You have a pretty good chance of getting bitten by a dog during your life. Over 4.5 million Americans get bitten every year, according to the CDC. And you are probably not the most likely person in your household to get attacked. Studies show that children are more likely to get bitten and suffer a serious injury or death from a dog bite. The American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society, and other organizations have many recommendations to reduce the risk of dog bites. But once these bites happen, you shift from prevention to treatment and rehabilitation. A dog bite victim needs a good dog bite lawyer.
What to Do as a Dog Bite Victim
Dog bite victims face medical, financial, and legal challenges due to their injuries. Trying to deal with all of these problems can overwhelm almost anyone. Consult The Joel Bieber Firm to discuss how an experienced dog bite attorney can help relieve some of the challenges you face.
Some of the steps you will need to take could include the following:
Assess the Injuries
The damage to dog bite victims’ bodies could take many forms, including:
A dog’s teeth can tear soft tissues like skin, muscles, and tendons. When these soft tissues get injured, pain, swelling, and muscle weakness can occur. You may need stitches or even surgery to repair the tissues. A problem with dog bite injuries is that pieces of the flesh get torn with irregular edges instead of a clean slice.
Degloving injuries happen when your flesh gets peeled away from your body. Sometimes the flesh remains attached as a flap. Other times, the flesh gets torn away from the body altogether. A common degloving injury from dog bites happens when the dog bites and tears the flesh off your finger.
Degloving injuries are catastrophic injuries that can lead to permanent disabilities, like nerve damage or even amputation.
Dog bites can rupture blood vessels, leading to bleeding. You can stop minor bleeding with first aid. But severe bleeding might need emergency treatment. When doctors cannot control bleeding, a dog bite victim can suffer organ failure, brain damage, and death.
Nerves control your muscles and detect touch sensations through your skin. A deep dog bite can pinch or sever the nerves, leading to permanent nerve damage. Symptoms of nerve damage can include paralysis, numbness, tingling, pain, and loss of dexterity.
A big dog has the bite strength to break or crush bones. A simple fracture will take six to eight weeks to heal. But a crushed bone will require reconstructive surgery and can take up to a year to heal.
Despite what you might have heard, dogs do not have cleaner mouths than humans. A dog bite can get infected by bacteria in dog saliva or contaminants, such as dirt. When a dog bite gets infected, you might experience swelling and fever as your body fights the bacteria. If doctors cannot contain the infection, you could die.
Seek Medical Attention if Appropriate
Roughly 20% of dog attack victims require medical attention for their injuries. Some signs a dog bite victim may need medical attention include:
- Face or head trauma
- Severe bleeding
- Loss of consciousness
- Numbness or paralysis
- Abdominal or chest wounds
- Exposed bones
If the police responded to the dog attack, the officers would help call for an ambulance.
Learn About Your Rights as a Dog Bite Victim
You should speak to a dog bite attorney to learn about your rights. In many states, dog owners bear strict liability for injuries caused by their dogs. This means injured victims do not need to prove the dog had vicious tendencies or that the owner acted negligently in not restraining it.
In other states, a dog bite victim must prove negligence to collect injury compensation. In these states, you must show that the dog owner knew of the dog’s tendency to attack people and failed to exercise reasonable care based on that knowledge.
Gather Information About the Dog and Owner
Whether you live in a strict liability or a negligence state, you need to know who may be liable. You might have difficulty gathering this information if your attacker was running loose. Understand what kind of negligence the dog owner made.
You can often gather information from:
- Police incident report, if the police investigated the attack
- Residents near the attack scene
You can even take a quick drive around the attack scene after you have recovered. You might spot the dog or other owners who can identify the dog. Try to find out if a dog owner keeping his or her dog on a leash when in public is one such step. If not then you need to understand Virginia leash law to make your case strong.
File an Insurance Claim
After you identify the dog owner, your dog bite attorney can start investigating possible sources of compensation. Homeowner’s insurance policies often cover liability for dog bites, even if they occur off the insured property. If a dog attacked you while you were jogging at the park, the owner’s insurance policy might still cover your damages.
Insurers will test you and your case. They expect you to prove every element of liability in your state. They also want documentation of all your expenses and losses due to the attack. If a claims adjuster denies your claim as a dog bite victim, work with your lawyer to overcome the denial and provide everything the insurer needs.
Negotiate a Settlement
Once the insurer has all the necessary information, your lawyer can negotiate a settlement. The damages you can recover in your case will usually cover your economic losses, like medical expenses and lost income. They can also include your non-economic losses, like pain, anguish, and disability.
File a Lawsuit – Dog Bite Victim
When an insurer refuses to settle, you can file a lawsuit. Your lawyer will prepare the pleadings and file them with the court. A process server will deliver the papers to the dog owner, and you will battle both in and out of court to resolve your case. If you cannot resolve it, your lawyer must present your case to a jury.
Your Dog Bite Lawyer
A skilled dog bite lawyer will know your state’s dog bite laws. They will also have experience working with insurers to settle cases. To discuss your attack as a dog bite victim and the compensation you can recover under the law, contact The Joel Bieber Firm for a free consultation.