As parents, we try to protect our children from danger. Unfortunately we can’t be with them around the clock, and sometimes events are simply out of our control. If your child was bitten by a stranger’s dog, you’re most likely struggling with what to do next. What do you say? What do you do? While you try your best to exude confidence and present a peaceful atmosphere in order to make sure your child feels safe during his or her recovery, there are legal actions you can and should take. An experienced personal injury attorney will ensure you’re financially protected and reduce the chances that another attack occurs in the future.
Dogs are seen by most as a means of protecting our own families, which is probably why their popularity is growing. So is the number of dog bite injuries and subsequent personal injury lawsuits. Out of the 320 million people currently residing in the US, 4.7 million are injured in canine attacks each year. More than half of the victims of those yearly attacks are children, who are less likely to know how to act properly around potentially dangerous animals. Insurance companies go on to reward only 16,000 of these victims with financial compensation, or less than one percent. This is why litigation is so important after a dog bite!
What should I do first?
Of course, when the attack first happens legal action is the last thing on your mind. For the purpose of proper documentation and subsequent interaction between the owners of the dog and, possibly, insurance companies, you should treat the scene of a dog attack as you would the scene of an automobile accident.
- Call the police. After a car accident, you would limit the information you provide to the authorities in order to prevent an accidental admission of guilt or transfer of misinformation. In the case of a dog bite, the authorities will most likely separate the parties involved and gather information on their own. Dog owners are expected to control their animals, and the fault lies squarely with them–although liability laws vary from state to state and could affect your claim. In any case, unless your child was openly antagonizing or being violent with the dog, don’t worry about providing information to the authorities. You can answer questions freely.The police will help track down the dog’s owner if not present at the time of the attack, and help you obtain information about the owner’s insurance.
- Photograph the scene. Take pictures of the child, dog, and the environment where the attack occurred. If possible, take a short video. This will give your attorney a general idea of the dog’s behavior. If the dog shows signs of unprovoked aggression or is an aggressive breed, for example, your claim may be easier.
- Talk to witnesses. Even if you saw what happened yourself, witnesses can be amazing when filing a dog bite lawsuit. Sometimes owners will provide colorful or embellished details of the attack, and knowing exactly what happened is important for you and your attorney. If uncovered evidence shows a pattern of aggressive behavior, animal control may have to be called in order to determine what, if anything, should happen to the dog next.
- Keep a binder. After you’re done gathering all the necessary evidence, organize it and place into a binder. Keep a journal or your child’s thoughts and feelings in the days after the attack, and take pictures of the wounded area to document recovery time. This will make it easier for your attorney to make an accurate assessment of potential damages for which you should be compensated.
Those who obtain the help of personal injury attorneys can file a claim based on both physical and mental trauma suffered, and will go on to receive a much higher level of compensation than what is usually received from insurance providers. While parents should act immediately after a dog attack to educate their child on how to remain calm and composed during interaction with potentially dangerous animals, they should also obtain the necessary legal help.
About The Author: Abraham Jaros, co-partner and founder of Jaroslawicz & Jaros PLLC, a New York City personal injury law firm. He began his career over 40 years ago and remembers the struggle of finding which area of law to practice as if it were yesterday. During his career as a personal injury lawyer he has tried hundreds of cases and won numerous multi-million dollar verdicts on behalf of his clients. When not in the court room he can be found writing to help inspire future lawyers everywhere.