Dog bites can be particularly scary situations, but they’re also fairly common. Every year, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States alone. To avoid being bitten by a stranger’s dog, avoid going into yards where unleashed, aggressive dogs are present. You should try and stay inside if there is an aggressive dog on the loose, and ideally, contact Animal Control in your area. However, if you do get bitten by a stranger’s dog, here are some steps you can take immediately to help minimize the damage of the situation.
1. Get Medical Care as Soon As Possible
Dog bites are serious injuries — they’re not like a paper cut that you can wait a few days to see a doctor about. While it’s good to clean the wound and apply antibiotic ointment, you should get medical attention right away. Dog bites are typically categorized as “superficial” or “substernal” — a superficial bite is one that causes damage to the skin only, while a subdural bite is one that causes damage to the soft tissue under the skin. Both types of bites can result in serious infections, nerve damage, and other complications. An infected wound may require sutures, antibiotics, or both. Because a dog bite can result in serious complications, and even death, it’s important to get medical attention as soon as possible.
2. Report the Incident to Your Local Police Department
If your bite wound is superficial, you may be tempted to just deal with it at home. After all, you didn’t really get bitten, right? It is more of a scratch! But if the bite is deep enough to cause serious complications and even death, you should immediately report the incident to your local police department. Not only will reporting the incident offer you peace of mind, but it could also result in the prosecution of the dog owner. Plus, that dog may hurt someone else if you don’t say anything. If someone witnesses the incident and you don’t report it right away, they could also call the police.
And be sure to follow the protocols of your local police department — while most departments will be sympathetic to your situation and the trauma of an unprovoked attack, they’re also tasked with ensuring public safety. If you’re bitten in a public place (such as in a park), you may want to report it to the authorities for the safety of others.
3. Contact the Owner of the Dog Who Bit You
After you get medical attention and report the bite, you should contact the owner of the dog who bit you. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to negotiate a settlement with the owner. In some cases, you may even be able to resolve the matter without any legal action. If you don’t get in touch with the owner, it could result in the owner not sharing information about their dog with you or letting you see the dog in question. You should also keep a copy of your medical records and report with local authorities to help the owner understand the incident.
4. Reach Out to an Attorney to Learn Your Rights
If you’re concerned about the dog in question, you may want to consult an attorney before you make contact with the owner to find out your options. The best way to ensure you know what rights you have is to consult a personal injury lawyer who knows the area, and who knows local and state statutes regarding dog bites in specific.
5. Don’t Let Fear Keep You From Going Outside in the Future
If you’re afraid to be outside after being bit, you can try to get your work schedule changed so that you don’t have to be outside as much. However, one bad accident should not deter you from enjoying being outside in the future. The dog bite may change some aspects of how you live, but it should not take away your sense of personal freedom.
If a dog bites you, don’t panic — get yourself to a safe place and immediately call 911 if the bite is severe. Make sure to get your bite looked at by a medical professional, and see what the dog owner has to say. In many instances, the dog was not intending to be violent, but instead, protecting his or her territory. Just keep in mind, if the owner is not being courteous and apologetic, then you may want to talk to a lawyer to ensure your pain and medical bills are taken care of by the at-fault party.