Dog Bite Injury Law and Prevention
By Aaron Larson
- Your Rights If You Are Attacked
- If You or Your Child are Bitten by a Dog
- Dog Safety Tips
Dog bites are a very common form of injury, for both adults and children. They can have serious consequences, including permanent disfigurement and psychological trauma. In extreme cases, they may result in death.
While it is not possible to know in advance whether a dog will attack - even the nicest, gentlest dogs have been known to bite - there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your children from being bitten.
Laws governing dog attacks are different in each state. Typically states recognize a common law cause of action, creating liability for owners who know their dogs are dangers. Many states also have passed dog bite statutes that can create liabiity in most dog bite cases, with limited defenses available to dog owners. For example, under Michigan law, people who are the victims of unprovoked dog bites while in a public place or lawfully on the premises where the attack occurs are almost always able to establish liability on the part of the dog owner. It doesn't matter if the dog has never bitten another person -- there is no "free bite rule" in Michigan, and dog owners can be liable the very first time their dog bites somebody.
People may be injured by dogs without being bitten. For example, dogs can cause injury with their claws, can knock people ove, and can upset bicycles. If injured, these people may also have the right to recover damages from a dog owner.
Try to identify the dog. If the dog may have rabies, it is important to receive appropriate vaccines.
Don't argue with the dog owner. Many dog owners simply won't believe that their dog would bite at all, or if not severely provoked. Arguing doesn't do any good.
Don't sign papers or make recorded statements. It is possible that the dog owner, property owner, or their insurance company will try to get you to make a statement, in writing or on tape, about what happened. Their goal is probably to get you to make statements which help them avoid their liability for your injuries. If they approach you, you should consider having a lawyer assist you.
Make a report of the incident to the police. The police will investigate the circumstances of the dog bite, and will make a report which may help establish what happened.
Seek medical care. Dog bites can involve puncture wounds from fangs, which can easily become infected. Infection can occur even with scrapes and abrasions. An infected wound can result in a worse scar, and may also cause serious complications and side effects. Also, if you wait to get treatment it may not be possible to suture your wounds, increasing the severity of scarring and possibility complicating your recovery.
Consider Consulting a Lawyer. A lawyer can help you get the compensation you are entitled to receive for your financial losses as well as for your pain and suffering. Even if an insurance company offers to write you a check, it can help to have a lawyer review the proposed settlement. Insurance companies are notorious for making low settlement offers to unrepresented individuals. An attorney should be able to identify and preserve evidence about the dog attack, to negotiate with the insurance company, to identify any additional people beyond the dog's owner who may also be liable for damages, and to take any additional steps necessary to obtain a fair outcome.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when encountering a dog is that there is no such thing as a dog that does not bite. Also, it is possible to be injured by a dog in ways other than through a bite injury.
Tips and Suggestions
Even when you know a dog, it is important to follow basic principles of safety:
|Dogs you don't know||
Sometimes you can get
a sense for a dog's temperment even though you don't know it. If you
suspect that a dog may be vicious, respond accordingly.
Don't back away from a strange dog - it may think that you are playing.
|Special Circumstances||Riding a Bicycle -- You are not just at risk of being bitten, but you also have a significant
chance of being injured if you hit a dog as it runs in front of your
bicycle. It is best to try to keep distance between yourself and any
Jogging, Running, and Rollerblading -- if you are engaged in a sport where you attract a dog's attention through your rapid movement, you should try to keep a safe distance from dogs. That includes dogs which are on leashes. If you are approached by an unrestrained dog (no chain or leash), don't try to outrun it -- it is probably faster than you. Instead, stay still until it loses interest in you.
In addition to the points raised above, it is important to take steps to educate children about how to behave around dogs, and to provide appropriate supervision for young children when dogs are present. Some experts suggest that children under the age of ten should never be left alone with a dog, as they may not behave appropriately around the dog, and they may be too small to defend themselves against an attack from even a small dog. Also, dogs may be confused by the movements and behavior of young children and mistake them for prey.
Dog Safety Rules for Children
In addition to the general safety rules that are outlined above, which apply to both children and adults, children should be educated as to the following:
If a dog seems scary:: If you are scared by a dog, do not run away, scream, or shout.
If a dog bites:: Try to give the dog something else to bite or chew, such as a backpack or jacket.
Copyright © 1999-2011 Aaron Larson. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you believe you may lawfully use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article under the Fair Use exception to copyright law, except as otherwise authorized by the author of the article, you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.