Dog Bite Injuries
Typically, dogs are very caring, fun and friendly, but in the US, over 12,000 people are attacked and bitten by dogs every single day. Of those 12,000, approximately 1,000 people require emergency room treatment for their injuries. Dog bite injuries often result in painful damage that can last a lifetime.
Serious injuries can require tissue amputation of the nose, ears, fingers, and toes. Skull fractures and other head or brain related injuries are common. In the most horrific of cases, children under two years old are attacked when dog teeth can penetrate the still soft skull causing permanent damage.
Due to their height, children in particular are prone to bites around the face and head. The emotional trauma and fear can be as painful as the physical scars. Plastic surgery is often necessary to fix physical scars but these surgeries may need to wait until the child has finished growing.
There are two theories of liability where dog owners can be held liable for their dog’s causing an injury. The first is called strict liability. Under strict liability, the dog owner is held responsible regardless of how carefully the owner restrains their dog. Proving a dog bite liability under strict liability requires four elements to be established: 1) the defendant definitively owns the dog, 2) the plaintiff was hurt, 3) the dog caused the injury, 4) the injury occurred in a public place or you were lawfully on private property. Note the key word “lawfully” – trespass at your own risk!
The second liability theory is negligence wherein a dog owner can be held liable for a dog bite if he or she does not use reasonable standard of care to stop the injury from happening.
If you or a loved one has been the unfortunate victim of a dog bite injury, consider that you may be entitled to compensation including:
- Reimbursement of medical bills
- Coverage of future medical bills including plastic surgery
- Loss of job earnings and future job earnings capacity
- Damages for pain and suffering incurred
A skilled and qualified dog bite injury lawyer is usually able to receive compensation for lacerations, puncture wounds and tissue injuries that generate medical bills from dog attacks resulting in the following:
- Facial injuries, including eyes, ears, and nose partial amputations
- Abdomen injuries, including injuries to internal organs
- Scalp and skull injuries such as fractures, intracranial hemorrhaging, etc.
- Thorax injuries, including rib fractures
- Trunk injuries, including spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Neck injuries, including esophageal or tracheal injuries
- Lower extremity injuries, including fractured feet and toe amputations
- Upper extremity injuries, including broken hand bones and finger amputations
- Back injuries, including sprains and strains
- Pelvis or perineum fractures and cracks
Medical costs associated with a dog bite injury can be extremely expensive, particularly in the case of injuries that cause scarring. Scars resulting from dog bites can be gruesome lasting reminders of the attack. A dog bite lawyer can even win damages for injuries caused by events subsequent to the actual bite such as falling during the attack and hitting ones head on the curb which results in a skull fracture or intracranial hemorrhage.
Treatment for Emotional and Social Injuries
A dog bite injury can cause emotional and social injuries that require treatment from a psychologist or psychiatrist. A psychologist is trained to provide therapy and is most often the correct choice for dog bite victims whereas a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can provide therapy and/or medical treatment for a psychological problem. These treatments may include prescription drugs or surgery.
A dog attack can cause significant and devastating psychological injuries. Some victims may not have supportive families or friends who believe such emotional problems don’t actually require treatment. These people may imply that the victim should ignore the problem or simply tough it out. But in the case of a dog attack, do not hesitate to visit a mental health practitioner for an evaluation. It is better to address the potential problem than to suppress emotions.
Fortunately, the cost of these services is usually covered by insurance policies. Get your insurance company’s advice about whom to see and discuss how much treatment will be covered. The owner of the dog is often held responsible for paying for all medical treatment including mental health treatment.
Dog Bite Injury Check List
If you or someone you love is the victim of a dog bite incident, consider the following steps:
- Immediately call and report the incident to the police. Call animal control. Describe the incident in detail to the authorities.
- Find the owner of the dog. If possible, exchange contact information including any applicable insurances like home insurance information.
- Determine the breed and color of the biting dog.
- Take pictures of everything. This includes any scratches, puncture wounds, lacerations, cuts. etc. Photograph the location of the incident and even take a photograph of the dog itself. Pictures are powerful and can provide evidence, even more so than a medical or animal control report.
- Seek out and speak to witnesses to the dog bite injury. Obtain their contact information including their name, address, and phone numbers or email addresses.
- Whether you feel the injury is severe or not, immediately seek help from medical providers for the dog bite. The bite almost certainly requires cleansing of the wound, and possibly stiches, immunizations for infections, physical therapy, and in the most serious cases, the injury can require plastic surgery.
- Say as little as possible to the dog owner and/or his/her representatives. Get their contact information and pass it on to your lawyer. Do not speak with the dog owner’s insurance company regarding the incident. Remember, your best interest is not their best interest and anything you say can be used against you.
- Contact a team of dog bite lawyers as soon as possible. Time is always of the essence in these cases, and you should not wait to find representation.
An experienced dog bite lawyer will assist you during the legal process of claiming personal injury damages against the offending dog’s owner(s). Choose a lawyer that specializes in personal injury cases, particularly one with a strong history of representing victims of dog bites.