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Being bitten by a dog can be a painful, distressing experience. While we tend to think of dogs as man’s best friend, we have to remember they are also animals and have the potential to bite. Every year, 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs, and one in five of these bites causes injuries that require medical attention.
Have you or a loved one been bitten by a dog? Depending on the severity of the bite and your situation, you may need a dog bite attorney to help you navigate the legal complexities of the incident.
Classifications of Dog Bites
Anyone can be the victim of a dog bite, but children, postal workers and older adults tend to be frequent victims. These bites can be especially dangerous to children. In 2020, of the nearly 800,000 people who were treated in the emergency room for dog bites, at least half of the victims were children. Thousands of reconstructive procedures are performed on victims of dog bites every year.
Dog bites and the related injuries can vary widely in severity. The following are the classifications of a dog bite:
Level 1: The first level is a warning bite. This is also referred to as an air bite or a snap. In this instance, there is no contact made with your skin.
Level 2: The second level is a bite that involves contact with your skin, but the bite does not break the skin.
Level 3: The third level is a bite that causes as many as four puncture holes in your skin. These punctures are shallower than the length of a dog’s tooth.
Level 4: The fourth level is a bite that causes as many as four puncture holes in your skin that are deeper than the length of a dog’s tooth. Additionally, the punctures may have visible gashes or tears. These characteristics of the bite indicate that the dog bit down on your skin and shook its head while biting.
Level 5: The fifth level refers to multiple bites that result in deep puncture wounds.
Level 6: The sixth level is a bite or several bites that result in consumed flesh or death.
These classifications can help you determine the seriousness of your injuries, understand the animal’s behavior and pinpoint what may have caused the dog to bite.
What to Do After a Dog Bite
The circumstances of a dog bite situation can affect the steps you should take afterward. Important factors to consider include who owns the dog, whether you know the owner and whether you need medical attention. Follow these steps after you or a family member are bitten by a dog:
1. Obtain Information From the Owner and Witnesses
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, obtain as much information as you can. Do you know the owner? Is the dog exhibiting aggressive or strange behavior? Is the animal a puppy?
If you know the owner and he or she is present, you should exchange names and contact information. If there were witnesses to the incident, you should obtain information from them as well. Ask the dog’s owner if they have proof that their dog is up-to-date on its rabies vaccination.
If you are unsure who owns the animal, you may need to seek medical attention for a rabies vaccination, which can be expensive.
2. Report the Incident
If you are bitten by an unknown dog, your first priority is protecting yourself from disease or rabies. Call 911 to report the incident. Then you or the authorities can contact animal control. Clean the injured area to avoid transmitting bacteria that may cause infection.
If you are bitten by a puppy or by your own dog, you may not need to report the incident:
If you are bitten by a puppy: A puppy likely did not bite as a result of aggression. Instead, it was likely attempting to establish dominance or it is teething. While a puppy bite may hurt and may even result in a superficial wound, the bite will probably be minor.
If you are bitten by your dog: You do not have to contact the police if you or a family member is bitten by your dog, but you should consider the circumstances of the bite. Was the dog playing? Was the bite accidental? Did you get between your dog fighting another dog? Or was there a medical or behavioral reason your dog bit you?
3. Treat the Injury
Your wound should be treated immediately to avoid infection. For a superficial wound, such as a scratch or scrape, follow these steps:
Clean and disinfect the area with water and soap.
Apply a topical antibiotic.
Cover the wound with a bandage.
For a deeper gash, follow these steps:
Apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean towel to stop the bleeding.
Rinse the wound with water after the bleeding stops.
Clean the area with mild soap.
Seek medical attention.
For a puncture wound, simply clean the wound and keep it elevated rather than disinfecting or bandaging it. Call 911 if the bleeding does not stop, if the bleeding is excessive or if the injury is on your head or neck.
4. Seek Medical Attention
Following a dog bite incident, seek medical attention and a rabies vaccination as soon as possible. No matter how severe the injury is, you should see a doctor right away. The dog may be carrying dangerous bacteria, and unvaccinated dogs can carry and transmit rabies. If you have a compromised immune system, your risk of getting an infection is greater.
You may need a rabies vaccination, a tetanus shot and antibiotics that can prevent infection. Severe or deep puncture wounds may also warrant plastic surgery.
5. Document Your Experience
Take pictures of the injury and the location where you were bitten. Photograph bloodstained or torn clothing as well. You may also want to take notes about your experience, such as recording:
Details of your injuries
Medical attention you received
Your thoughts and feelings in the weeks after the incident
6. Speak to a Dog Bite Personal Injury Lawyer
Your final step is speaking with a personal injury lawyer who is experienced in handling dog bite injury cases. With the help of a personal injury lawyer, a dog bite incident can be resolved legally. A personal injury attorney will ensure you get the support you need after you suffer a dog bite-related injury.
Dog Bite Lawyers Near Me
Laws that address dog bites vary depending on your location. Fortunately, you can navigate the legal complexities of a dog bite incident with the help of a personal injury lawyer. An experienced attorney will keep your best interests in mind and work to get you the results you deserve.
At KBG Injury Law, our attorneys have been serving the South Central Pennsylvania area for more than 30 years. If you or someone you love has suffered a dog bite, contact a dog bite injury lawyerat KBG Injury Law. For help understanding the legal action you can take, request a free consultation today.
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