An animal attack can happen so quickly. A stranger’s dog feels threatened at the park and lashes out. A baby pulls too hard on a family pet’s ears or comes too close to his food bowl. A letter carrier is performing her job and steps into an area the dog feels the need to defend.
- Pets enrich our lives, but the encounters between people and pets do not always go smoothly.
- Animal bites can be very serious.
Dog Bites: Costly and Rising
Dog bites are among the most common of animal bites. Unfortunately, dog bite attacks have been on the rise in recent years. People receive emergency-room treatment for severe or even life-threatening dog bites nearly 866 times per day. Many of those dog bite victims are small children or elderly people, some of whom may not recover. Even when dog bites are thankfully not fatal, the costs of treatment can be staggering. According to recent data, hospital costs for a dog bite average over $18,000. This cost can increase when victims of a dog attack require reconstructive plastic surgery, physical therapy, mental trauma, or ongoing medical treatments.
Legal and Medical Issues
No one should have to suffer pain, lifelong disfigurement, or the loss of a family member because of an animal bite. The law generally agrees that pet owners need to exercise proper control over their animals. The law also recognizes the need for animal bite victims to receive fair compensation for their injuries. Many people suffering from the serious aftermath of an animal bite have been able to recover damages for long-term medical care, rehabilitation, lost job income, and related effects of a harmful attack.
Laws about animal bite attacks vary, but most make it clear that pet owners are deemed responsible, especially if the dog was previously known to be dangerous or the owner acted negligently or irresponsibly in handling or housing their pet. Some states have a “strict liability” law, in which the owner is automatically held responsible even if they did not have any intent to harm and even if they did not know the animal could be vicious.
What to Do if You’ve Been Bitten
If you or someone you love has been attacked by an animal, it’s obvious that you need to seek medical care immediately to prevent further damage. A crucial step in this process, however, is documentation. Take pictures of any injuries; record the names of friends who witnessed this event; write down the type of animal (for example, the breed of the dog), the name of the owner, and any restraints the owner may or may not have used, including leashes, muzzles, or fencing. If you are able, write down your memory of events while they are still fresh in your recollection. At this time, you might seek out the services of a professional animal bite attorney who can dedicate time and expertise to your case.