In the US, there are 4.5 million dog bites every year — likely more, since many go unreported — and 800,000 of these victims end up having to go to the hospital.
It’s a common event, but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant.
A dog attack can be a frightening thing, especially if you don’t know the animal. Poorly socialized or aggressive dogs may attack friends and family members of the owner, or even strangers.
Then, of course, there are all the stray dogs to worry about!
If you do find yourself in a situation where you’ve been bitten by a dog, follow these steps right away.
Assess the Wound
After being bitten, your head might be swimming with thoughts and feelings about insurance, the at-fault party, or how to prevent this from happening again.
While all of those are understandable, the first thing you should do is deal with the wound.
How to Clean a Dog Bite
If the skin is broken but there’s no bleeding yet, wash with lukewarm water and some soap. You should also apply a little pressure to the area, as a little bleeding would be good for it and flush out any bacteria.
If the wound is already bleeding, you should put pressure on it to stop it. Use a clean cloth, put some antibacterial lotion on there, and wrap it in a sterile bandage to prevent infection. That’s the last thing you want after a dog bite.
Signs You Should Seek Medical Attention
If the wound looks severe or you aren’t convinced you can clean it yourself, you should seek medical attention — even if you’re not sure.
These signs are also mean you should seek medical attention:
- Swollen and tender to the touch
- Warm to the touch at all
- Intense pain that doesn’t fade
- Bleeding that won’t stop
- Leaks any fluid that isn’t blood
- Causes a body part to not function, like your fingers
- A fever
In general though, even if you don’t think the bite is too bad, it’s always a good idea to seek medical attention for a professional opinion. They’ll be able to make sure the wound is sterile and advise you on how to take care of it.
Assess the Dog Attack Itself
Once you’re sure the wound is taken care of, it’s time to assess the attack.
It might have been your own dog, in which case, the aftermath of the situation will be a lot simpler — especially if you know you’ve kept up to date on vaccines. Dog attacks by other dogs, however, are very common, and if the dog is unfamiliar to you, there are some steps you should follow.
The confrontation might be uncomfortable, and you might be tempted to let the whole thing go, but it’s essential you ensure this doesn’t happen to anyone else and everything is taken care of.
Speak to the Owner if Possible
The first thing you want to establish is the dog’s vaccination history. Every dog should be vaccinated against rabies, but don’t take their word for it — ask for vaccination records or the phone number of their vet so you can confirm.
Don’t be talked out of this. It’s important to know you’re protected.
You also want the owner’s name and contact information. If you’re willing to ask for ID, do that too. It’s all too easy for someone you might never see again to fob you off with a fake name and phone number, but it’s important for your own safety that they don’ do this.
What if the dog doesn’t have an owner? Stray attack dogs are all too common, so if there’s no owner, make sure you’re protected by getting your shots. That, unfortunately, is all you can do for yourself.
You should also notify animal control of the location you were bitten and a description of the dog so they can pick it up, for the dog’s safety and everyone else’s. Animal control will be able to assess the dog and decide what to do.
Deal With Insurance
If the dog has an owner and that owner has insurance — which is very likely — chances are, you’ll receive a call from the company.
It might be tempted to navigate that on your own, but it’s important to remember that insurance companies are there to make money. Ultimately, they don’t want to pay out anything they don’t have to, so they’re likely to lowball you or find an excuse not to pay altogether.
If an insurance company gets in touch — or the moment you know you’re expecting them to, like after exchanging information with the owner of the dog — it’s time to speak to an attorney.
What Can a Lawyer Do for You?
A dog bite attorney can pursue compensation for damages when it comes to the case.
They might also need to prove someone else’s liability. Perhaps the dog owner is trying to get out of using their insurance or paying by insisting the attack was not their fault, when, in fact, they didn’t have the dog leashed.
If the dog owner is not insured, someone else may need to be held liable.
Insurance companies and the liable party may often try to accuse the victim of being responsible for the bite, which can become difficult to argue against when representing yourself. It can become a “he said, she said” style of argument that goes round in circles.
Respected lawyers like this dog bite attorney will know how to prove what happened in a calm and concise way, meaning you’re more likely to get your compensation.
Can I Represent Myself After a Dog Bite?
Technically, yes, you can represent yourself in these situations. However, it’s rarely a good idea.
If the bite is very cut and dry and happened in a public space with witnesses, you may have no problem proving who was liable and getting compensation — but it still might not be as much as if you have a professional negotiating on your behalf.
You may think of lawyers as being expensive and out of your price range but the compensation will likely make up for that. An attorney, after all, is going to get you the highest possible amount.
What Will Happen to the Dog?
For people who are dog lovers, they may be reluctant to pursue legal action or report the bite for fear of what will happen to the dog.
The laws depend on each state. In most cases, the dog will have to be quarantined for a few days to ensure it doesn’t have rabies.
You shouldn’t need to fear euthanasia. Dog bites are common, and very few dogs are put down due to this.
If the attack is particularly brutal, however, it is very possible for a court to order that they must be confined or destroyed. This is only in the most extreme of cases, or if the dog is a serial offender, for the safety of everyone involved.
It’s also possible that the owner is ordered to get the dog training, for both the safety of the dog and those it interacts with. The best thing possible for a dog is always to receive the care and training it needs so it isn’t put in this situation.
After you’ve been bitten by a dog, when you’ve handled the initial dog attack and the wound and compensation that followed, you may be wondering how to avoid this happening again. It may even give you a fear of dogs — many people, as a young girl or boy, are attacked by a dog, and it can cause lifelong anxiety.
You don’t have to be afraid of dogs — however, it is very important to be cautious when approaching a dog you don’t know. Always ask if a dog is friendly before petting it and if someone is walking towards you with an off-leash dog, try to avoid an interaction.
If you’re ever attacked by a dog, fold your arms and turn your back. Never engage.
That’s How to Handle a Dog Attack
A dog attack can be a very frightening event. If you’re ever put in that situation, it’s important you know how to handle it.
Clean the wound and make sure you don’t need medical attention — or seek it if you’re in any doubt — before hiring a lawyer to get the compensation you deserve for such an attack.
For more interesting life tips that will help you out, take a look at the rest of our blog.