Dog Bite Injury Questions

I was bitten by someone else's dog, do I have a case?

Usually you will be able to sue if you were not materially responsible for the attack. Dog owners are responsible for keeping their pet confined to their property or under their direct control. If you were threatening the dog or trespassing, you are less likely to collect.

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What types of damages can I sue for?

Typically, you can collect for medical bills, pain and suffering, emotional trauma and may be eligible for other compensation depending on the severity of the injuries. Plastic surgery may be required and loss of work will also be an issue.

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Does it matter what the breed of the dog is?

All dogs are capable of biting in some situation. Whether a dog bites or not has more to do with how it was trained than the breed. While some breeds (pit bull for instance) have a reputation of being more aggressive, the type of dog that bit you isn't as important as the circumstances surrounding the incident. For instance, the laws are different in the city than in a rural setting.

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Will the dog be killed if I report a bite?

Not necessarily. Generally the dog will be confined or quarantined to make sure it doesn't have rabies. During this time, animal control officials will make a determination as to whether it is a dangerous dog or not. It may be put down if they find it is inordinately aggressive or dangerous. For first time biters, they are usually returned to the owner.

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What injuries do dog bites cause?

Other than physical damage to tissues (which can be extensive) there is a great risk of infection. If you are bitten, seek medical help as soon as possible. Often, the injuries will get worse before they start healing – this is because a dog bite involves a crushing as well as a tearing element and muscle tissue will swell over time.

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Will I have to get a rabies shot?

In most dog bite incidents the victim doesn't need a rabies shot. If the animal is known, a copy of the vaccination record (including rabies) will be obtained. The dog will be quarantined to see if it shows signs of rabies – most dogs and cats in the US are rabies-free.

If the animal cannot be identified or if an identified animal tests positive for rabies, your doctor may recommend a series of rabies shots. These are called "post-exposure prophylaxis" and consist of a series of six injections over a month's time. If rabies is an issue, treatment should start as soon as possible. Rabies is a fatal illness with no cure other than prevention.

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What if I don't know who owns the dog that bit me?

You should inform animal control in your area as soon as possible about the incident and give a complete description of the animal. They will attempt to find it and determine ownership. If the dog cannot be found, you may have to undergo treatment to prevent rabies. This is a very serious matter because rabies is nearly 100% fatal in human beings.

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Besides rabies, can dog bites be fatal?

Dogs are universally loved and kept as pets in the US. This means that interactions with dogs, including attacks, often occur with small children. These are the most vulnerable to being killed because of their size and inability to defend themselves. Unfortunately, the vast majority of dog bite fatalities happen with children under 10 years of age.

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Who pays the damages in a successful suit?

Usually a homeowner's policy and the insurance carrier will pay in a settlement. In 2009, dog bites accounted for more than a third of all homeowner liability claims with the average amount paid about $24,000.

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What about other animals?

Dog bites often occur off the owner's property, making them more common and easier to prosecute successfully, however, other dangerous animals can cause injury or even death. Many lawsuits will revolve around who was responsible for the incident. For example, if a venomous snake is purchased at a pet store, they may be liable if they do not disclose the danger properly or if they sell it to someone under 18.

Homeowners have a duty to warn visitors if they have a dangerous animal on the property but this may not free them from all liability. If you have been hurt by someone's pet, no matter what the species, you should get an informed legal opinion to determine your options.

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