Although dogs have been humankind’s best friend for millennia, that friendship hasn’t come without risk to the latter’s safety. Every year, more than 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs – nearly 20% of which require medical attention. The cost of dog bites is also significant. According to the Insurance Information Institute, nearly 17,000 homeowners insurance liability claims totaled almost $855 million in 2020 alone.
Important Steps to Take When a Dog Bites
No matter how calm or composed a breed or individual dog is believed to be, it’s important to remember that all dogs have the capacity to bite and inflict considerable injury upon a human being.
That said, there are several important steps you should take should you become injured by a dog bite.
1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Once you have been separated from the attacking dog, immediately seek medical treatment. Dog bites can be extremely serious and even fatal injuries, especially if you are losing a lot of blood. It’s also important to identify the dog – if possible – to find out whether or not it was vaccinated against rabies and if you will require treatment for this disease risk.
Chances are you will require stitches to close any lacerations the dog caused. You might also require surgery if the attack resulted in broken bones, nerve damage, or other more serious injuries.
2. Identify the Dog’s Owner
It’s vital to identify the dog’s owner as soon as possible. This is the individual who was responsible for the dog at the time of the attack. They may have been with their dog out in public or unaware of their dog’s location if the animal escaped from their home. In any case, the owner must be identified.
3. Document Injuries & the Scene
As soon as possible, take pictures of your injuries. If you can, take some while awaiting medical treatment and some after you have been treated. Thorough visual documentation of your injuries can provide the evidence you’ll need to demonstrate the viciousness of the attack.
You should also document the scene to demonstrate that you were on your own or public property if an unlocked gate or short fence allowed the animal to escape, and any other conditions that may demonstrate that the owner’s negligence caused the attack.
4. Talk to Witnesses
If anyone else witnesses the attack, collect their contact information. If you pursue a personal injury lawsuit, witnesses may be asked to provide the court with their account of the event.
5. Collect Insurance Information
The dog’s owner should have homeowners’ insurance or a similar policy that addresses dog bites. Make sure that you collect this information and get a claim number if one is available.
6. Don’t Discuss the Incident with Anyone
Avoid discussing the dog attack with anyone else, especially the dog owner. Assume that anything you say will be used against you to limit your recovery of damages or defeat your claim entirely. Never admit fault for provoking a dog or any other activity that may have caused the attack. At the end of the day, dogs shouldn’t bite people and their owners are responsible for ensuring they don’t.
7. Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
Once you’ve done everything else, it’s time to call a personal injury attorney to help you with your claim. In the best possible case, the insurance company agrees with your claim and will pay you what you’re owed – but don’t count on this happening.
In most cases, insurance companies want to pay out as little as possible and are willing to spend money on litigation to do so. By getting legal assistance on your side, however, you have an advocate who can help you fight for the compensation you need to afford medical bills and other liabilities caused by the dog bit.