By Logan Quirk
A dog bite lawyer knows the impact a dog bite can have on your life. Even a bite that results in a minor physical wound can have a lasting emotional impact. Those that are more serious are even more difficult to overcome. While the treatment and trauma could last for weeks, months, or even a lifetime, you need to know what to do in the moments right after the attack occurs. These steps will help minimize the physical damage and could even save your life.
1. Take Pictures
It probably won’t be the first thing on your mind but immediately after the bite is the only time to obtain evidence that reflects the severity of the wound. If you end up filing a personal injury claim against the dog’s owner, your dog bite lawyer will need pictures to validate your injury. Even if you think there is minimal chance you will end up in court, get pictures. Right now, you don’t realize the potentially high cost of medical treatment. The dog’s owner is responsible for your wounds and for your medical treatment.
2. Get the Dog Owner’s Information
If you were bitten by a dog you know, you already know their contact information. If you don’t know the dog but it was with its owner when you were bitten, exchange contact information with them. For example, the owner was walking their dog and it bit you as you passed. You will need this information when you get medical treatment. You will also need to provide it to your dog bite lawyer.
This is also a good time to notice if there are any witnesses. If so, get their contact information as well. One or two witnesses to the attack can make a difference in whether you win your lawsuit or insurance claim. Your medical provider and animal control will want to know if the dog was provoked in any way. Witnesses may be able to present a clearer picture of how the attack came about.
3. First Aid or Medical Treatment?
When you are bitten by a dog, there are two major concerns. One is that you have gotten serious physical damage that needs repairing. Dogs are more likely to bite children and they often have the greatest amount of tissue damage. Severe attacks can even lead to fractures and damaged blood vessels, resulting in severe blood loss. The outcome may include one or more surgeries and even death.
The second concern is the introduction of the rabies virus. People don’t always worry about getting rabies because they are misinformed about the disease. Many believe it has been wiped out in this country and they’re almost right! The problem is that while there are only two or three cases of rabies in humans every year, you could be one of those statistics. The good news is that if you receive treatment within six days of the infection, you won’t develop the virus. Otherwise, you could go down in history as one of the last people in the country to die from the rabies virus.
Some bite wounds obviously need emergency treatment; but what about those that are a little more ‘iffy’? You might be embarrassed to go to the emergency room or urgent treatment center with a minor scratch. If there isn’t major damage and bleeding, you might be tempted to apply first aid at home.
The only time you should forego medical treatment for a dog bite is if you know the dog’s owner and they provide proof that the dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date. Don’t ask for verbal verification because people often forget when they’ve gotten their pets immunized. They might also lie to you, in fear of having to take on the financial responsibility for your wounds.
Rabies vaccines are readily available in this country to help prevent the spread of the deadly virus. It does occur most often in wild animals, but dogs can get the disease when they are bitten by infected wildlife. The dog’s owner might think their pet has no risk of exposure. But few dogs aren’t outdoors for at least some part of the day. Animals don’t have to be attacked to get infected with rabies. The virus can be spread from animal-to-animal or from animal-to-human from licking.
The risk of foregoing medical treatment without verification of a rabies vaccine is just too great. Once you begin to experience symptoms, there’s no stopping the virus.
On the other hand, if you get proof of the dog’s vaccinations and your wound is minor, wash the area well with soap and water. Press a clean towel over the area to stop bleeding. Apply antibiotic ointment daily to prevent infection. Keep in mind that if you end up filing an insurance claim or a lawsuit, you will need your medical records to prove the severity of your wound.
4. Contact Animal Control
Contact animal control and report the bite. Their records help keep track of which dogs are responsible for repeated attacks.
5. Keep Track of All Your Documents
The more information you have to validate your claim, the easier it will be to get the full amount of compensation you deserve. Keep copies of initial reports, medical records and expenses, and lost wages due to time off from work. Any cost resulting from the dog bite and your treatment should be included in your claim.
6. Contact a Dog Bite Lawyer
The majority of dog bites happen with dogs the victim knows. If you’re visiting your elderly aunt and her pooch decides he doesn’t like your company, filing a complaint against her dog might seem out of the question.
Another possible scenario is that you go to your boss’s house for dinner and get nabbed under the dinner table. You need treatment and you have to call in sick to work. Your boss knows what happened to you. But how do you take your complaint to the next level?
If the dog owner is someone you would rather not confront, just ask them about their homeowner’s insurance. This type of policy usually covers dog bites without the owner paying anything out-of-pocket. That way, when you make a claim, it might not have to become anything personal.
Why Dogs Bite
Contrary to popular belief, dogs don’t just bite people out of boredom or because they enjoy it. Sometimes they get scared or feel threatened. They may be defending their territory, especially if it’s a mother dog with pups. Dogs also bite if they aren’t feeling well or they are injured and want to be left alone. Sometimes they nip during play and might even get carried away. Whether a dog bites you out of excitement for the game, anger, or fear, the end result is the same.
Children are often dog bite victims and it’s not because they are closer to the dog’s size. Kids don’t see the danger of provoking a dog until it’s too late.
Some dogs have an intimidating appearance and a reputation that goes with it. The pit bull is among the most feared and the most reported breeds of dogs for dog bites and attacks. Along with rottweilers, these dogs are responsible for a large portion of dog bites treated in the hospital. They also cause severe bites that lead to death.
Some people are quick to point out that dogs of any size or breed can bite. While smaller dogs aren’t as likely to cause severe damage as the larger breeds, some might be even more likely to bite due to their temperament. It only takes watching one or two episodes of The Dog Whisperer to see which types of dogs leave their mark on the world’s best-known dog guru, Caesar Milan. Many smaller breeds are very territorial, and they don’t seem to know just how small they are. When they bite, they are just as likely to transmit rabies or cause an infection as larger dogs.
California Dog Bite Laws
The process for reporting a dog bite differs from state to state. In California, dog owners are held strictly liable for injuries inflicted on others by their dogs. In some states, dog bites are only subject to negligence claims. That means you have to prove that the dog owner was negligent, resulting in their dog biting you.
Sometimes criminal charges are filed against the dog owner. One example is when the owner of the dog refuses to provide their contact information to you. Without this information, you may have to endure a series of rabies shots for your protection.
Felony charges might be filed if the dog owner fails to secure their dog and it is known to be vicious or has been trained to fight or attack. This is more likely if the injuries are serious or they result in death.
Most dog bites in California fall under the heading of civil liability. The dog owner is liable for damages if the dog bites you in a public place or on private property as long as you are there legally. Dog owners often swear that their dog has never bitten anyone before. Even if it’s the first offense for the dog, the owner is still held liable. Since the dog owner is liable regardless of the circumstances in this state, you don’t have to prove negligence.
Most states have their own statute of limitations during which you must file a claim. In California, you have two years from the time you are bitten to submit your claim. Otherwise, you can lose your right to receive damages. Nevada is one of only a few states without a specific dog bite statute. Instead, cases are determined according to case law and local ordinances.
When to Contact a Dog Bite Lawyer
Dog bites range from minor nips to severe tissue and bone damage. Sometimes surgery is required to repair the damage. The emotional damage can be even worse. Some dog bite victims are traumatized by the incident. It’s often the same as being in a serious car accident, never knowing when a car is going to hit you. A dog bite victim might relive the attack and worry incessantly that another dog will bite them.
A dog bite lawyer understands how big of an issue dog bites have become. He knows the devastation it can have on your life and on your finances. If your emotional and/or physical injuries keep you from working and enjoying the things in life you like the most, the dog’s owner is liable for your losses.
One of the most important reasons for seeing a dog bite attorney is that most claims are submitted to the dog owner’s insurance company. The tactics used by insurance adjusters to keep from paying are well-known. Dealing with them on your own could keep you from getting a fair settlement.
Your attorney has dealt with insurance companies and knows the tactics they use. He also knows your legal rights. From the time you decide to file a claim against the dog owner, he can offer advice to make the process much smoother. He can also negotiate a deal with the insurance company to get a fair settlement for the medical treatment and what you have gone through.
Dog bites fit into an area of the law called ‘personal injury.’ A person can file a personal claim against the at-fault party in an automobile accident, slips and falls, motorcycle wrecks, wrongful death, and other types of accidents. Like other types of personal injury cases, the primary goal of the attorney is to prove negligence. Since these cases are strictly negligence cases in California, having a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney by your side is even more important.
If you’ve been bitten by a dog or other pet, contact Quirk Law Group to schedule a case evaluation. The longer you wait to get advice after being bitten, the greater your risk of developing an infection or other serious condition. We understand what you’re going through.