Adopting a dog is a natural part of the American lifestyle. Unfortunately, pets also bring accidents. Ordinarily, people don’t buy a dog and presume it will bite another person. When it does, you need to know your next steps.
Dog bite statistics
Before we go into protocol, let’s review some facts. Generally speaking, children account for most of the dog bites. Dogsbite.org reports that 60% of dog bite victims are children aged 10 or younger.
Wrongly, many people assume a dog mostly bites strangers. The CDC published that over half of the dog bites occur in a home with a dog that knew the victim. In a home with two or more dogs, a person is five times more likely to be bitten by a dog than a person living with no dogs at home.
In a 2018 summary released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, about 27,000 people needed reconstructive surgery due to a dog bite. For those hospitalized, the average cost was over $18,000. That is 50% higher than the average for a typical injury stay in a hospital. Per the CDC, approximately 1,000 people are examined daily in the ER for dog bites.
The Insurance Information Institute issued an article in 2013 reporting over 16,000 claims were made yearly for dog bites and each case averages over $29,000. While 16,000 claims appear excessive, it is minuscule when compared to the 4.7 million people who are bitten yearly by dogs. Of those 4.7 million, The Canine Journal summarized 800,000 need medical attention, and per Embrace Pet Insurance, an additional 300,000 seek emergency care.
Why don’t people report dog bites?
People hesitate to report a dog bite if the dog owner is someone they know intimately. Because a friend, relative, or neighbor is an everyday person in your life, it is awkward and uncomfortable to file a report.
Knowing it is required by law to notify of a dog bite can ease your mind. Also, by reporting the dog bite, the liability may fall on the dog owner’s rental or homeowner’s insurance. This means there is a solid chance of receiving assistance with the medical bills due to reporting the bite and following proper measures.
If the owner does not have insurance, knowledgeable lawyers frequently attempt to find other responsible parties for the injury. For example, perhaps a landlord knew the dog was vicious and still allowed him in an apartment building with young children.
However, since the reality is the dog may belong to someone you know, reporting the bite and working with a lawyer can feel like a betrayal of friendship. It doesn’t have to and it really isn’t.
You are not suing your family member. Hiring a lawyer allows you to step back. They are familiar with insurance companies and persuade them to ensure there is money available for physical, emotional, and potential future needs.
Steps to follow if bitten by a dog
If a dog bit you, get your phone out and take photos of the dog, the injury, the owner, and the location. Do this even if the damage is minor. Take note of if any unusual markings distinguish this dog from another, for example, a missing ear.
For the location, look for house numbers, dog warnings or lack thereof, street signs, and even nearby cars and license plates. If the police or your attorney need information, you may not remember all the details, and this ensures you do not have to.
Get owner’s information
Obtaining information may prove to be impossible if the owner is a stranger. They could flee the scene or grow belligerent. However, if the owner is reasonable or if you know him/her, make sure to get information. You don’t need to worry about the dog’s history of biting; you’re looking for the basics.
- Owner’s Name
- Owner’s Address
- Owner’s Phone Number
- Owner’s Homeowner or Renter’s Insurance Information
- Dog’s Name
- Dog’s Breed (do not blame or make any statement regarding the breed)
- Dog’s Age
- Dog’s Veterinarian
- Last Rabies Shot
Call the police and get medical attention
Calling the police is a good idea for a few reasons. First, if your injury is more than a scratch, the police report is used for the insurance claim. Second, if the owner is unreasonable, they can assist in maintaining a neutral or safe environment. Third, police can verify if the dog is up to date on his rabies vaccinations.
Get medical help right away if needed. According to American Family Physician, about 10-15% of dog bites become infected. Check out even minor bites within 24 hours.
For more extreme bites, go to a hospital right away or call 911. If you know you are leaving to get help, tell the police dispatcher you are leaving the scene to get medical attention.
Dog bite laws
There is not a one-size-fits-all for dog bites. Each state varies based upon its laws and complicates the ease of reporting. Due to the differences in the regulations, it is worthwhile to investigate what your state enforces.
The “One Bite” rule typically attaches liability to the owner and is the defacto if there is no statute in place. If the owner knew the dog tended to bite, then he/she is often liable.
When the state falls under the “One Bite” rule, the first question is if the dog has bitten before. Yes: the owner is responsible. No: the second question becomes if the owner had any idea that the dog tended to be aggressive or bite.
If still no, the next step is to see if the owner violated any laws. For example, did the owner place the dog in a situation which permitted the bite to happen, such as ignoring a leash law? This type of violation would be negligence, per se.
Lawyers look for negligence when nothing else seems to fit. Negligence would likely look like a dog that was mistreated, starved, uncared for when a glaring medical issue was present. When these options are exhausted, lawyers determine if anyone else who may be responsible for negligence.
Hire a lawyer for a dog bite case
Most people worry if they get a lawyer, their loved one will be harassed and the dog will automatically be euthanized. That is not the case.
Generally, the lawyer will deal directly with insurance companies. They are skilled at securing a proper and fair payment from insurance companies. Insurance adjusters try to give victims 10-20% of what they would offer a lawyer. Even with the lawyer’s fee, you will still see a much higher return having used an attorney.
If you are friends or family with the dog’s owners, rest assured that your lawyer is not after bankrupting them. Likely your lawyer will not confront them or make them feel guilty. The ultimate goal is for the case to be presented to the insurance company, and you may never have to step foot in court.
If you are representing a child, your lawyer will help you set up a bank account for settlement money to be deposited into and accurately set up the account to be tax-free. Your lawyer will represent you and your child in court. This helps with interrogations where you may not know how to answer. Further, an attorney negotiates compensation for the parent concerning lost wages, expenses already acquired, and other factors.
Having a lawyer means having a person who will fight to ensure bills are reasonable, and reimbursement claims are completed. You are likely to receive a higher estimate for claims by merely securing this representation.
How to prevent a dog bite
Take some pressure off yourself and know sometimes, dogs turn. It could be due to health or past trauma, but perfectly happy dogs can suddenly lash out.
Circumstances where dogs bite due to provocation, the situation could have possibly been prevented by education. First and foremost, children and babies should never be left alone with animals. If children are in residence, they must be educated on how to act around animals because even though pets are family, they are nevertheless animals.
Below are some tips on how to stay safe around dogs:
- Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
- If a dog approaches you, do not move and avoid eye contact.
- Turning your body sideways can make you appear less aggressive to a dog.
- Leave dogs alone while they are sleeping, eating or helping their puppies.
- If a strange dog approaches you, remain calm. Do not run, panic or make sudden and loud movements.
- Let a dog smell you before you pet it and then, scratch under the chin.
- If you are knocked over, roll into a ball, protecting your neck and ears with your arms and hands. Remain motionless and avoid eye contact. Do your best not to panic.
- Contact animal control if you notice stray dogs or animals acting oddly.
Contact The Hayes Firm today!
You are in reliable hands with The Hayes Firm. We ensure you will have the best representation regardless of where you live and where the dog bite happened. We are committed to getting you what you need to overcome this terrifying moment of life and after.
Let us handle negotiating with insurance companies, setting up bank accounts, and securing funds. Contact us today for more information on how we can support you.