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Dog Bite Injury Questions and Answers

Dog Bite Injury FAQs

My son was attacked on the sidewalk in front of our house by a neighbor`s pit bull, who escaped from a fenced yard. Do we have a case?

Most cities require pets to be properly restrained and supervised. So if a dog escapes from its owner’s property and attacks someone, the owner is typically held responsible for any resulting injuries. You should contact an attorney to discuss the details of your son’s attack, and learn more about the appropriate next steps toward legal action.

My daughter was bitten by a relative`s Doberman Pinscher. Are owners of “aggressive” breeds of dogs automatically held more liable when their pets attack?

Although there is evidence that dog attacks occur more frequently among more “aggressive” breeds, the law does not recognize any difference among breeds when determining whether the owner was at fault in a dog bite case. Insurance companies do – and they charge higher insurance premiums to homeowners who have certain types of dogs – but legally, the same proof of liability is required for a bite inflicted by any dog.

I heard that a dog`s first bite is “free”. Does this mean a dog owner is not legally responsible for the first person his dog bites?

Yes and no. Before a dog owner can be held legally responsible for a bite on his own premises, many states require proof that the dog’s owner knew his or her animal was vicious and likely to attack.

What`s the first thing I should do if I am bitten by a neighborhood dog?

First, seek medical attention immediately. Bites, whether big or small, require prompt medical treatment – even if you don’t think you’ll need stitches, there may be a risk of infection. Second, document your injuries by photographing the wound, writing down the details of the attack and requesting copies of any medical records. If you are contacted by the owner or his/her insurance company, do not sign or provide an official statement. Consult an attorney with experience in animal attack injuries, who can provide advice on any legal action and appropriate next steps.

I was bitten by a dog, but I don`t know who the owner is – how can I find identify him or her?

When you don’t know the animal that attacked you, an experienced attorney may be helpful in locating its owner. In serious cases, a DNA sample may be necessary to establish the identity of the dog, and an attorney can initiate that procedure and deal with the appropriate law enforcement officials.

I was recently bitten by a dog and I`m receiving treatment for my injuries, but I don`t know yet how serious they are. Should I wait to contact an attorney?

There is a statue of limitations on dog bite injury claims just as with any type of personal injury case, so the better course of action is to contact an attorney now. He or she can advise you on your legal rights, and can help to gather pertinent information while your condition is being evaluated.

My friend suggested I get a medical report from a plastic surgeon – but I`m not sure I will need plastic surgery for my injuries. Is this really necessary?

Many dog bite victims do not foresee the need for future plastic surgery as a result of their wounds – but the injuries sustained in a dog attack often create significant scarring. If a report from a credible plastic surgeon is not submitted before damages are awarded, the victim is often left paying for very expensive surgical procedures out-of-pocket, as most health insurance companies will consider these to be “cosmetic.” Consulting with a plastic surgeon now will benefit you in the long run – and help you to make informed decisions about damages and legal action.

When a neighbor s dog attacked me, I wasn`t badly injured but I feel the animal is a hazard to the community. I want to advise my neighborhood association about the dog – can a lawyer help me do this?

Writing a letter to your neighborhood association is an excellent idea – and having the communication come from an experienced attorney can make this step much more effective. A letter from a law firm will convey the seriousness of what happened to you – and make your neighborhood association more likely to take action and create a stronger sense of awareness within your community of the potential hazard.

Why do I really need an attorney to help if I was bitten by a dog?

An experienced attorney can help identify the animal`s owners and establish if the dog has a history of attacks by conducting neighborhood investigations and reviewing veterinary records. This information is necessary for your safety regardless of whether you wish to file a claim. If you suffered serious injuries, an attorney can also find medical experts to thoroughly review your treatment and determine if and what type of plastic surgery or other future treatment steps might be necessary. Having an experienced lawyer will help you to decide if legal action is required, and what type of damages might be appropriate for your case – remember, just because you hire an attorney, you don’t have to bring a lawsuit – but when you are recovering from a traumatic attack, it helps to understand your options.

I was bitten by a dog – and I want to make sure it doesn`t bite anyone else, but I hate to think I will be responsible for having it put down. If I notify the authorities and hire an attorney, what will happen to the animal?

Reporting the attack will not automatically result in the dog`s demise. The court can review the facts of your attack as well as any other activities to determine if the animal is “potentially dangerous” or “vicious”. This determination will help guide what happens to the animal – the owner may be required to build a fence or pen to keep it restrained. An experienced attorney will not take any action you haven`t requested, so simply hiring a lawyer does not in any way make it more likely that the dog will be put down – an attorney will simply help see that your rights are protected.