Being bitten by a dog can be a traumatic experience. One minute you’re going about your day, and the next you’re caught in a painful struggle against an animal with a bite force of over 200 pounds.
Depending on the size and breed of the dog you were bitten by, your injury could be minor in nature, or it could be severe with long-lasting consequences. If you have been bitten by another person’s dog, you should follow these steps to get treated before seeking compensation.
Why dog bites should be taken seriously
Every bite should be treated as serious, or you may have to deal with injuries that arise from complications. If a dog manages to pierce your skin with their teeth, there’s a good chance that you could develop an infection.
Risk of infection
The average dog’s mouth is teeming with bacteria that are just waiting to create infections and spread them whenever they get the chance. If you were bitten on your hands or feet, you may be at a higher risk of developing an infection. This is because these parts of your body receive less blood, which makes it harder to stave off an infection.
The force of a dog bite can damage nerves under your skin. This could be minor nerve damage that heals itself or severe nerve damage that is permanent. If the extent of the injury is especially large, you may suffer loss of sensation or movement around the bite area. This can be debilitating if you experience severe nerve damage on your hands.
The three types of nerve injury resulting from a dog bite are shown below
- Neurapraxia: This a minor form of nerve damage occurs when your nerves are stretched. The main damage in this injury is to the sheath surrounding the nerve. People suffering from neurapraxia report numbness or a burning sensation. This problem usually heals itself over time without requiring medical intervention.
- Axonotmesis: This nerve damage is more severe than neurapraxia. It occurs when the sheath and the axons around your nerves are damaged, and the nerve itself is stretched. This can cause sensory problems, reduced or loss of motor function, and in extreme cases, paralysis. Recovery is possible only if the nerves have not been severed.
- Neurotmesis: This is the most serious type of nerve damage. It can happen from severe dog bites in which the sheath and axons are severed. Neurotmesis usually results in pain, loss of motor and/or sensory function. This injury usually requires surgery as it does not heal on its own.
If you have suffered severe nerve damage from a dog bite, you may have to pay for expensive medical treatment and surgery. For this reason, you should seek compensation from the owner of the dog that attacked you.
Mental trauma and psychological problems
The negative impact of a dog bite isn’t just limited to your physical health. In many cases, dog bite victims can make a full recovery given enough time. However, the mental trauma of the event may still persist for several years.
Psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common among dog bite victims. Symptoms of PTSD include mood swings, recurring nightmares, sleep loss, and memory problems. A person who enjoyed being around dogs may find themselves terrified by the mere sight of one following an attack.
Mental trauma can be just as bad as physical injuries in some cases. For this reason, dog attack victims should seek the appropriate compensation for both their physical and mental suffering.
Steps to take following a dog attack
Here are the right steps to take following a dog attack.
- Inform the owner
If you have been bitten by a dog that has gotten away from their owner, you should immediately seek them out and let them know what has happened. Remember to get all their contact details and verify that it is accurate. This is similar to the steps you would take following an auto accident.
It’s important to ask the owner about the dog’s vaccination history. If the dog isn’t up to date with their shots, you may require immediate medical attention. Otherwise, you risk developing rabies.
Despite the potential severity of the situation, you should try to remain calm when you are approaching the owner. This improves the likelihood that they will be co-operative and provide accurate information.
However, you should avoid discussing the attack with the owner directly as they may also be in shock following the attack. For this reason, your interaction should be limited to just obtaining their contact information.
- Document everything
Assuming your injuries do not require urgent medical attention, you should try to document everything around the scene of the attack. Take photos of the dog, the location where the attack occurred, and your injuries.
Look for any witnesses who may have seen the attack occur and get their contact information. If possible, ask them to write down their version of the events on a piece of paper. This paper should include their signature and the date/time.
It’s important to get this information while it is still fresh in the witnesses’ minds, as they may forget important details in the future. Your personal injury lawyer will follow up with them later when you are taking legal action against the owner.
- Seek medical attention
You should then seek medical attention for your injuries. Some steps for treating a dog bite are shown below:
- Wash the wound with mild soap and warm water. You should put your hand under a running tap for at least 5 minutes.
- Remove any hair or dirt that may be on the wound.
- Use a clean cloth to slow down the bleeding if it isn’t excessive.
- Find some antibiotic cream and apply it to the site of the injury.
- Wrap your injury in a bandage and keep it in place until you can reach a doctor.
- Inform the doctor about the attack and let them know if the dog that bit you was vaccinated or not. If the dog was unvaccinated, you may need to get a post-exposure rabies prophylaxis shot.
- If you haven’t had a tetanus shot within the past five years, the doctor may recommend that you get one immediately.
- They will then clean the wound properly and attempt to close it using sutures.
- You may then be asked to take antibiotics for several days.
After seeking the appropriate medical attention and treatment for your wound, you should retain all your bills and medical reports. This information will be used when you are seeking compensation from the owner.
- Inform animal control
Once your injuries have been addressed, you should report the dog attack to your local animal control agency. This should be done after every dog attack, as it helps authorities enforce dog bite laws. In addition to this, they can take steps to ensure that this canine does not bite other people in the future.
After reporting the attack incident to animal control, authorities will carry out an investigation. This investigation will determine if the dog in question is dangerous or not. The owner will then be asked to take appropriate measures to keep other members of the public safe from their pet.
Owners that fail to comply with these rules will be subject to heavy fines. If the dog attack was particularly severe, or if the dog has a history of attacking other people, it may need to be put down.
The aforementioned investigation will also reveal how well the owner has been taking care of the animal. If the dog has been abused or mistreated by its owner, authorities may remove the animal from the owner’s possession.
- Get in touch with a personal injury lawyer
Your next step should be to get in touch with a personal injury lawyer in the state. There are many attorneys who can handle cases related to a dog bite injury in New Jersey.
However, choosing the right person for the job can be tricky if you have never hired an attorney before. Some things to look out for include:
Your personal injury lawyer should be someone you trust. For this reason, it’s always best to go with an attorney who your family or friends have used before.
You should opt for someone with past experience related to your situation. Personal injury lawyers typically handle a wide variety of injury cases, so you should focus on the ones who have dealt with many dog bite cases in the past.
Experience can count for a lot when it comes to choosing a lawyer. However, this experience won’t mean much if they have a poor reputation. After all, a lawyer that has a history of losing the majority of their cases won’t be of much help to you.
You can look up reviews for your personal injury lawyer online and read testimonials from their past clients before hiring them.
You should always use an attorney that resides in your state. This will make it easier to meet them face-to-face. In addition to this, they are more likely to be familiar with the local dog bite laws in your state.
Once you have found the right attorney who can help you seek compensation, the legal process against the dog owner can begin.
What are the dog bite laws in New Jersey?
New Jersey has a strict liability law which makes dog owners responsible for any harm their dog does to a victim. This applies if the attack occurred on public property, or on private property that the victim was legally permitted to be on. However, the aforementioned law may not apply if the victim was trespassing on private property.
Owners are liable for damages not just from the bite itself, but also injuries sustained from the dog scratching or jumping onto the victim. You may be able to receive compensation in a situation where you were not bitten if you can prove the owner was negligent.
For a negligence claim, you must show:
- The owner was responsible for controlling their dog.
- The owner failed to uphold their duty.
- This failure resulted in you being injured.
Situations when you may not receive compensation
As mentioned earlier, you may not receive compensation if you were attacked while trespassing on private property.
Similarly, if you bear some of the responsibility for the attack, you might not receive compensation. This could be the case if you deliberately tempted the dog to attack you.
If you were more at fault for the dog attack than the owner, you won’t receive any compensation. But if you share 50% or less of the blame, you may be compensated by a small amount.
Proving who was at fault can be tricky. However, an experienced personal injury lawyer may be able to review the evidence and uncover details that show the owner is to blame. Nobody should have to suffer through a dog bite injury in New Jersey by themselves.
So get in touch with the right attorney and get started on the compensation process as soon as possible.