Dogs are best friends, family members, and companions, but they also pose a risk to others. There are more than 4.5 million victims of dog bites each year in the United States, and these bites run at a high risk of infection. In 2020, Louisiana ranked in the top five states for lethal dog attacks. The average cost of a dog bite claim in Louisiana is nearly $40,000, and the number of claims are close to 300 in a year.
It is important to understand who is responsible for your dog bite injuries and what you should do after a bite occurs. Read on to learn more.
Understand the Medical and Emotional Risks
Your top priority after a dog bite should be immediate medical care. You might assume that the cut will heal on its own, but dog bites come with a high risk of infection. Up to 25% of dog bites become infected. Additionally, if the puncture wound is deep, it could result in lifelong disfigurement if not treated quickly.
Common medical complications after a dog bite include:
- Rabies: Rabies is one of the most serious diseases that can result from a dog bite because it affects the brain and spinal cord and is fatal.
- Capnocytophaga: This is an infection that can cause gangrene, kidney failure, or heart attack and can require the amputation of the infected extremity, such as fingers, toes, or limbs. Be watchful for symptoms like swelling, pus, fever, and muscle or joint pain.
- Pasteurella: The infection cellulitis is caused by the Pasteurella bacteria and causes symptoms like discharge, swelling, and redness and can also cause joint, bone, and tendon infections.
- Staphylococcal: Dogs are natural carriers of this infection, more commonly called a staph infection, in their saliva. If it enters the human bloodstream, the infected individual’s organs are at risk of infection.
- Tetanus: Tetanus can cause respiratory failure and high blood pressure if not treated. The risk of tetanus is reduced if the victim has a current tetanus vaccine.
After a dog bite, you will need to be wary of emotional trauma as well. Dog bites can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for the victim. This is especially worrisome for children, who are the most common recipients of dog bites. PTSD can cause anxiety, depression, sleep issues, and lowered performance at work or school. Additionally, victims might struggle socially because dogs are an ever-present aspect of our society but are also a likely trigger for a dog bite PTSD victim.
Dog bites are accompanied by financial, physical, and mental costs. If you are a dog bite victim, take time to understand who is responsible for the bite so that you can secure the recovery you deserve. Louisiana law holds dog owners liable under theories of strict liability and negligence.
- Strict Liability: Dog owners are responsible for injuries to a person caused by their dog if the owner could have prevented the action and the action wasn’t a result of the victim’s provocation of the dog.
- Negligence: In addition to strict liability, the dog owner is responsible for any damages or injuries caused by their negligence, meaning that:
- The owner knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known that the animal’s behavior would cause injury;
- The damage or injury would have been prevented by the exercise of reasonable care; and
- The owner failed to exercise such reasonable care
An experienced dog bite lawyer will assess the facts surrounding your bite to determine if the dog owner is responsible. A lawyer will also help you combat any defense leveraged by the dog owner. Common dog owner defenses include:
- The victim was trespassing or otherwise committing an illegal act at the time of the bite;
- The dog was protecting itself or its owners;
- The bite was a reaction to pain or suffering experienced by the dog; or
- The victim provoked or assaulted the dog prior to the bite
A third potential avenue for recovery after a dog bite is from your employer. If you were acting in the scope of your duties at the time of the dog bite, your employer is responsible for the injury, even if no negligence was involved. Common employee victims of dog bites are delivery men, mail carriers, and other employees who enter private property as part of their job. Employee victims can seek recovery through workers’ compensation benefits.
Additional Steps After a Dog Bite
After you have sought medical attention and worked with your lawyer to assess responsibility, there are several additional considerations to keep in mind for your case:
- Report the Bite: Many cities in Louisiana require a victim or the dog owner to formally report a dog bite. The report allows the local government to track dangerous dogs and also provides strong documentation for your case.
- Monitor Injuries: Continue to monitor the bite, even after receiving initial medical care. If the injury becomes warm, red, or swollen, you develop a fever, there is pus or seepage, or the wound doesn’t heal over time, seek additional medical care.
- Assess Your Damages. Work with your lawyer to compile a comprehensive assessment of your damages, including medical costs, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
- Take Immediate Legal Action. You only have one year to pursue recovery from the responsible party after receiving a dog bite in Louisiana.
- Avoid Social Media. Refrain from posting about the bite, your injuries, or how they have impacted your life on social media until you consult with a lawyer. You could inadvertently make a discoverable statement that weakens your case.
One of the most important things you can do after a dog bite injury is contact an experienced dog bite attorney. The lawyers at Allan Berger & Associates are committed to advocating for each of their clients to receive the recovery they deserve. If you or a loved one was the victim of a dog bite in Louisiana, contact the firm today at (504) 618-1597 or through our website to schedule a free case consultation.