What do you do if you’ve been bitten by a dog? Step one: don’t panic. Step two: follow the steps in this guide.
Here, we’ve written you a comprehensive list of all the legal and medical steps you need to take after receiving a dog bite wound. We’ve listed the immediate steps first, then the follow-up actions for legal recourse.
Don’t wait to take action. Follow this guide on what to do after a dog bite.
First Steps For Taking Legal Action
Medical attention is obviously a priority in an injury case. But it’s also less likely to be overlooked than steps taken to ensure legal recourse. And seeing as we’re a personal injury legal site, we’ve listed the legal steps first so you won’t overlook them.
In the hustle and bustle immediately following a dog-bite incident, emotions are high and you may be in a great amount of pain. It can easily slip your mind to exchange information. But it’s vital you do so, for legal and medical reasons.
If you were the victim of a hit-and-run and were still conscious, you’d try your best to memorize the license plate of the car fleeing the scene, wouldn’t you? Though your injury case may be very different than a hit-and-run, collecting contact information from the dog’s owner is just as important. You’ll need an easy way to contact them later if you wish to take any legal action.
If you require medical attention, you will also need this information for the hospital’s reference. They’ll need to contact the owner to obtain the dog’s vaccination records or other information related to your injury. Before going to the hospital, make sure you or someone with you collects contact information.
Witnesses of any crime have a legal responsibility to appear in court if called upon. So, as with car accidents, contact information must also be collected from witnesses of the dog bite incident.
Eyewitness accounts are a huge help to your case if this does end up in court. And if it doesn’t, there’s still no harm done.
Document the Event
Document as many details of the event as you can, as soon as you can, to the best of your ability. This is just like photographing evidence of a car accident for insurance claims.
Take pictures of the wound from several angles. Write down or record a verbal account of the injury and any symptoms associated with it.
Describe what it looks like, pain levels, and anything affected by it. That is, note if it impairs your ability to perform specific functions. Record specifically what those functions are and how they will affect your daily life.
Also, describe how the event happened. Be as detailed as you can.
It’s best to record this detailed account of the entire event while it’s still fresh in your memory. The easiest way is to use your smartphone to record it on video or as an audio file.
If you are unable to do this because of your injury, ask someone with you or a witness to do it.
Call Animal Control on Stray Dogs
Stray dogs biting people is a huge health hazard to your community and must be stopped. If the dog that bit you has no collar and/or no owner present, call animal control immediately. The sooner you relay its location, the more likely they are to capture it.
In addition to civic duty, this is also important for your health. Once the animal is captured, it can be determined if it has any diseases that may have been transmitted through the bite.
By capturing the animal, it may also be discovered that it does have an owner. The owner may put up lost dog photos in the area or contact animal control searching for it.
If this happens, you have the opportunity for legal recourse. But, unfortunately, if no owner is discovered, you’re unlikely to prove anyone was legally responsible.
Medical Attention for Dog Bite Wounds
Once you have the dog owner’s information, you need to have the wound looked at by a medical professional right away. Even if the wound doesn’t seem serious, it’s best to receive professional health care to prevent dangerous infections.
Head to the ER where doctors can diagnose the seriousness of the wound and apply antibiotics. Have a friend or ambulance transport you if you are unable to drive because of your injury.
Immediate, professional medical attention is also important for legal reasons. This way, the injury will be well documented in the hospital’s records.
Now, here are some steps you can take to treat the wound before arriving at the hospital.
If the wound hasn’t broken the skin and there’s no lasting pain, you probably don’t need medical attention. But you still may want to seek a professional diagnosis for your records.
For this, you’ll want to go to urgent care rather than the emergency room. And you definitely still need to exchange information with the dog’s owner.
These steps will make it easier to take legal action if the wound starts acting up later.
Minor Scratches or Gashes
You also may not think much of a small gash or scratch. But since dog bite wounds are easily infected, there’s nothing minor about them.
Before professional medical care, treat the wound as you would any normal scratch or gash. Wash it right away and apply antibiotic ointment and a bandage.
Then, seek professional medical attention.
These can be frightening as they tend to bleed quite a bit. And the sight of losing one’s own blood often induces panic.
Your instinctual response will probably be to stop the bleeding as quickly as possible. But, in fact, it’s better to let it bleed for a few minutes.
Initially, the bleeding actually helps to clean out the wound to prevent infection. Unless the blood is coming out very forcefully, or in large amounts very quickly, allow it to bleed freely for about five minutes.
After that, try to stop the bleeding with a clean cloth or gauze. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, alert emergency medical help and inform them of the situation.
If it does stop, carefully wash the wound in water with gentle soap. Cover the wound with sterile gauze or cloth.
Do not use harsh medical products, like alcohol, iodine, and hydrogen peroxide. These can hinder the healing process for puncture wounds.
By this point, you should be at the hospital, awaiting or receiving care.
Bite From an Unknown Dog
If the dog is a stray or the owner can’t be found, inform animal control as mentioned above. Treat the wound as you would according to the above steps. Since there’s an increased chance of disease from stray dog bites, it’s especially important to let puncture wounds bleed for five minutes.
If the wound has broken the skin, call 911. Diseases can spread fast and it’s important for you to receive the necessary vaccinations right away.
What to Expect at the ER
The first thing the ER will do is evaluate the urgency of your situation. Seeing that it’s an animal bite, you should receive care somewhat quickly.
They will also ask you questions to get a detailed account of how the injury happened. They’ll want to know the dog’s vaccination history, too. This information makes it easier to provide proper treatment.
When a doctor becomes available to treat you, he/she will thoroughly cleanse the wound and apply any necessary antibiotics or vaccinations. You may also receive stitches for deep or extensive gashes.
It’s also common to receive a booster shot after animal bites, especially if you’re overdue for your tetanus shot. You may receive several additional vaccinations, including rabies, if the dog that bit you was a stray.
Afterward, the doctor will probably prescribe oral or topical antibiotics to continue fighting infection.
Follow-Up Steps For Taking Legal Action
Beyond the first steps described above, here’s how to follow up for legal recourse.
Continue documenting the effects of the injury. Keep all records and documentation related to the event and collect as much proof as you can to support your case.
Keep records, receipts, and a tally of all medical expenses. Add to this any additional expenses resulting from the injury. This includes lost pay from time off work, cab fares for being unable to drive, etc.
These documents are easily verifiable proof in support of your case. They also make it easy to determine the exact amount of compensation you’re entitled to.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
Dog bite lawsuits are very common. As such, it shouldn’t be difficult to find an attorney with experience with these cases.
As soon as you even consider taking legal action, contact a personal injury attorney. Most lawyers offer a free consultation to victims of injury.
Even if it ends up as an insurance settlement rather than a personal lawsuit, a personal injury attorney is key. They will know how best to deal with the other party’s insurance company to get the compensation you deserve.
Take These Steps After a Dog Bite
Don’t suffer needlessly. Don’t deny yourself the justice you deserve. You’ve been wronged; take action.
If you’re the victim of a dog bite wound, follow these legal and medical steps.
Next, read these eight steps to take after a workzone injury.