Dogs are called man’s best friend and with good reason; they make fantastic companions, friends, family members, and even caretakers in the case of trained service animals. Unfortunately, even the friendliest dog can bite, often without reason, and many people don’t know what to do if they are bitten by a dog or their dog bites someone else. Here, we’ve gathered some steps to help you get through this difficult time with your sanity intact. More on this website
If you’re bitten by a dog, it is important that the dog and the dog’s owner are found by the proper authorities. If the dog is a stray, then it needs to be apprehended by animal control or a similar agency. If it is owned by a friend or neighbor, that dog owner will need to provide proof of ownership and more importantly, shot records. Those shot records could mean the difference between a quick trip to the ER for stitches, and having to endure a series of excruciatingly painful rabies shots. If the dog’s owner cannot be found, via microchip, tag, or other identifier, then the dog will be captured and often euthanized as a danger to itself and others.
Do not drive yourself to the hospital. Call a friend or relative, if you have one available, or dial 911 to have an ambulance sent to your location. Even if the wound is minor, it is important to have it treated. It is easy to get an infection from even a minor dog bite, and most home first aid kits don’t have the tools you would need to properly clean and sterilize a dog bite wound. When you visit the emergency room, you can expect a number of things to happen.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection and/or pain medication.
You will probably receive a tetanus booster if you haven’t had one within a certain period of time.
Depending on the identification of the dog, you may receive the first of a series of rabies shots.
Make sure you get a copy of all of the information gathered by the doctors and nurses that treat you in the emergency room, as well as any identifying information concerning the dog and his or her owners. You will need it for the next step.
Also, be sure to take photographs of the injuries for your records. If possible, take photos of any torn or damaged clothing you were wearing, as well as the site of the accident.
The next, and arguably the most important step, is to file a bite report with local law enforcement. Depending on your local regulations, this could be with animal control or the sheriff’s department. If you are unsure where to file a report, simply call your local animal control or sheriff’s office. They will be able to either take your report or they will be able to direct you to the proper location.
If you have taken pictures of the injures, make sure you bring them with you. Depending on the severity of the bite, the agency filing the bite report may wish to take professional photos of the injuries as well.
Filing a bite report is essential if you are going to pursue legal or criminal charges against the dog owner or if you are going to seek reimbursement for mental or physical strain. If you are not going to pursue charges against the owner or are unable to because the dog is a stray, then skip ahead to step 6.
The next step is to learn as much as you can about the dog and its owner. This includes such information as
The name and address of the dog owner, as well as any other contact information.
Most homeowner’s (or rental) policies or other insurance policies do carry some accidents of this nature. Be sure to ask for insurance information as well.
If there were witnesses, be sure to get their contact information as well.
The license information of the dog, including medical history, if available.
The dog’s ‘record’ – has it bitten anyone before, or been labeled as dangerous? This information should be available by contacting the agency where you filed your bite report.
Take photos of your injuries, the location, the dog, etc.
The more information you can gather at the time of the incident the better.
Get the homeowner’s (or rental) insurance information from the owner of the dog, such as the name of the company, what is the coverage for dog bites.
This is just a small sample of the things you should collect. If you communicate with the dog’s owner at all, make sure it is in writing (text, email, etc) and keep copies of every conversation for you records. The hardest thing to do is when the owner is a friend, however, if you don’t take care of yourself in this matter, it may affect you for the rest of your life.
If you’re planning on pressing charges against the owner of the dog, you will need to contact and hire an attorney. It is important to do so as soon as possible after the dog bite occurs, ideally while you are still in treatment or soon after. The sooner you contact a personal injury attorney or dog bite lawyer, the better chance you have of getting your case handled properly.
Even if you have no intentions on filing a lawsuit, speaking to an attorney is a good idea. Understanding how an attorney can help even in the negotiation of the claim is very important. Sometimes an attorney has a better “relationship” with an insurance claims department so they will take your case with more attentiveness. Oftentimes, dog bite incidents are downplayed because they seem trivial, however, knowing your rights whether you are the defendant or the victim is crucial. This is especially true if the incident occurred at a friend’s home. Although you don’t want to sue your friends, you want to make sure that your needs are taken care of. That’s why they have insurance on their property. It is not selfish to consider your needs and conditions when you deal with their dog attacking you. It doesn’t matter if you provoked it or now, you still have rights and responsibilities.
Dog biting incidents only have a short statute of limitation, which means you must take care of it quickly. By waiting too long, you won’t have the opportunity to get any compensation even if there is a fault. Furthermore, the longer you wait, the more medical bills may stack up before you can get any financial relief. Talking to the insurance company may help with some initial out-of-pocket expenses, but longer-term needs may not be covered until the case is settled.
Starting from the day of the attack, keep journals documenting your physical and mental reactions to the dog bite. Take a few minutes every day to write down how you’re feeling, how the wound feels if it is healing properly, etc. Not only can this help aid your lawyer if you are pressing charges or seeking reimbursement, but it can help you to keep track of your own thoughts and feelings.
Many people who suffer dog bites, especially violent ones, find themselves suffering from PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If it begins to affect your daily life, you may need to employ the services of a psychiatrist or therapist (including hypnotherapy) who can help you with your feelings and reactions to the dog bite.
Dog bite claims can take a long time. Don’t lose hope if your claim takes months or years to complete. Instead, focus on healing yourself both physically and mentally, and moving on with your life. It’s not easy. Recovering from a traumatic event never is. It is, however, necessary.
Getting bitten by a dog is a terrifying and harrowing ordeal, but it can be handled by simply following these steps. If you or someone you know was bitten by a dog (or animal), please seek medical attention immediately. Legal matters can be explored once the person is safe from harm. Seek help from police department, fire department or animal control center in your area for immediate assistance. Call 911 if necessary.
DISCLAIMER: This page content is educational information only. No legal, medical or financial advice is being provided. If you need legal, medical or financial help, please seek a licensed professional.