If you’ve ever had a dog or were fortunate enough to know one then you know what a pleasure it is to be around those furry critters. They can be the best companions and will love their owner unconditionally no matter what. However, if you have ever had a dog or knew one then you also know that their teeth are long, sharp and dangerous and that they can bite you or someone else without notice. Sometimes we can’t even recognize the trigger that sends a dog into an attack mode. They don’t speak any human language so they really can’t even begin to tell us what makes them scared or threatened, so, therefore we just have to guess what makes them go off like a time bomb. We have to keep our eyes on those canine signals whenever we’re near them.
Of course, there are obvious triggers such as pulling a dog’s tail or putting your face into the pooch’s face and many others that can stress a dog out and make him lash out with his muzzle, ready to defend himself. And that long mouth full of potential danger is pretty much the only defense mechanism that dogs have and it is a very powerful one. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), children have the highest risk of being bitten by dogs. After that it’s men, then women who are statistically high at risk for being bitten. Over fifty percent of all dog bites take place at home with dogs that are known to the victims.
There are about 4.5 million dog bites in this country every single year and almost a million of those wounds become infected. That’s a lot of bites and a lot of infections! While a small percentage of people die from dog bites, most bites don’t puncture the skin and cause no infection at all. But since dogs have very strong jaws, even if there is no puncture or infection, bruising may take place and residual pain may hang around for a few days. Since there are over 325 million people in the U.S., the 4.5 million annual dog bites mean that 1 out of 70 people will be bitten by a dog this year. If you’re one of those unlucky bite victims you should immediately wash the wound with soap and water, get to a doctor and then call a personal injury attorney.
Some breeds are more prone to biting than others. For instance, that cute little Chihuahua is generally at the top of the list when it comes to dog breeds that have a tendency to bite the most. Then comes the bulldog, the pit bull, and the German Shepherd. After that, it’s the Australian Shepherd, the nimble and quick Jack Russell Terrier and the Cocker Spaniel. These dogs have quick triggers so be careful when you’re near them. Also, be on your best behavior around Rottweilers, Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes as these dogs are fierce and have some of the strongest jaws and bites on the planet.
Some dogs who have reputations as biters and also have unusually strong bites are:
Kangal = 743 Pound per Square Inch (PSI)
English Mastiff = 556 PSI
Wolfdog = 406 PSI
Rottweiler = 328 PSI
African Wild Dog = 317 PSI
German Shepherd = 238 PSI
American Pitbull = 235 PSI
Chow Chow = 220 PSI
As you can see, these dogs have real biting power but so do most dogs even if they aren’t on the list. Remember, their strong sharp teeth are just biting through skin and muscle, both of which give way to a small amount of pressure and sharpness. Humans, although we would like to think we are super strong, are only made of flesh, muscle, and bone and when dogs’ teeth grab hold of an arm or a leg a great deal of damage can be done very quickly. Some dogs, like the American Pitbull, sink their teeth in and latch on to the victim with no intention of ever letting go, so the injury becomes even worse and more painful. Pit bulls are notorious biters and just the mentioning that you are the proud owner of one can inadvertently unfriend people you might have been great colleagues with. If dogs attack in packs, many times it becomes a biting frenzy and they, no matter what kind of dogs they are, won’t stop until they are forced to by people who are trying to help the victim. Feral dogs, although not as common here as in third world countries, can be a real threat as they move along tipping over trash cans looking for food. They become a pack of wild dogs and people should stay out of their way and call the police as soon as they are spotted.
Did you know that around 3,000 mail carriers are bitten each year? That’s just under ten a day. Perhaps another reason to admire postal workers because of their bravery in the face of furry, growling, barking, biting animals. Dog bites are also one of the leading causes of childhood injuries that bring a lot of kids and their parents to the emergency room for treatment. Kids are the ones who are bitten by dogs the most, as we mentioned above, but over 800,000 people, old and young, receive some medical attention due to dog bites every year. Although a lot of this canine information feels a bit negative there is a good side to all of this:
• Being bitten by a dog is a 1 in 112,400 chance, which is to your advantage.
You are more at risk of being killed by the following than by a dog:
• You have 1 in 66,335 chance of being killed in a storm.
• A 1 in 63,225 chance to die if you contact bees, hornets or wasps.
• You have a 1 in 6,905 chance to be killed by a gun.
• Fatal ingestion of food or choking is 1 in 3,461.
• You have a 1 in 7 chance of dying from cancer and heart disease than by a dog attack.
What should you do if you are bitten by a dog?
The answer is similar to that of any accident or injury you might have:
1. Get to a hospital or clinic immediately. You should wash the wound with soap and water and get medical help immediately. If the skin isn’t punctured you will probably only be bruised with little chance of infection. However, we suggest you at least get in touch with a medical professional and let them decide whether you should come in to be seen by a physician. Going to the doctor whether your wound is serious or not is part of the documentation that is necessary to win your case if indeed there will be a case. You should go also because you are not a physician and can’t really diagnose your wound properly even if the skin is not broken. Let the doctor decide how serious your injury is.
If your skin has been punctured by the dog’s teeth, there is a chance that an infection could set in and a doctor’s care could most likely prevent that from happening. The puncture may appear to be a simple dog bite but there could also be other more severe consequences that could be underneath the broken skin. A bone may be cracked, a vein or artery could be damaged or any of a number of things could result from that “simple” dog bite. The bottom line is: go to a doctor as soon after the incident as possible because it could save you a lot of suffering and it will create a professional document that can prove to the court that you were injured.
2. Has the dog been vaccinated for rabies? If a dog has rabies and it bites you, there is a good chance that you will become infected with that dreaded and deadly disease. Before you leave the area (and after the dog has been restrained by its owner or someone else) get the owner’s name and contact information and find out if the dog was vaccinated for rabies. Also, if possible, get the person’s veterinarian’s contact information. You or someone you know should call the veterinarian right away to make sure that the dog in question has indeed been vaccinated for rabies and that the inoculation is up to date.
3. Witnesses. Were other people present when the dog bit you? If so, get their names and contact information before you leave the area. If your wound is serious and needs immediate medical attention ask someone else to get that information for you. It’s also important to get witness statements as soon as possible after the bite occurred while it is still fresh in their minds. Give all of this information to your Personal Injury Attorney so he or she can follow up with the witnesses at a later date.
4. Document everything. Documenting is simply taking notes or writing down what happened. This will help you later if you need to go to court with your Personal Injury Attorney to establish liability and to seek compensation for lost time at work, medical costs, emotional suffering, permanent scarring, permanent disability and expected future medical bills. When you go to the doctor, your medical visit will be documented by the office staff and the physician’s personal notes. These documents will be dated and time stamped and will show that you were treated for a dog bite. These documents are extremely valuable in a court of law as they are the notes of a professional physician and his or her organization and the will bolster your side of the argument.
5. Call a Personal Injury Attorney. Having an attorney as early as possible can help you through any legal obstacles that may arise during this time. He or she can advise you on what your next step should be and how you should navigate the court system together in order to win a personal injury case. Your Personal Injury Attorney will file all the appropriate paperwork on time and will keep you abreast of everything you need to know about the progress of your case. Once a Personal Injury Attorney agrees to take on your case, you can relax and feel confident that he or she is on your side and everything that is done from that point on is for your benefit.
6. Don’t talk about your case with anyone. It is important that you only talk about the case with your lawyer. If the dog’s owner asks you to talk to his or her insurance agent you should refer that person to your lawyer and let the law office handle all conversations regarding the dog bite incident. Don’t blame anyone and never take the blame yourself. This is the time to keep quiet and let your lawyer do all the talking for you. If you do say something – remember – it could be used against you in court if you say the wrong thing. So, the best policy is to just keep quiet and refer everybody who wants to talk about the dog bite to your lawyer.
So, who is liable when someone gets bitten by a dog? That’s a good question which has probably been asked many, many times over the last three or four thousand years. Ultimately, the court will decide, if your case is not settled outside of court. Liability simply means that the person is legally responsible. Dog bite laws differ from state to state but most states have pretty rigid statutes regarding liability for dog bites. Generally, the owner of the dog is liable for injuries from his or her dog. The owner will usually also be or she held liable if he or she was considered to be careless or if he or she knew the dog was dangerous or if he or she was negligent in controlling the dog.
DEFENSES TO A DOG BITE VICTIM’S CLAIM OF LIABILITY
The dog owner may do the same thing as the victim as far as documenting everything that happened when his or her dog it the victim. Notes may be taken and witnesses’ accounts may be documented and the owner may feel that he or she is not liable and will try to prove it in court. For instance, the victim may have provoked the dog and then the dog bit him. If the owner of the dog could prove provocation then the victim could lose the case quickly and never receive any compensation at all.
If the owner can prove that the victim had no legal right to be on the property, that is, trespassing, then the owner may not be held liable and it would be considered the victim’s responsibility for being negligent.
How to prevent a dog bite?
This another question that has been asked for thousands of years. It seems that most people love dogs but they are also aware of the real dangers of this wonderful companion. Many people, when they see a strange dog coming their way, simply walk to the other side of the street to avoid any possible confrontation. That is always a good idea. Anytime an unfamiliar animal, especially a dog, is nearby there is always a chance that it could see you as a threat and attack you.
Several ways that seem to work pretty well as far as remaining a neutral entity in a dog’s perception:
• Turn sideways with the side of your body facing the animal and just remain still if the dog approaches you. If you have the front of your body facing the dog it might take that as a threat and start growling or even bite you.
• Never run from a dog – they can run up to 38 miles an hour in bursts and humans can only hit up to 28 miles per hour for a very short period of time, so dogs definitely have the advantage.
• If a dog approaches and you can’t avoid him let him smell you and then, if you want to and feel brave enough, you can gently scratch the dog under the chin – NEVER on his head.
• If a dog ever attacks you and knocks you down, it’s best to curl up into the fetal position and remain calm and still. Protect your head, ears, and neck by covering them with your hands.
• Never make eye contact with a strange dog. He will most likely take it as a direct challenge and he may attack you.
• Let sleeping dogs lie. Better words were never spoken – when it comes to animals, anyway. Don’t bother a dog if it is sleeping, eating or watching its pups. You never know what mood it’s going to be in when it sees you, so take heed and stand clear.
• To keep your dog from being physically aggressive don’t play with him aggressively or condone any aggressive play by him.
A man walked into a veterinarian’s office and wanted some help with his fear of dogs. He was hoping for some sage advice and possible ways he could rid himself of his unusually high anxiety when he just looked at a dog. He finally got to talk to the animal doctor and told her that he was really afraid of dogs. She didn’t hesitate at all and simply told him to “Get a cat.” Well, that closed the conversation quickly and he left soon after that brief and unexpected answer.
He realized later that it was a brilliant response. Although he always wanted to be able to be close to dogs he also knew that it really didn’t matter whether it was a dog or a cat or a giraffe that he was close to. He just wanted animal companionship. He knew from then on that he didn’t have to be afraid of dogs because he really didn’t need to be near them and that he only became anxious when he was in close proximity to dogs. He solved his fear crisis by deciding to just stay away from dogs the same way one might stay away from rattlesnakes or sharks or tigers. And then he went out and got a cat.
That was a true story and it illustrates that maybe we push ourselves too much in order to feel “normal” like we think other people are feeling when they have no fear of dogs. If you’re afraid of dogs, or anything else for that matter, simply stay away from them and your fear will go away. They have their place in the world and you have yours and you can both enjoy yourselves without ever talking to one another.
If You are injured by a dog
As we mentioned earlier, after you are bitten by a dog, you get the name and contact information of the owner of the dog along with the names and contact information of any witnesses and their statements. Then you go to the doctor and get your wound treated and keep a copy of your medical papers that have the date and time and the description of your wound as a dog bite. Then you call a Personal Injury Attorney and tell him everything that happened. He will decide if you have a potential case against the dog owner or his or her insurance company. Once the Personal Injury Attorney takes your case, you can relax because you are in good and experienced hands. Your lawyer will take care of everything from that point on. His mission is to either settle the case out of court with the insurance company or take the dog owner and the insurance company to court if indeed the dog owner is covered by dog bite insurance.
With his guidance and experience you will most likely:
• Be compensated for medical bills
• Receive payment for physical and psychological scars
• Paid for permanent disability and expected future medical bills.
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