What to Do After a Dog Bite
Since dog bite injuries can have significant medical, legal, and financial effects, it's important to know what to do after a dog bite. Read on to learn more about important steps to take after a dog bite incident to make sure you or your family member prepares for a dog bite lawsuit.
Initiating First Steps After a Dog Attack
- Seek Medical Care: Especially for puncture wounds and more serious injuries, it's important to seek medical attention right away. Some dogs are not vaccinated against rabies, and puncture wounds are prone to infection. Don't be afraid to make your way to the emergency room if necessary. If at all possible, take pictures of your or your loved one's wounds before medical treatment. This allows you to accurately document the harm done in real-time before it begins to heal. You will also want to keep track of your medical expenses along with your physical injuries and how they heal.
- Exchange Information: Like during the aftermath of a car accident, you should exchange information with the dog's owner or caretaker. That way, you can contact them after the incident. This information should include the person's name, address, phone number, insurance information, and contact information. You should also get details about the dog such as its breed and vaccination history.
- Talk to Witnesses: Whether a dog bites you or your dog bit someone else, be sure to get contact information for anyone who saw the incident. If there is a need for a lawsuit or an insurance claim, eyewitness accounts can provide a more accurate picture of what happened.
- Contact Animal Control: Filing a dog bite report with your local animal control agency helps protect the public. The agency may label the animal as a dangerous dog if they feel it is aggressive. It is rare, but some domestic animals may have rabies. Animal control's investigation into the incident may also help your case. If a dog was off leash in violation of a city or state law, then the dog owner may also face criminal charges.
Following through on these initial steps will help your legal team assess your compensation for dog bite injuries down the road. It will also help them know who may or may not be responsible (liable) to you.
Documenting a Dog Bite
Documentation is very important after a dog bite.
First, you should document any injuries associated with the bite. This includes any visible injuries and disfigurement. It is also helpful to keep a journal and document the effects of those injuries. Those effects can be physical like pain, decreased mobility, and inability to perform certain functions. There are emotional traumas associated with a dog bite case. Many dog bite claims include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), pain and suffering, and fear of dogs.
This documentation can be in the form of photos, videos, journal entries, medical records, and other written records. Soon after the incident, write down what you can remember about the dog attack. Do this when your memory is fresh. You could even do a voice recording on your phone if you do not wish to handwrite the events. Include the events and circumstances surrounding the dog bite with as much detail as you can remember. Make sure to include the date, time, and whether the owner of the dog apologized to you.
Next, keep records of expenses you incur as a result of the dog bite, such as medical bills, prescriptions, lost wages, and travel costs. The more evidence you have about the incident, the easier it will be to assess the amount of compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Communicating With Parties After a Dog Bite
Since you may be dealing with an insurance company or pursuing a personal injury lawyer for a lawsuit, it's a good idea to document any correspondence you have with others about the animal attack. This includes witnesses, other parties, and the insurance adjuster. If you have a phone call with someone, you can follow up with a text message, letter, or email detailing what you talked about as soon as you hang up. Know that anything you say may come up later should you decide to sue.
Determining Who Is Liable After a Dog Bite
Most states will find the owner of the dog responsible for a dog bite victim's injuries. There are situations where a landlord or caretaker of the dog may also be responsible.
In states that follow strict liability dog bite laws, the owner will have to pay for their dog's damage to another person. There are some exceptions to this recovery such as if the victim was trespassing on private property or trying to harm a person near the dog. Other states follow the one-bite rule, meaning a dog and its owner are not liable to a victim the first time the dog bites. Some states will still hold an owner responsible under the one-bite rule if the owner knew the dog was dangerous and aggressive. Make sure to review your state's dog bite laws and consult with an attorney before making any decisions on liability.
After a dog attack, you should find out if the dog owner was a renter or homeowner. That will come in handy when you file an injury claim so you know who may have an insurance policy. Homeowners' insurance policies cover dog bites, even off the property, unless the dog is an excluded breed. Renters insurance policies will cover dog bites for a rental property. If dog bite injuries occur on private property, the owner of the property may be responsible to pay for an animal attack. The dog owner could have a separate liability insurance policy for their dog that covers any damage done by the animal.
Contacting a Dog Bite Attorney
Because dog bites are common, experienced dog bite lawyers often handle dog bite insurance claims, settlements, and lawsuits. These attorneys are usually well-versed in calculating an accurate amount of compensation a dog bite victim may receive.
These amounts often involve detailed calculations for lost income and earning potential, pain and suffering, and other expenses. These legal professionals also have experience assessing a client's likelihood for success based on their state's dog bite laws and the outcomes of similar cases they've worked on. This is why a lawyer's legal advice about your legal rights is important.
A dog bite attorney can be instrumental in dealing with insurance companies and negotiating a settlement. The insurance company wants people to accept low settlement offers. A dog bite attorney is familiar with these offers and tactics. They use evidence and arguments to get you a fair settlement. If they cannot get you a settlement before the statute of limitations, they will file a Petition for Damages for you in the right court.
Finding a Dog Bite Lawyer
Knowing what to do after a dog bite can help you get the care you need and the legal outcome you deserve. It is still difficult to know the state laws that apply to your situation. On top of that, there is even more to consider, like the types of compensation you should receive and the likelihood of achieving a fair settlement. To increase your chances of a successful dog bite personal injury lawsuit, it's best to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney that focuses on dog bites in your area.
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