Dog Bites: What You Should Know
According to the CDC, between 2001 and 2003, 4.5 million people per year were the victim of a dog bite in the US. More recent data suggests that number to be slightly rising. Of those 4.5 million, 850,000 dog bite victims received medical attention, and 350,000 had injuries serious enough to go to the emergency room.
In 2015, 35 Americans were killed by dogs; in 2014, 42 people were killed. Between injuries and deaths, dog bites cost humans in excess of $1 billion per year in damages. 
Although 850,000 people received injuries as the result of a dog bite, only 15,000 to 16,000 of them sought financial compensation for their medical bills and other losses. Homeowners insurance and renter’s insurance companies should be paying for those fees. That’s what they’re for. That means that out of the 850,000 who received medical attention, only two victims per 100 sought or received compensation.
How to prevent a dog bite
Dog bites can cause pain from lacerations or bruising, injury to the affected or surrounding area, and even nerve damage. Additionally, 1 out of 5 dog bites become infected, which creates its own set of issues, placing the bite victim at risk for illness or even death.
Children and men are more likely to receive dog bites than women, perhaps because of increased contact with their furry companion. Children’s loud and rough style of play might incite them also.
And it’s not just stranger-dogs that bite people, since more than half of dog bites occur in the home with a familiar dog. The number of dogs someone owns also increases their chances of being bitten. This may seem like a no-brainer, but going from a one dog household to a two dog household increases your chances of being bit by 5 times .
According to the CDC, here’s some Dos and Don’ts to keep you and your family safe:
- Remain motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
- Curl into a ball with your head tucked and your hands over your ears and neck if a dog knocks you over.
- Instruct your children to immediately let an adult know about stray dogs or dogs that are behaving strangely.
- Let a dog sniff you before you pet them so they can become comfortable with your presence and your scent. When you go to make first contact, approach with the back of your hand, fingers point down and slightly curled in. This makes it harder for a dog that might bite to get a grip.
- Approach an unfamiliar dog.
- Run from a dog.
- Panic or make loud noises.
- Disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
- Pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
- Encourage your dog to play aggressively.
- Let small children play with a dog unsupervised.
What to do if you are bitten
For minor wounds:
- Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water.
- Apply an antibiotic cream.
- Cover the wound with a clean bandage.
- See a healthcare provider if the wound becomes red, painful, warm, or swollen; if you develop a fever; or if the dog that bit you was acting strangely.
- As a precaution, any bite that breaks the skin should be looked at by a medical professional.
For deep wounds:
- Apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth to stop the bleeding.
- If you cannot stop the bleeding or you feel faint or weak, call 911 or your local emergency medical services immediately.
- See a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Additionally, see a healthcare provider immediately if:
- If wounds appear infected (red, painful, warm, or swollen).
- If you do not know the dog or if the dog does not have a current rabies vaccination certificate, because you might need treatment to prevent rabies.
When people are bitten by a dog, especially incidents that seem minor at first, they often make the mistake of just writing the wound off and moving on with their day. But a dog bite, as the statistics above show, can be a serious thing.
If you or a loved one are bitten by a dog, always do the following:
- Seek medical care right away– Even if the injury does not seem that serious, dog’s mouths are a host to all kinds of bacteria that could lead to infection. Despite the old saying, a dog’s mouth is not cleaner than a human’s. If the wound and infection are serious enough, and medical care is not sought promptly, the infection could begin to spread to other places in the body, like the bloodstream, and that is not good.
- Contact the authorities– The local authorities, like animal control, should be contacted relatively soon after a dog bite. Although this may seem extreme, it is important that the event is documented, the animal is quarantined for rabies and other disease observation, and investigations are conducted. Obviously if your own dog nips you on the hand during a game of catch, this isn’t necessary, but if a strange—or strange acting—dog bites you, definitely follow through.
- Document the injuries– Following a dog bite, you should take photos and notes that detail the extent of the injuries, their locations, what happened, and any procedures you followed. This will be tremendously helpful in proving your case later so you’re not stuck with the bill from someone else’s negligence.
- Seek the advice of an attorney– Trying to convince a multibillion dollar insurance company that they should compensate you for your medical bills and injuries can be a daunting task. Plus, research has shown that victims represented by a dog bite attorney have claims that settle for 3.5 times higher than their counterparts who try to represent themselves. That is a big difference.
Dog bites don’t only cause physical damage. Depending on the situation, and person, real emotional stress can occur. This stress, called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD) is a serious issue. If you or a loved one are bitten, keep an eye out for the following symptoms so you can seek medical care:
- Night terrors/nightmares
- Serious anxiety
- Emotional unresponsiveness
- Avoidance of other people or activities
- Physical manifestations, like headaches or insomnia
In addition to seeking proper medical treatment for PTSD, victims of a dog bite should be aware that they may be able to recover for the emotional, as well as physical damage, from the attacking dog’s owner and/or their insurance company.
Just like the physical damage caused by a dog attack can be serious and real, the mental anguish suffered by the victim is a real and recoverable part of your personal injury claim also.
For more information on the emotional damage caused by dog bites, or if you have suffered from the physical and/or emotional symptoms following an attack, contact the experienced New Port Richey personal injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group for a free consultation and case evaluation at 727-853-6275.
Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652