When Fido’s Bite is Worse than His Bark: How to Protect Your Rights

Man’s Best Friend?

Most of us love dogs and see them as faithful companions. However, the very fact that dogs are so popular has given rise to an alarming increase in the number of dog bites suffered each year in the United States. A stunning total of more than 4.7 million dog bites occur each year, with almost 800,000 of those bites requiring medical care. Even more tragically, these dog attacks cause an average of 17 fatalities annually, and the majority of bites and deaths are among children under 12 years of age.

To help understand the seriousness of the issue, just a few more statistics convey the point of why dog attacks and bites are a concern:

  • Roughly 25 percent of fatal attacks were by chained dogs.
  • More than 77 percent of the bites were from dogs owned by family or friends.
  • The attacks occurred on the victim’s property in 64 percent of the cases.
  • More than 27,000 people required reconstructive surgery in 2012 because of dog bites.
  • The total cost of these bites in 2012 exceeded $1 billion.
  • Only four of 1,000 people, one-third of one percent, received any compensation for their injuries.

Preventing the Problem

As is the case with most safety issues, an adequate level of awareness is the first step to prevention. With the millions of children involved in these attacks each year, it is important that they are taught the basic precautions concerning dogs. A few of these include (and apply to adults):

  • Never go near unknown dogs.
  • Avoid eye contact with a dog, especially one that you do not know.
  • Do not run from a threatening or attacking dog.
  • Do not approach or disturb a sleeping dog or one that is eating.
  • Allow even familiar dogs to sniff your hand before attempting to pet it.

When an Attack Occurs

No matter how small a bite suffered, it should be reported to the owners. If the skin is torn, even slightly, medical care should be sought immediately. Dogs can carry a number of bacteria and diseases dangerous to humans. Proper treatment is essential to prevent infection or more serious medical complications.

Most renters and premises liability insurance policies have provisions that address the possibility of dog bites. It is important to report a dog bite and record all the relevant information so that any necessary claim can be correctly filed.

In many cases, especially with serious bites, it is appropriate to seek out the counsel of an experienced premises liability attorney to protect your legal rights. There are specific steps that must be taken in these situations to improve your chances for recovery of medical and other costs. Even if the bite is from the dog of a friend or family member, taking the right legal precautions is the proper course of action.