Dog Bites and Legal Action: What Happens After an Attack?

by Carina Jenkins
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Even if you're a dog lover who can't resist a cute, furry face, you could find yourself on the receiving end of a dog bite. Dogs can be extremely dangerous if they become aggressive.

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No matter how severe the bite is, taking the proper steps afterward, which might include hiring a personal injury lawyer, can help you recover faster and get the financial compensation you deserve.

What Should You Do If a Dog Bites You?

Seek Medical Attention

The most important thing to do is treat the wound to avoid an infection or a more serious issue. Wash the dog bite with mild soap and rinse it under warm water for several minutes. You can also apply an antibiotic cream and bandage the wound.

Visit the doctor to document the wound and ensure it's not getting infected. The medical records can come in handy if you pursue legal action with the help of a dog bite injury lawyer. Follow your doctor's orders for taking care of the wound, and monitor it for redness, more pain, swelling or other signs of infection.

Document, Document, Document

Documenting the dog bite can also help your case if you take legal action. Take photos of the wound. If you can, take pictures of the dog's enclosure or where the dog was running loose. This can also be used as evidence. Ask any witnesses for their contact information.

File a Report

You can also file a dog bite report to notify officials of the dog's aggressive nature. The agency that handles these reports can vary based on where you live. It's often the animal control department or public health department in your area.

Is the Owner Liable?

Liability usually falls on the owner, but the laws governing dog bites can vary slightly by state. Some states place all the responsibility on the owner, regardless of the situation. Other states assign partial liability to the owner if they can prove that they didn't know their dog was a danger. As a general rule, the owner can be held liable if their dog bites you, but there are exceptions.

A dog owner may not be liable if:

  • The bite victim was trespassing or unlawfully on the property when they were bitten
  • The bite was the result of the victim harassing or provoking the dog
  • The dog was working to herd farm animals or control predators
  • The bite victim was employed as a groomer or veterinarian.

A dog bite injury lawyer can help you understand the laws in your state and recommend how to proceed.

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What Legal Steps Do You Need to Take Next?

Gather as much evidence as possible if you need to take legal action to get compensation for the dog bite. The photos you previously took and any reports you have related to the incident can be helpful. You might need to prove negligence on the part of the owner. For example, perhaps the owner had the dog off the leash despite local leash laws, or they might have left a gate open that allowed the dog to get out of the yard and bite you.

Then, contact an attorney as soon as possible. The attorney will examine your evidence and help you collect more if necessary. They can tell you how strong your case is and advise you on the best options. A lawyer can help calculate how much your compensation should be, which can include your medical bills, lost wages from missing work and pain and suffering.

Your attorney can often negotiate for you with the owner or the owner's insurance company. The owner's insurance company might try to contact you directly if you don't have a lawyer. While you can negotiate with them yourself, they'll likely try to offer a lower amount than you deserve. Several dog bites can cause ongoing issues that require additional medical care and could cause you to miss work. Once you accept an offer from the insurance company, they'll likely force you to sign papers that prevent you from seeking any additional compensation.

Experienced attorneys have strong negotiation tactics that help in these situations. They know how to fight back against an insurance company that's trying to offer you a lower settlement amount. If you can't agree on a settlement amount with the insurance company, your attorney can build a civil case and represent you in court.

How Do You Pay a Dog Bite Injury Lawyer?

Most dog bite injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means the attorney only collects money if you get compensation, either through a settlement or a court case. Your attorney will take a percentage of your total compensation. This amount can vary by lawyer. Many people get larger payouts with the help of a lawyer, so even though your attorney takes a cut, you might still come out with more money than you would have on your own. Ensure you know how much your lawyer will take if you win the case.

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