Over 4.5 million people are bitten by a dog each year in the United States, and one in five of those victims requires medical attention. In Florida, over 600 people are hospitalized each year due to a dog bite—and no doubt, some are from the Clearwater area.
If you are the victim of a dog bite, you may struggle with the pain, deal with doctor’s appointments, and wonder if you will ever feel safe around a dog again. Amid all this, you will need to think about how to recover from the dog owner for your physical, emotional, and financial injuries.
If you or a loved one is dealing with the effects of a dog bite injury in Clearwater, the Dolman Law Group can help. With deep experience protecting the rights of individuals who have been bitten by dogs, we are prepared to assist with your case. We can work with you to understand the facts of your case and the impact the dog bite has had on your life. Contact us today at 833-552-7274 or on our website to schedule a free consultation.
Complications From Dog Bites
The risks of a dog bite are more than a simple cut or puncture of the skin. The most obvious injury is the wound itself. Depending on the depth of the wound, it can require stitches, and if deep or in a sensitive location, can cause lifelong disfigurement. In addition to the wound, over 18 percent of dog bites become infected with bacteria. While over 60 different kinds of bacteria can exist in a dog’s mouth, only a handful will cause serious infections.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common infections from dog bites are:
Rabies: Rabies is one of the most serious diseases occurring from dog bites. The virus affects the brain and is almost always fatal. The virus is spread by the dog’s saliva entering the bite. The best way to prevent rabies is to vaccinate dogs.
Capnocytophaga: This bacteria lives in the mouths of dogs as well as people and cats. While the bacteria doesn’t cause any sickness in dogs and cats, it presents a risk to people with weakened immune systems. It can be passed through a dog bite.
Pasteurella: This bacteria is present in over 50 percent of infected dog bite wounds. It most often causes a painful, red infection but can have more serious implications for individuals with weakened immune systems including swollen glands, swelling in the joints, and difficulty moving. Symptoms can range from redness to respiratory issues such as pneumonia.
Staphylococcal: Dogs are natural carriers of this bacteria in their saliva. Once staph is introduced to the body, it moves quickly and can affect all the body’s organs. The intensity, treatability, and symptoms of a staph infection will depend on the strain of the bacteria. MRSA is a staph infection that is very resistant to antibiotics. If this bacteria is transferred in a dog bite, it can cause skin, lung, and urinary tract infections. In the worst cases, MRSA can spread to the bloodstream or lungs, causing life-threatening infections.
Tetanus: Tetanus isn’t a bacteria but is instead a toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium tetani. If untreated, tetanus can cause high blood pressure, fever, and respiratory failure. The worst cases of tetanus can cause rigid paralysis and is a possibility in deep bite wounds. The risk for tetanus is much higher if the recipient of the bite is not up-to-date on their tetanus vaccination.
The recipient of a dog bite is also likely to experience some emotional trauma. Many victims of dog bites suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially children. This is particularly important because children are more likely to be bitten by dogs than adults. In fact, children between the ages of one and nine are at the highest risk for dog bites, and children under the age of ten are more likely to be bitten on the head or neck.
Symptoms of PTSD include anxiety, irritability, sleep disturbance, reduced creativity, withdrawal, altered appetite, depression, decreased performance at school or work, and pronounced startle responses. Many dog bite victims with PTSD also suffer from nightmares. What will trigger the PTSD is unique to each victim, but a common trigger is hearing or seeing a dog, whether in person or on TV.
This can become a debilitating affliction given the prominent position dogs play in our society. PTSD might impact the social, academic, and emotional growth of a child. While not all dog bite victims will suffer from PTSD, many may develop anxiety or a fear of dogs.
What to Do After a Dog Bite
If a dog bites you, the first thing you should do is tend to the bite immediately. Apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth, then seek emergency medical care, especially if you can’t stop the bleeding, you feel faint or weak, or the bite is accompanied by extreme pain or muscle or bone exposure.
Also seek out medical care if:
- The wound becomes painful, red, warm, or swollen;
- You develop a fever;
- The dog that bit you was acting strangely; or
- If it has been more than five years since your last tetanus shot
All of the above could provide warning signs of an infection.
After you have prioritized your health and safety, report the dog bite. Reporting the bite is important for several reasons. First, it is required under Florida law to report any bite by an animal expected to be rabid. Rabies is incredibly dangerous and the appropriate animal control authorities will need to find and stop the animal from biting anyone else. Second, reporting the bite will ensure that all the details of the event are documented. This may become helpful later if you need to prove that you weren’t trespassing or otherwise acting in a way that provoked the bite.
Responsibility of the Dog Owner
After you recover from the initial shock and trauma of a dog bite, it is important to consider who is responsible for your injuries. The individual responsible for the dog should also be responsible for the effects of the bite.
Under Florida law, a dog owner is liable for all injuries and damages from a vicious attack or bite by their dog against an innocent victim. The owner remains liable even if the dog doesn’t have a history of aggressive behavior or previous bites. The recipient of the dog bite will only face possible reduced recovery if they provoked the dog or acted negligently. An illegal act, such as trespassing, may prohibit recovery based on strict liability. Additionally, a dog owner can avoid liability by posting an easily readable sign that includes the words “Bad Dog,” though this exception does not apply to a victim under six years of age.
If a dog owner acts in a way that a reasonable dog owner would not, they may be found to have acted negligently. Their negligent behavior must have contributed to the dog attack. If a dog owner violates a Florida law meant to protect against dog bites, the dog owner will be presumed to have acted negligently. One example of this is violation of the Florida leash laws. If the owner allows their dog to roam free in a public location, the dog owner may be found to be negligent and responsible for any bite that occurred while off-leash.
While police dogs are generally subject to the same laws as private dogs, the fact scenarios tend to be much more complicated. If you were a suspect who was bitten by a police dog, you will need to demonstrate that the police used unreasonable force that resulted in your bite, or that you were not allowed to surrender before the bite.
Some workers are put in a position to encounter dogs in the scope of their employment, such as mail carriers, delivery men, and any other employees required to enter private property as part of their job. If a worker is lawfully on private property within the scope of their employment and is bitten by a dog, they may be able to recover for their damages under workers’ compensation benefits.
Full and Fair Recovery
While money can’t take away the trauma of a dog attack, it can take away the stresses and pressures the effects the dog bite has brought to your life. Common damages recovered after suffering from a dog bite include:
Medical expenses: Individuals injured from a dog bite can rack up significant medical expenses, including emergency transportation, hospital bills, doctor’s bills, and the cost of any prescription medication. If the bite has caused significant disfigurement, medical expenses may also include the cost of plastic surgery.
Emotional distress: Dog bite victims may need to seek emotional and psychological support after the attack. This could include visits with a psychologist or psychiatrist as well as prescription medication.
Loss of income: Your dog bite injury may keep you from attending work, and you should be able to recover for these lost wages. If your injuries limit your future ability to work at the same level as before the bite, you can also recover for loss of future earning potential.
Pain and suffering: Some dog bites might cause ongoing pain and suffering. While hard to quantify, a jury may decide to award damages for the ongoing impact of pain on the victim’s life.
Loss of enjoyment: If the location or severity of the bite keeps you from participating in an activity you previously enjoyed, you may recover compensation for this loss. For example, if you are an avid basketball player but a dog bite crushed your foot, you may not put pressure on the foot in the same way moving forward. You should recover compensation for this loss.
The strict liability statute in Florida puts a clear obligation on a dog owner to compensate the victim. Most owners will still try to reduce or eliminate their obligation to pay. The owner may assert that you were trespassing on their property, provoked the dog, or otherwise committed some negligent act that contributed to the attack. They may also offer you a settlement, but any initial settlement offer will likely be too low to compensate you fully for your suffering.
The dog owner may also allege that you didn’t bring a lawsuit in a timely manner. In Florida, dog bite victims must bring a lawsuit within four years of the injuries. Failure to bring a lawsuit in this time frame will prohibit you from filing a lawsuit or making a claim for monetary damages. The attorneys at Dolman Law Group can work with you to make sure any lawsuit is filed in a timely manner and that you secure a recovery in the amount you deserve.
Contact the Dolman Law Group
You don’t need to face the trauma of a dog attack on your own. If you are the victim of a dog bite in the Clearwater area, Dolman Law Group has experienced attorneys who are here to help. Our team will work with you to understand the facts of your case and to develop a strategy for securing full compensation for your injuries. In addition to working with you to establish the fault of the dog owner, we will use our expertise of dog bite cases to calculate the full spectrum of damages you are owed.
No Dolman Law Group personal injury client is charged unless we recover money for you. We will work tirelessly to ensure you are appropriately compensated for your injuries. Contact us today at 833-552-7274 or at our website to schedule your free consultation and learn more about how Dolman Law Group can help you.