of infection.
- Lacerations – These injuries are deep cuts or tears in the skin that go past the epidermis. There will be much more bleeding from this type of injury and often require stitches.
- Nerve Damage – A puncture or laceration could lead to nerve damage if the bite is deep enough. Depending on the varying degree, it can lead to temporary loss of function or permanent paralysis of the affected area.
- Avulsions – This type of injury means that skin or tissue has been ripped or torn away. Medical attention is absolutely necessary in this case and will often require reconstructive surgery.
With approximately 10-15% of dog bite injuries leading to infection, it is crucial to tend to seemingly minor injuries, as well as the more severe injuries. The infections themselves can be moderate to severe. They may result from bacteria in the dog’s mouth, the environment in which the injury occurred, or worse. Responsible dog owners will make sure their dog is vaccinated for rabies, but the truth is not everyone is a responsible dog owner. You will want to find out if the dog has been given a rabies shot and take precautionary measures if you’re unsure.
Preventing Dog Bites
Everyone is at risk for dog bites, but kids especially are at a higher risk. Here are a few tips for encounters with unfamiliar canines.
- Always ask if it’s okay to pet someone else’s dog and do NOT reach out – let the dog sniff you and then approach you.
- When approached by an unfamiliar dog, remain still and calm – don’t throw objects at the dog and avoid direct eye contact.
- Don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for pups.
- Don’t let small children play with a dog unsupervised.
- If you encounter an aggressive dog immediately bring it to the owner’s attention or call animal control or your local police department if you know it is a stray.
Liability for Dog Bite Injuries
Generally speaking, dog owners are responsible for any injuries or attacks by their pets. This means that the owner or their insurance company is going to be responsible for compensation related to medical bills, pain and suffering, lost income, and any other damages from the accident.
In some states “one free bite” is allowed, meaning if a dog hasn’t displayed dangerous or violent tendencies in the past, the owner may not be held liable unless the owner had specific, prior knowledge that the dog may bite or attack someone. On the other hand, under “dangerous dog laws” in some states, the owner of the dog that has been declared dangerous or vicious may have to pay double or triple damages. It is important for you to know the laws that pertain to dog bites in your state specifically. If you are unsure, contact a personal injury lawyer and they can answer any questions, as well as guide you through the claim process if you decide to do so.
Filing a Dog Bite Injury Claim
When one is bitten by a loose dog that belongs to a stranger, deciding to file a claim may be a no brainer, but when the dog belongs to a neighbor or friend the decision can be much harder. However, filing a claim is recommended for the future safety of both yourself and others. If you decide to change your mind or another incident occurs, there will be documentation.
When it comes to filing the report, you will first need to reach out to your local animal control agency or local police department. You will most likely have to fill out some forms and then an investigation will take place. It is important that you compile any documentation related to your injuries, including medical records. During the investigation, subpoenas may be issued, and witnesses may be asked to come in for an interview.
If it is your dog that injured another person and a report has been filed, it is best to cooperate with the authorities and any investigations that take place. It is highly recommended that you too, contact a personal injury attorney to assist in the process.
Can I Settle My Claim?
In all personal injury cases, the option to settle rather than going to court is, of course, an option. Most dog bite disputes, in fact, rarely go to trial. In many cases, the defendant will be motivated to settle if they are at high risk of losing the case at trial, but it might be preferred by both parties to avoid further expenses and a longer process. When deciding to settle your case, it is still important to accurately calculate damages and hire the help of an attorney to ensure your settlement value is fair.
Contact Us Today
If you or someone you care about has been attacked by a dog and suffered injuries, you may need the help of an attorney to get the compensation you deserve. Our experienced attorneys at The Cochran Firm Huntsville are dedicated to serving the people and are recognized for the highest award of service by the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association. Call us at 1-800-THE-FIRM to schedule your FREE case consultation.