What to Do after a Dog Bite
Most people across the U.S. love dogs: according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than a third of households own at least one dog.
That’s why it feels like such a betrayal to be bitten by a dog: it’s an animal that’s supposed to be man’s best friend.
While most dogs are very friendly and would never harm anyone, there are some dogs that are aggressive and dangerous. Unfortunately, you can’t always tell the difference between the two from looks alone: while many local and state governments have enacted “breed-specific” laws banning pit bull type dogs, they have not been shown to be definitively effective at reducing dog bites. Basically, any dog could be one that bites.
All dogs have the capability of exhibiting aggression. A dog may become aggressive when hunting, when in pain, or when a person gets too close to its food, for example. Some dogs can be pushed far before showing aggression, while others will show aggression much earlier.
Getting bitten by a dog is a traumatic experience, and it can be hard to know what to do in the aftermath. While we hope that you never suffer a dog bite, this information will help you navigate an unfortunate situation.
Who is at risk?
Every year, dogs bite more than 4.5 million people.
Children are the most at risk for a dog bite; this may be in part because children lack the awareness to see warning signs or the impulse control to leave unfamiliar or annoyed dogs alone. Following children, elderly people are especially likely to suffer a dog bite.
Adults are also more likely to be bitten by a dog if there is one or more dogs in the household.
What should you do after a dog bite?
If you or a loved one have been bitten by a dog, there are a few very important steps you should take.
- Wash the wound with soap and water. A dog’s mouth is filthy, and you want to reduce the risk of infection.
- Seek medical attention right away. This might be obvious if the wounds are severe, but it’s important even if the result is just a scratch.
- If the dog’s owner is at the scene, ask for his or her name and contact information. Also ask him or her for the dog’s vaccination and rabies records.
- Contact the dog’s veterinarian to check that its vaccinations are up to date. If they are not, get tested for rabies and other infectious diseases that the dog may be carrying.
- File a dog bite report with the local health department and with your local animal control office. The dog’s owner may ask you not to do this out of concern for the dog, but this step is important for several reasons. If you need to file an insurance claim or lawsuit, the report serves as evidence for you case. In addition, the report will prompt an investigation into the dog’s behavior; your report will help determine how dangerous the dog is and may prevent the dog from injuring others in the future.
When should you call a lawyer?
When you or a loved one have been injured by a dog, it may be a wise course of action to bring a suit against the owner. The medical bills from a dog bite can add up quickly, and damages won in a lawsuit can help you pay your bills and recover stress-free.
In Ohio, you can pursue your case under either (or both) common law and statutory law.
Under common law, a dog gets “one free bite.” If you pursue your case under common law, you would need to prove that the owner knew that the dog was vicious and that he or she did not take the proper precautions to control the dog. (For example, a dog owner is likely negligent if he or she does not leash an aggressive dog.) If your case is successful, you may receive what’s called “punitive damages”—money meant to punish the dog owner for their poor behavior.
Under Ohio’s statutory law, a dog doesn’t get one free bite. A pet owner is strictly liable for any harm that his or her pet causes and can usually be held responsible for injuries. This means that you would not have to prove that the owner had previous knowledge of the dog’s aggressiveness. This would make your case easier to prove, but you would not be able to receive punitive damages.
There are exceptions to dog bite liability laws, however: a pet owner can’t be held liable if the injured person was teasing the dog, trespassing on the owner’s property, or committing a crime on the owner’s property at the time of the bite. (This is why junkyards have historically used dogs to chase off intruders.)
Contact Us Today
If you or a loved one have been bitted by a vicious dog, you can hold the owner responsible for their carelessness.
We’re here to help. Call us today to schedule a free consultation with our firm’s experienced and compassionate personal injury attorneys. We have offices in Cincinnati, Dayton, Hamilton, and Middletown for your convenience.