Get Justice for Your Dog Bite Case in South Bay
For the most part, dogs are friendly creatures. Often, they bring happiness, companionship, and loyalty into their owners’ lives, and most people have enjoyed petting a friendly pup at one time or another. However, sometimes canine interactions can become dangerous. It is relatively easy for dogs to become excited, overwhelmed, or defensive, and it is common for a bite or an accident to happen as a result. Such occurrences can cause physical, emotional, and mental distress, and in some cases, legal action is required. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to discern when a dog bite is severe and when it is not. In this post, we will cover the question, “How do you know if a dog bite is serious?” and discuss the best plan of action if a dog has bitten you.
What Constitutes a Dog Bite?
Before we get into the levels of dog bite severity, we first need to lay the groundwork for what constitutes a dog bite. Many people believe that a dog bite is only officially labeled as such if the dog’s teeth break the skin. However, this is not the case. In the state of California, whenever a dog closes its jaws around a part of a person’s body, it is considered a dog bite. Whether the dog broke the skin, drew blood, or otherwise scarred the victim is irrelevant in the eyes of the law.
When Dog Bites Are Legal
In most cases, a dog bite is grounds for legal action. However, there are certain situations in which a dog may be within its right to bite someone. These situations are relatively uncommon, but it is essential to know that they exist and what to look for. A victim cannot press charges for a dog bite if:
- The victim was not lawfully on the premises where they got bit.
- The dog was a police or military animal doing their job or acting to defend someone.
Otherwise, the dog owner can be held legally responsible for the dog’s actions. The distinction between situations can be subtle. For example, if you invited a friend over for dinner and your dog bites your friend, your friend may press charges. However, if a burglar breaks into your home and your dog bites the burglar, the burglar does not have grounds to press charges. The difference here is that your friend was invited onto your property, whereas the burglar was trespassing. This distinction covers postal service workers, as they are lawfully on your property when delivering the mail.
If a dog bites a victim, there may be immediate injuries that occur. These types of injuries include:
- Torn skin
- Broken bone
- Severe bleeding
- Muscle and tendon damage
In these cases, the victim should go to the hospital for medical care. Many of these situations require stitches or other professional treatment that cannot be administered without a professional. In these cases, the victim can tell immediately that medical care is needed.
In some cases, a dog bite causes injuries that do not occur immediately. These bites may look mild or manageable when they happen but cause serious issues later. Some examples of delayed reactions or injuries include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
These situations can be a bit more challenging to navigate but still deserve proper medical attention. As we discuss each of these individually, it’s important to remember that a dog owner can be liable for delayed onset symptoms.
One of the most common results of a dog bite is an infection. All animals, including dogs, have several different kinds of bacteria in their mouths at all times. For the most part, the bacteria are harmless. However, when this bacteria makes its way into a wound, it can cause an infection in a human. Several different kinds of bacteria can affect a victim after a dog bite, and symptoms vary depending on which type begins to grow on the wound. Generally, signs of a dog bite infection include:
- Redness, pain, blisters, or oozing pus on the wound site
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Joint pain
Any one of these symptoms is cause for concern after a dog bite incident, and it is essential to seek medical attention if you develop any of them. It is also important to note that tetanus, sepsis, and rabies can also occur after a dog bite, each with its own set of symptoms. Any abnormal symptoms or sensations after a dog bite are cause for concern.
Many people have heard of rabies, but few understand how much of a threat it can be to human life. Most dogs are vaccinated against rabies and must be to go to any public parks or areas. However, this does not mean that you cannot catch rabies from a dog. Rabies is fatal if not treated before symptoms set in, so it is of the utmost importance to seek medical care if a dog bites you. This is especially true if you do not know the owner or cannot verify the dog’s vaccine status. This is not a situation where you want to leave things up to chance; rabies will take your life if you don’t take immediate action. Once these symptoms set in, you may be out of time:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Tingling or itching on the wound area
Though your chances of recovery go down the longer you wait, call 911 and go to the hospital immediately for the best possible options if you experience these symptoms.
How Do You Know if a Dog Bite Is Serious?
Many people want to be able to tell the difference between a mild dog bite and a serious one. It is important to note that no type of dog bite is “normal,” and the fact that the situation has occurred at all is cause for concern. With this being said, you can use these guidelines to determine if a bite is serious within the range of dog bites:
- The bite breaks the skin or draws blood.
- The dog was unprompted or acting abnormally.
- There is breakage of a bone, muscle, or tendon.
- You have symptoms that extend beyond the bite site, such as full-body aches, chills, nausea, etc.
- The dog’s owner prompted the attack or did not seem concerned or surprised at the occurrence.
In all cases, it is best to seek medical attention to be sure that you don’t have hidden injuries or develop infections.
Prevent Dog Bites
Dog bites and attacks are rarely the fault of the victim. However, if you are nervous about getting bitten by a dog, you can follow a few steps to ensure you are doing everything you can to stay safe. Remember these tips when you encounter a dog:
- Never pet a dog without asking permission first. Just because a dog is in public does not mean that the dog won’t get skittish or nervous if approached.
- Ask friends for information about their dogs. If you are meeting a friend’s dog for the first time, ask them how to approach their pet. Every animal is different, and a little research into their temperament ahead of time can ensure that you enter the situation in a way that won’t trigger the dog.
- Never enter a property illegally. This is good advice for many reasons, but remember that a dog owner is not responsible if a victim enters a property illegally and is bitten by a dog. Dogs are territorial creatures and have every right to protect their home against intruders.
- Don’t provoke dogs. Some people think it’s fun to try to play with stray or strange dogs, feed them, run with them, bark at them, etc. This behavior is dangerous if you don’t know the dog’s temperament, and the situation can easily turn sour if the dog feels uneasy.
Seeking Legal Action
Many people hesitate to hold a dog owner accountable for a dog bite because they believe that the dog will be put down for the incident. However, this is often not the case. Most dogs do not get put down for a single biting incident. Euthanasia occurs only when the dog has a history of being aggressive or has attacked and bitten someone in the past. Of course, you do not have to seek legal action. However, medical bills can quickly pile up, and it is unfair for you to be financially responsible for a dog owner’s lack of control over their pet. By not seeking action, you also must understand that the dog could hurt someone else. When you seek justice, you are ensuring that you are financially taken care of and that the incident was just a fluke and not a pattern of dangerous behavior.
Contact McLachlan Law
If a dog has bitten you, it is important to seek legal representation. Hiring a competent attorney ensures that you understand all your options and are not held financially responsible for your injuries if they were not your fault. The team at McLachlan Law APC has been protecting citizens of the South Bay area from dog bite responsibility for years and can help you win your case against your attacker. Don’t wait; contact us today.