An animal bite is both frightening and painful. If an attack happens to you or your child, you may panic and wonder what to do next. Take time to consider the best steps to take to care of the physical damages and costs associated with a bite.

There are differing degrees of dog bites. The wound may only be a minor break in the skin from a dog you know well, or perhaps even your own dog. If the bite is small and you know the dog its owner, treat your wound like any break in the skin. Clean the wound well with soap and water. Apply antibacterial ointment and cover the area with a sterile bandage. Clean the area and reapply the ointment at least twice every day until it is healed. You may wish to call your family physician for further instructions.

If the bite is more serious, there are important steps you must take immediately.

  1. First, photograph the dog that bit you, a family member or friend. Photograph the wounds with your phone’s camera, or ask a nearby person to do so. This is a crucial step because if your case goes to trial, you need to prove that it was that particular dog that is responsible.
  2. Do not try to grab the dog to look at its collar tags. Do not restrain the dog. You are far safer away from an angry or frightened animal. The dog may run away in panic, so taking the photo as soon as possible is important. If you cannot identify the animal or the authorities cannot find it, you may require painful injections to prevent rabies.
  3. You will need photographs as documentation of all injuries. If possible, hold an object near the injury that shows the scale of the wounds. A dollar bill is about six inches long and is a good way to show the police, animal control officers, and the courts the extent of the injuries.
  4. If the owner is present at the incident, take their photograph, along with any identification they offer.
  5. Next, seek medical attention for the injuries. Whether you choose your family physician, an urgent care center or a hospital emergency room, document all procedures. Take photos. Document stitches, any surgery or any procedures that can protect you in court if necessary. Keep after-care instructions, charges, copies of prescriptions, etc.
  6. Call the local animal authorities to report the incident as soon as you can. Depending on where you reside, that authority may be local animal control officers, the police or a sheriff’s office. It is important that you report the incident yourself. Do not depend on others to take this step, even if they offer. Give the authorities copies of your documentation along with your list of witnesses.
  7. If the bite is severe enough to need treatment or surgery, call an attorney who is experienced in personal injury cases. Present your photos, documentation, list of witnesses, law enforcement reports and copies of all medical treatment.
  8. What you should not do is talk to the dog owner’s insurance company discuss any recompense with anyone, or come to any agreements. Refer all inquiries and offers to your attorney without additional comment.

These steps may help you recover money to pay for your current treatment, any future treatment, and compensation for pain and suffering. The more information you can collect, the stronger your case will be if the owner can be identified.

Animal bites are painful, expensive, and they are frequent. Each year, there are about 4.5 million dog bites in the U.S. More than 850,000 cases need medical attention, and 450,000 cases are seen in emergency rooms. Even dogs that are usually friendly and well-known can turn and bite a person near to them, even if they are known to the dog. Young children are particularly at risk.

If you have a dog, it is crucial that vaccinations, particular that for rabies, be kept current. Review your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance to see if you are covered for any possible injuries your dog may cause.

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