What To Do When a Dog Bites
Dogs were domesticated 15,000 years ago, and since then they’ve been man’s best friend. For many people, their dog isn’t just a pet—it’s a part of their family, one who requires love, attention, and protection.
No matter how much a person loves their dog, however, accidents can happen. Dogs are animals and as such, they can be unpredictable. Perhaps a dog is spooked. Maybe it feels threatened. Maybe it’s trying to protect its owner. Whatever the reason, there may come a day when your dog bites someone, or you yourself are bitten. In these cases, it’s important to proceed calmly and contact a personal injury lawyer, such as Mulligan Epstein Attorneys, to help you navigate the legal issues. To get you started, take the following five steps.
1. Trade Information
If your dog bites someone or if a dog bites you, the first thing you should do is trade information. Not only is this the responsible thing to do, it’s also the best legal strategy. Dog bites can result in personal injury trials and/or insurance settlements, so it’s important to address what happened and get on the same page. If you are the dog owner and walk away from the scene, you could be seen as negligent. If you’re the victim and leave without getting contact information, you won’t be able to pursue legal action if complications arise from your injury.
2. Seek Medical Attention
If you are the owner of the dog, you should encourage the person your dog has bitten to seek medical attention. Even minor bites can turn into a big deal if they are not cleaned and treated appropriately, and you don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s negligence. If you’re the victim, you’ll want to take every precaution to protect your own health and well-being in order to ensure a fast and straightforward recovery.
3. Get a Police Report
While it may seem like getting a police report will only exacerbate the situation, doing so can help you in the long run. While the owner of a dog that has bitten someone is almost always responsible for his or her animal (that’s part of having a pet) you want to make sure that any burden you bear on behalf of Fido is fair. Filing a police report will deter the victim from exaggerating their injuries in the hopes of getting a bigger settlement. If you’re the victim, a police report can be useful in making sure you get the compensation you deserve.
4. Be Aware of the Law
Each state deals with dog bites differently. The North Carolina dog bite laws are fairly straightforward, and allow victims to recover compensation in certain cases. If your dog bites someone and it can be blamed on your own negligence, then the victim is entitled to compensation. What counts as negligence? This will vary from case to case, but it can include things like allowing your dog to roam the neighborhood alone, not putting your dog on a leash, or allowing your dog to engage in risky behavior, such as leaving it alone with a child.
North Carolina, like all states, follows the “one-bite-rule,” also known as “scienter,” which allows the victim to recover compensation from the owner, harborer or keeper of a dog if (a) the dog previously bit a person or acted like it wanted to, and (b) the owner, harborer or keeper was aware of the dog’s previous conduct. However, if either of those conditions are not met, the victim should be barred from employing this doctrine as a ground for recovery. As is the case with most legal concepts, there exists exceptions to the general rule. If you find yourself the victim of a dog bite, it would be in your best interest to seek the counsel of an attorney familiar with this area of the law.
5. Protect Yourself
If you’re a dog owner, the best way to protect yourself from potential lawsuits is by acting responsibly. Keep your dog on a leash when in public, and ensure your fence is secure. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on its shots and vaccinations, and keep that paperwork on hand. You should also do everything you can to socialize your dog so it’s comfortable with all kinds of people, including strangers, children, and the elderly. A friendly, social dog that is healthy and cared for will greatly reduce the chances that your dog will lash out in an aggressive manner.
Whether your dog has bit someone or you’ve been bitten by a dog, Mulligan Epstein can help. Contact us today for a consultation and we’ll make sure your rights are upheld.