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Small black pug biting a human hand.

Sustaining Dog Bites and Working with a Dog Bite Lawyer

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Dog Bite Injuries

III. Common Injuries Resulting from Dog Bites

IV. Serious Injuries Arising from Dog Bites

V. What to Do If You Sustain a Dog Bite Injury

VI. Consequences of Not Seeking Proper Medical Treatment for a Dog Bite

VII. Proving Liability in a Dog Bite Case

VIII. When to Seek Legal Assistance

IX. Possible Defenses in a Dog Bite Case and Ways to Counter Them

X. Hiring a Dog Bite Lawyer

XI. Conclusion

XII. FAQ

Introduction

It's a well-known fact that injuries can occur anytime, especially if you work a job with many considerable hazards, such as construction. However, it can be argued that most injuries can be avoided, but you can only do so much because your environment may inadvertently cause you an injury. A perfect example of this is a dog bite.

Dog bites are a common occurrence in the United States, with millions of incidents reported each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur annually in the US. It's important to note that not all dog bites result in serious injuries, and many are minor and do not require medical attention. However, in cases where a dog bite leads to more severe injuries or complications, the owner of the dog can be held liable for the attack.

Being bit by your dog is one thing, but being bitten by someone else's is another. An owner must be responsible for their dog, and it's their responsibility to ensure that it doesn't hurt anyone else. While it may not be intentional, the good news is that you can pursue legal action, for which you will be compensated if you sustain an injury from a dog bite. Few people know how to navigate the legal issue of dog bites, so we'll discuss the details in this article.

Dog biting on hand showing his teeth.
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Dog Bite Injuries

A dog bite might not appear severe on the surface, but its potential consequences can be more serious than meets the eye. If a dog bites and breaks the skin, it not only causes injury to the immediate tissue but also poses a significant risk of infection. Even when there are no immediate signs of injury, seeking prompt medical attention after a dog bite is crucial to prevent complications.

Common Injuries Resulting from Dog Bites

  1. Puncture Wounds: Dog teeth can create deep puncture wounds that might not bleed much but can introduce harmful bacteria deep into the skin.
  2. Lacerations: Sharp dog teeth can cause cuts that might require stitches to properly heal and prevent scarring.
  3. Bruising: Even without breaking the skin, the force of a dog bite can lead to bruising and tissue damage beneath the skin's surface.
  4. Infections: Dogs' mouths harbor numerous bacteria, and a dog bite can introduce these bacteria into the body, leading to infections like cellulitis.

Serious Injuries Arising from Dog Bites

  1. Deep Tissue Damage: Severe bites can damage muscles, tendons, and ligaments, requiring surgery and long-term rehabilitation.
  2. Nerve Injuries: Bites around nerves can lead to nerve damage, causing numbness, weakness, or loss of sensation in the affected area.
  3. Bone Fractures: Strong dog bites can result in bone fractures, particularly in areas with thinner bones, such as fingers and toes.
  4. Facial Injuries: Facial dog bites can cause disfigurement and might require multiple reconstructive surgeries.
female helping a male wrap an injury with antiseptic bandage.
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What to Do If You Sustain a Dog Bite Injury

If you've experienced a dog bite injury, taking immediate and appropriate actions can significantly affect both your physical recovery and your potential legal recourse. Here's a step-by-step guide on what to do:

Home Remedies and Initial Care

  1. Ensure Safety: If the dog is still present and poses a threat, distance yourself from the dog to prevent further attacks.
  2. Control Bleeding: If the bite has broken the skin and is bleeding, apply gentle pressure using a clean cloth or sterile bandage to stop the bleeding.
  3. Clean the Wound: Thoroughly wash the wound with mild soap and warm water to reduce the risk of infection. Pat the area dry with a clean cloth.
  4. Apply Antiseptic: Apply an antiseptic ointment to the wound to further minimize the risk of infection.
  5. Cover the Wound: Use a sterile dressing or bandage to cover the wound and keep it clean.

Seeking Medical Care

  1. Visit a Doctor: Even if the wound seems minor, seek medical attention from a healthcare professional. They can assess the wound's severity and provide necessary treatment.
  2. Discuss Tetanus Shot: Consult your healthcare provider about whether you need a tetanus shot, especially if your last one was more than five years ago.
  3. Discuss Antibiotics: Depending on the wound's condition and risk of infection, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics to prevent bacterial growth.
  4. Follow Care Instructions: Adhere to the doctor's instructions for wound care, dressing changes, and any prescribed medications.
Doctor checking bandage on women's wrist.
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Consequences of Not Seeking Proper Medical Treatment for a Dog Bite

Failing to seek prompt and proper medical treatment after a dog bite can lead to a range of serious consequences. Even if the wound initially appears minor, neglecting medical attention can result in various hardships and potential health complications. Here's what you might face if you avoid seeking proper medical care:

Risk of Infection

Dog bites introduce bacteria from the dog's mouth into your body, increasing the risk of infection. Without proper cleaning and treatment, the wound can become infected, leading to redness, swelling, and pus formation. If left untreated, infections can spread to surrounding tissues and even into the bloodstream, causing a condition known as sepsis.

Tetanus

Tetanus is a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection that can enter the body through wounds. Dog bites are considered tetanus-prone injuries, especially if the wound is deep or contaminated. If you're not up to date on your tetanus vaccinations and you neglect to seek medical care, you could be at risk of developing tetanus, which can cause muscle stiffness, spasms, and difficulty breathing.

Rabies

While rabies is rare in domestic dogs in the United States, the risk cannot be completely disregarded. If a dog's vaccination status is unknown and you're bitten, rabies is a concern. Rabies is a viral infection that affects the nervous system and is almost always fatal once symptoms appear. Seeking medical attention immediately after a dog bite is crucial to assess the risk and receive appropriate post-exposure prophylaxis if necessary.

Delayed Healing and Complications

Even seemingly minor wounds from a dog bite can take time to heal properly. Neglecting medical care might result in delayed wound healing, increasing the risk of scarring and tissue damage. Untreated wounds can also lead to complications like cellulitis (skin infection), abscess formation, and tissue necrosis.

Emotional and Psychological Impact

A dog bite can leave lasting emotional scars, and neglecting medical care might exacerbate these effects. If an infection or complication arises due to lack of treatment, the resulting pain, discomfort, and distress can take a toll on your mental well-being, potentially leading to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Doctor with several blood vials performing tests.
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Proving Liability

If you've suffered a dog bite injury and believe the dog owner is at fault, establishing liability is a crucial step in seeking compensation for your injuries. To build a strong case, you and your attorney must present evidence that demonstrates the dog owner's negligence and responsibility for the incident. Here's how you can prove liability:

Reasonable Expectation of Safety

To successfully prove liability, you need to establish that you had a reasonable expectation of safety in the situation where the dog bite occurred. This means demonstrating that:

  1. Unpredictability: You could not have predicted or anticipated that the dog would attack you. This is particularly important if the dog had no history of aggressive behavior.
  2. Lawful Presence: You had a legal right to be in the location where the incident took place. Whether you were on public property or lawfully on the dog owner's property, your presence should have been lawful.

Negligence on the Owner's Part

Central to proving liability is demonstrating the dog owner's negligence. To do this, you and your attorney must show that the owner failed to exercise a reasonable level of care to prevent the dog bite. This could involve establishing:

  1. Lack of Control: The dog owner did not properly restrain or control their dog, leading to the attack.
  2. Awareness of Aggression: The owner knew or should have known about the dog's aggressive tendencies but failed to take appropriate precautions.
  3. Violation of Laws: If local leash laws or regulations were violated by the owner, it can contribute to establishing negligence.

Liability Regardless of Presence

Importantly, dog owners can be held liable for dog bite injuries even if they were not physically present during the incident. If it can be proven that the dog owner had knowledge of the dog's dangerous behavior and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it, they can still be held responsible.

Dalmatian dog on a leash with a dog muzzle
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Collecting Evidence

To strengthen your case, gather and present evidence that supports your claims. This might include:

  1. Eyewitness Testimonies: Statements from witnesses who saw the incident and can testify to the dog's behavior and the circumstances.
  2. Medical Records: Documentation of your injuries and the medical treatment you received due to the dog bite.
  3. Photos and Videos: Visual evidence of the location, the dog, and your injuries can be compelling.
  4. Records of Past Behavior: If available, records of the dog's previous aggressive actions can be used to establish a pattern of behavior.

When to Seek Legal Assistance

If a dog bites you, here are the legal grounds when you might seek legal assistance:

Bitten by a Neighbor’s Dog

Most dog attacks usually involve a neighbor's dog. It's best to seek legal assistance immediately because most dog owners do not carry liability insurance. If you wait, your chances of compensation go down, and if the dog owner has no insurance, the only way to get compensation will be if you can prove the owner knew of the dog's biting history and continued to allow it to roam freely.

Bitten by a Friend’s or Family Member’s Dog

Just because you're close with a person doesn't mean that they're not liable. You can still seek compensation, and you can do so through homeowner's insurance if the dog is a family pet. If the dog isn't a family pet, you must prove that your friend or family member was negligent and that they knew that the dog was dangerous.

Bitten Outdoors

Let's say you go to the park to relax. You may be running around playing with your children, or you may just be sitting on a park bench reading a book. In any case, you're enjoying yourself, so how can you be bitten? Chances are, a dog is running around off-leash, and it's not controlled if you are bitten while in a public area or while exercising, the dog owner will be liable.

Bitten at the Vet’s Office or Pound

You'll likely be bitten where dogs are a common sight, such as at the vet's office or the dog pound. Since it happened on their premises, they're liable if they were negligent in supervising the dogs.

Someone Else’s Dog Bit Your Child

If your child is bit by someone else's dog, that person is liable for the injuries. The same rule applies if the child is in your care, and the liability is the same whether the child is injured at home or a friend's or relative's house. The same also applies if someone has homeowner's insurance and they live in a community that has a leash law, they'll be liable.

Dog running in an open green field focused on something
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Possible Defenses

When seeking compensation for a dog bite, dog owners have the option to present various defenses to counter the claim. To build a strong case in your favor, it's important to understand these defenses and be prepared to counter them effectively. Here's an in-depth look at each defense and ways to address them:

1. Provocation

Defense: If the dog owner argues that you provoked the dog, they might claim that your actions incited the dog to bite. This defense aims to shift some liability onto you.

Counter: To counter this defense, you can provide evidence that your actions were not aggressive or threatening towards the dog. Witnesses, if available, can testify to your behavior leading up to the incident. If you were acting reasonably and not intentionally provoking the dog, this defense might be challenged.

2. Trespassing

Defense: The dog owner might assert that you were trespassing on their property, implying that you were unlawfully present. This defense seeks to establish that you had no legal right to be on the property.

Counter: If you had a legitimate reason to be on the property, such as being invited or having a legal right to access, you can counter this defense. Provide evidence of your lawful presence, such as communication records or eyewitness accounts confirming your permission to be on the premises.

3. Comparative Negligence

Defense: Comparative negligence arises when both parties share some degree of responsibility for the incident. The dog owner might argue that your actions contributed to the dog bite and should reduce their liability.

Counter: To address this defense, your attorney can demonstrate that your actions were not a significant factor in causing the incident. If your behavior was reasonable and did not directly provoke the dog, the argument of comparative negligence can be challenged. Present evidence that establishes the dog owner's primary responsibility for their dog's behavior.

4. Assumption of Risk

Defense: The defense of assumption of risk asserts that you willingly accepted the potential dangers associated with interacting with a dog, absolving the owner of liability.

Counter: To counter this defense, you can argue that your actions were reasonable given the circumstances and that you did not knowingly assume the risk of an unprovoked dog attack. If the dog had no history of aggression and you had no reason to anticipate an attack, you can challenge the claim that you willingly accepted the risk.

Child pointing at dog sitting close to him
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Hiring a Dog Bite Lawyer

No matter the situation, you need to have an attorney on your side because most dog owners do not carry liability insurance. If you claim their homeowner insurance, chances are, they won't have enough insurance to compensate you for your injuries. If you sustain serious injuries, you'll need to seek legal assistance because it will be difficult for you to prove liability on your own.

You should consider their experience and past successes when looking for a lawyer. It's also worth asking if they have ever handled a dog bite case before and what the outcome was. If you have an attorney that has successfully dealt with a dog bite case before, it may give you an advantage when you go to court. Of course, you can also ask for referrals and recommendations to make the search easier.

Conclusion

Dog bite injuries are severe, and even if you don't have any outward signs of injury, you can still have an infection that can lead to more severe complications. You must act quickly if you want to be compensated for your injuries. You need to seek legal assistance to ensure that the dog owner is liable to get the compensation you deserve.

If you’re looking for a dog bite lawyer, Mendez & Sanchez Law can help you! Our legal professionals are experienced in various laws, so we assure you that you’ll get the compensation you deserve. Simply go to our website to book a free consultation!

FAQs

1. What should I do immediately after a dog bite?

After a dog bite, ensure safety by distancing yourself from the dog, control bleeding, clean the wound, apply antiseptic, and cover the wound. Seek medical attention even for seemingly minor wounds.

2. Can I be held liable for provoking a dog to bite me?

If your actions were not aggressive or intentionally provoking, you can challenge the claim of provocation. Witnesses and evidence of your behavior can support your case.

3. What if I was trespassing when the dog bite occurred?

If you had a legitimate reason to be on the property or were invited, you can counter the defense of trespassing. Evidence of your lawful presence can help establish your rights.

4. How does comparative negligence affect my claim for compensation?

If your actions did not significantly contribute to the incident, you can challenge the defense of comparative negligence. Present evidence showing the dog owner's primary responsibility.

5. Can assumption of risk defense absolve the dog owner of liability?

You can counter the assumption of risk defense by arguing that your actions were reasonable given the circumstances and that you did not knowingly assume the risk of an unprovoked attack.

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