When you visit a friend or go for a jog, walk, or bike ride, the last thing you expect is a dog attack. Unfortunately, dogs can bite or chase you without warning. If you are attacked by a dog, there are some steps you can take to mitigate the damage. After an attack, you will need to take action to prevent infection and account for your medical bills.
During the Attack
If a dog is attacking you, do not run. While getting away from the dog may seem like the best choice, the animal may chase you and intensify its attack. Try to avoid eye contact before and during an attack, and place your bag, sweater, or whatever you have on hand between yourself and the dog. If you are able to escape, back away from the dog slowly and call for help. Should you fall down, cover your head, neck, and ears with your arms and fists and roll into a ball.
According to USA Today, the best place to be bitten is on your shins or forearms and you should protect your face, throat, fingers, chest, and thighs whenever possible. Fighting back can make the situation worse, but if you can distract or immobilize the dog, you may be able to prevent more serious injuries.
Immediately After the Attack
After a dog attack, your priorities should be getting away from the dog and seeking medical attention. If your wound is deep and/or bleeding uncontrollably, exposes bone, tendons, or muscle; or leaves you unable to bend your fingers, get treatment right away. Call 911 if you are feeling faint, weak, or cannot stop the bleeding.
For less severe wounds, wash up with soap and water, apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth, dress the wound in an antibiotic cream, and cover the bite with a clean bandage. Any time you are bitten by a dog, you should see your doctor – dog bites are notorious for getting infected.
Signs of infection include:
- Swelling and redness around the wound
- Pain that lasts longer than 24 hours
- Drainage of pus or fluid
- A warm feeling around the wound
- Faintness and fever
Your doctor may ask you whether or not you have had a tetanus shot in the last 5 years and inquire about the dog’s vaccination history. To make sure you have the answers to these questions, try to gather as much information as possible at the scene of the attack.
At the Scene
If you are safe from the dog and can get your wounds under control without immediate medical attention, you should not leave the scene of the attack without getting information. Try to:
- Get the names and contact info. of the dog’s owner and anyone who witnessed the attack
- Ask for copies of the dog’s vaccination records and the owner’s insurance policies
- Take photos of your injuries and surroundings (is there a ‘beware of dog’ sign?)
When receiving medical care, follow all your doctor’s advice and express any concerns you have about your injuries. Once you have taken care of your health, be sure to report the bite to your local animal control agency and/or police department.
Pursuing Legal Action
Any time you are bitten in a sensitive area (such as the face or genitals), you should recruit an attorney. You should also hire a lawyer if you experience a loss of consciousness, require stitches, or break a bone – or if your child is the victim of an attack.
If your wound becomes infected or you require an overnight stay in the hospital, you may need legal counsel, as well. Scarring can also be a valid reason to contact an attorney, and you should always contact a lawyer in the event of a fatal dog attack.
Any time you sustain a serious injury because of a dog attack, hiring an attorney can help you recover compensation for your medical bills, missed wages, and pain and suffering. Dog bites also cause psychological trauma, so a lawyer can help you get resources for therapy and rehabilitation.