Over 800,000 Americans require medical attention for dog bites each year. Dog owners are liable for damages caused by their pets, with the following exceptions: a person trespasses or commits another criminal offense on the owner’s property (or attempts to), or teases, torments, or abuses their dog. Assuming you are an innocent victim, here is what you should do if bitten:
- Obtain the names, phone numbers, and addresses of the dog owner and any witnesses. Even if you think you are uninjured, some injuries only crop up a day or two later, and this information will come in handy. Damages caused by a dog may entitle you to compensation for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.
- It is imperative that you get the name of the owner. If the dog can’t be identified, you may face the possibility of painful rabies treatment.
- Seek medical attention immediately when the situation calls for it. Even if a bite doesn’t seem all that serious, puncture wounds are susceptible to infection. Maintain records of all doctor and hospital visits, and copies of bills. If you sustain a wound to the face, request that a plastic surgeon treat it. Emergency-room doctors are skilled at the medical…not so much the cosmetic.
- Report the incident to animal-control authorities. This is especially important when an animal’s owner is unknown. The authorities will try to track the dog down (and its owner), quarantine it for a rabies evaluation, and talk to witnesses, which can aid a potential claim.