Dog Bite Injuries
While dogs are considered one of the best companions a person can have, it is important to
remember that not all dogs are friendly, and it is common for dogs to get scared when
approached by strangers. For instance, In a serene neighborhood, Sarah was taking her usual
morning stroll when she encountered a friendly-looking dog named Buddy. With a warm smile,
she extended her hand to pet him, unaware of his anxiety. In a sudden moment of fear, Buddy
instinctively bit her hand, causing Sarah to yelp in pain.
While the described situation may evoke distress, it is not an uncommon occurrence in most
cities and towns across the United States. Annually, over 800,000 Americans necessitate
medical treatment due to dog bites. Children between the ages of five and nine, particularly
boys, are more prone to dog attacks compared to any other age group. Surprisingly, more than
70 percent of dog bites stem from dogs known to the victim and approximately 50 percent of
victims report unprovoked bites.
If you have experienced a dog bite, there is a possibility to pursue compensation from the dog's
owner to cover your injury-related expenses and the subsequent impact on your life. At Flores Law
Group, our experienced legal experts can provide guidance on the legal process and help you
explore your options. Feel free to reach out to us today for a complimentary case evaluation.
The Strict Liability Nature of Dog Bite Claims
When it comes to dog bite claims they all fall under what is called strict liability. In short, strict
liability means that the injured person does not have to prove that the owner was negligent in
order to recover compensation. The key factor is whether or not the dog actually bit the person,
Strict liability has replaced the now abandoned “two bite rule.” The two bite rule stated that dog
owners could only be held liable if their dogs had previously bitten someone or exhibited
dangerous behavior. This rule placed the burden on the injured party to prove that the owner
was aware of the dog's dangerous propensities.
The Type of Injuries a Dog Bite Can Cause
The head, face, and neck areas are the most common locations for children to sustain injuries
from dog bites, as these areas are often at the same level as the animal's eyes. When it comes
to adults, dogs are more likely to bite the face or an upper extremity like the arm or hand.
Fortunately, in 81 percent of cases, dog bites do not require medical treatment or only result in
minor injuries that can be effectively managed at home. If you have experienced a minor injury
from a dog bite, here are some steps to follow.
● Apply gentle pressure to the wound with a clean towel to control bleeding.
● If feasible, elevate the affected area where the injury occurred.
● Thoroughly cleanse the dog bite with soap and water.
● Promptly apply antibiotic ointment to the clean wound to prevent infection, then loosely
wrap it with a sterile bandage.
In nearly 20 percent of dog bite incidents, the wound may be deep enough to necessitate
medical attention. In such cases, medical treatment typically involves meticulous cleansing of
the area, hemostasis (stopping the bleeding), and wound closure unless there is a significant
risk of infection that requires leaving it open. Antibiotics are often prescribed to prevent infection,
and a tetanus shot may be administered if the individual has not received one within the past
Severe dog bite injuries can lead to the loss of eyes, fingers, or the nose and may require
surgical intervention to address extensive scarring. Dog bites to the neck area can result in life-
threatening blood loss. Additionally, broken bones, sprains, bruises, and abrasions may occur if
the bite occurs during an attack.
Medical Complications as a Result of a Dog Bite
The most severe complications stemming from dog bites involve the potential risk of infection.
When the skin is broken, approximately 50 percent of dog bites introduce bacteria from the
dog's saliva into the wound. Some of the more significant infections that can arise from a dog
Capnocytophaga: This infection manifests with blistering around the wound, along with
symptoms such as redness, swelling, pain, oozing, fever, vomiting, headaches, and joint
pain. The symptoms typically appear within 14 days after the bite. Those at high risk for
this infection include excessive alcohol users, individuals without a spleen, those with
underlying immune system conditions, and individuals taking medication that can
damage cells, such as chemotherapy. If left untreated, Capnocytophaga infection can
lead to kidney failure, heart attack, or gangrene.
Sepsis: Sepsis occurs when an infection enters the bloodstream and spreads
throughout the body. Signs of sepsis include abnormal body temperature (either high or
low), confusion, excessive daytime sleepiness, and severe pain or discomfort. Prompt
treatment with intravenous fluids and antibiotics is crucial, as sepsis can be fatal if left
Rabies: If a dog that has rabies bites a person, it can become infected with the disease.
Initial symptoms of rabies include headaches, fever or flu-like symptoms, weakness, and
itching or a prickling sensation at the site of the bite. Rabies can be fatal if not treated. If
there is reason to suspect the dog was infected with rabies, a post-exposure rabies
vaccination should be administered.
Tetanus: Dog bites can introduce the bacteria that causes tetanus into the body.
Symptoms of tetanus include jaw cramping, muscle spasms (commonly in the stomach),
difficulty swallowing, and muscle stiffness. If signs of tetanus appear, immediate medical
attention should be sought. Treatment often involves antibiotics and a tetanus vaccine.
Aside from the aforementioned conditions, other infections can impede the healing process of a
dog bite injury. Infections are more likely in areas of the body that are prone to bacterial
exposure, such as the hands or feet.
Even if your initial injury did not require medical attention, it is important to consult a doctor as
soon as possible if you experience any signs of infection, including fever, redness, swelling,
pain, warmth around the wound, or if you have a deep wound and haven’t had a tetanus shot
within the past five years.
The Reason a Dog Bites
Dogs will bite for numerous reasons. Dogs may exhibit biting behavior in various circumstances,
often influenced by stress or perceived threats. Some common reasons for dog bites include
being in a distressing situation, feeling scared or threatened, protecting their home or owner,
guarding their puppies, experiencing illness or discomfort, or being startled. Additionally, during
intense play, dogs may unintentionally nip or bite.
It is noteworthy that the majority of dog bite incidents involve dogs that are not spayed or
neutered, and approximately 25 percent of all dog bites occur while the dog is chained. It is
important to recognize that while certain breeds may have acquired a reputation for
aggressiveness, the truth is that any dog can bite, given the right circumstances. Dog bite
fatalities have been associated with over 30 different breeds, emphasizing the need for
responsible pet ownership and understanding canine behavior.
Dog Bite Claims FAQ
While Working on Someone’s Property, I was Bitten by Their Dog. Do I
Have a Claim?
The possibility of filing a lawsuit depends on the specific details of your case. If the dog was not
confined in an area with a prominently displayed warning sign about the risk of dog bites, and
you were invited to the owner's premises to perform your work, it is probable that you can
pursue a premises liability lawsuit. However, if the dog was confined in an area with a warning
sign or was kept in a separate location from where you had permission to work, and you
voluntarily entered that area, You may not be eligible to file a claim. It is essential to carefully
evaluate the circumstances and seek legal advice to determine the appropriate course of action.
Does it Take a Long Time to Settle a Dog Bite Claim?
The process of reaching a settlement can be a time-consuming endeavor. In the majority of dog
bite cases, compensation is typically provided by the dog owner's homeowners or renters
insurance. Insurance companies typically aim to minimize claim payouts, and they often delay
making a fair settlement offer until it becomes evident that litigation is inevitable.
I Was Bitten by a Dog. How do I Find Out if It Had Rabies?
Determining whether an animal has rabies requires a post-mortem examination of its brain,
making it the only accurate testing method. However, if the dog has received a rabies
vaccination, the owner should possess evidence of the vaccination in the form of a certificate
and a collar tag. Nonetheless, not all animals wear collars, owners may not affix the rabies tag
to the collar, and some dogs may not have owners at all, which adds complexity to obtaining
information about the dog that bit you.
If you are aware of the identity of the animal that bit you, you can inquire with the owner.
However, it is important to note that not all dog owners are forthcoming about such matters,
especially since they have a legal obligation to vaccinate their dogs if they are over four months
old. In certain cases, the dog may be impounded and observed for signs of rabies. If no
symptoms of the disease manifest during the observation period, it is likely that the dog does
not have rabies.
As a Dog Owner, Can I Get an Insurance Policy to Protect Me From a Dog
While there isn't a dedicated insurance policy solely for dog bite liability, numerous
homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies do provide coverage for such incidents up to the
policy's specified limit. It is crucial to review the terms and limits of the insurance policy to
understand the extent of coverage in case of a dog bite incident.
What is the Difference Between Public and Private Liability?
The distinction between public and private liability revolves around the location where the
incident occurs. Public liability typically applies when the dog bite incident takes place in a public
area, such as a park or a sidewalk. In such cases, the legal responsibility for the dog's actions
falls on the owner, as they have a duty to ensure that their dog does not pose a risk to others in
public spaces. On the other hand, private liability comes into play when the incident occurs on
the dog owner's private property, such as their home or backyard. In these instances, the
injured person may need to establish that the owner was aware of the dog's aggressive
tendencies or failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent the incident. Understanding the
distinction between public and private liability is crucial in determining the legal obligations and
potential compensation in your dog bite claim.