Last week was “National Dog Bite Prevention Week” which takes place during the second full week of April each year. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) which is a member of the National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition, National Dog Bite Prevention Week “focuses on educating people about preventing dog bites”. Unfortunately, regardless of how much education and awareness this week brings each year, there is no question that dog bite injuries will still occur.
Per the American Veterinary Medical Association, there is an estimated population of nearly 85 million dogs living in U.S. households, and “millions of people—most of them children—are bitten by dogs every year”. Link to American Veterinary Medical Association’s Website The following are some statistics included on American Veterinary Medical Association’s website:
- The Insurance Information Institute reported that in 2020, insurance companies paid $853.7 million for 16,991 dog bite and injury claims.
- While the number of dog-related injury claims decreased 4.6% compared to the previous year, the amount paid for these claims increased 7.1%—a record high. The average claim payment was $50,245 in 2020, up 12.3% from $44,760 in 2019.
- According to State Farm’s claim information, there were more dog-related injury claims in March 2020 than in any other month last year, with a reported 21.6 percent increase in dog bites compared to March of the previous year.
As to the significant increase in dog-related claims in March 2020, the AVMA offered the following explanation:
The increase seen in March 2020 was likely due to the disruption in routines at the start of pandemic lockdowns when dogs were dealing with owner stress and more people around the house throughout the day. Experts fear another disruption—this time caused by the easing of restrictions for activities outside the home—could lead to another spike in bites.
The following infographic posted by AVMA offers some additional statistics:
This infographic can be accessed at the following link: Link to AVMA Infographic
Per the infographic, Pennsylvania and New Jersey were two of the top ten states reporting dog bites in 2021. As such, no matter the precautions taken, dog bite injuries can and still do occur. It is important to note that a dog attack can sometimes result in injuries outside of the traditional dog bite. By way of example, we have handled numerous cases where a dog attack results in orthopedic or neurological injuries without an actual bite, such as where someone is forcibly knocked down steps by an improperly restrained dog. Such injuries outside of the traditional dog bite are still potentially compensable injuries.
When a dog attack does occur, here are some tips to follow:
- Seek Immediate Medical Attention: It goes without saying that after any type of accident, your number one priority is to be evaluated and treated by the appropriate medical professional, especially since infection is often a concern with a dog bite injury. The following article from the Cleveland Clinic provides seven helpful tips following a dog bite injury: Link to Cleveland Clinic’s 7 Tips
- Identify the Dog Owner and Obtain Information Regarding the Dog: This is an extremely important step both from a medical and legal perspective. From a medical perspective, it is important to obtain information regarding the dog, such as the dog’s vaccination status, so that your treatment plan can be tailored accordingly. From a legal perspective, the identity of the owner is important because the dog owner is typically one of the key parties in a personal injury claim stemming from a dog bite injury.
- Identify Any and All Witnesses: If there were any eyewitnesses to the incident, it is important to obtain their names, addresses, and phone numbers. The testimony of eyewitnesses will be crucial if the insurance company or defendant attempts to deny the occurrence of the accident or how it occurred.
- Contact the Local Authorities: Whether it is a dog warden or local police department, it is important that you contact the local authorities and make them aware of the incident. This is important not only for the purpose of documentation for your personal injury claim but also so that the local authorities can take the appropriate action, if necessary, to prevent the same dog from harming someone else again in the future.
- Photograph Your Injuries: The importance of photographing wounds from a dog bite injury cannot be stressed enough. These photographs will serve as a foundation for any settlement discussions and will serve as key evidence should your case ultimately have to go to trial. It is important not only to take photographs of the initial wounds but also the wounds throughout the healing process and any resulting scars.
- Photograph the Location of the Accident: The location of the incident and features of the location may be relevant in a claim stemming from a dog bite injury. It is therefore important to document the scene of the attack and potentially relevant features i.e. fencing (or lack thereof), “Beware” signs, leashes, electric fence indicators, etc.…
- Consult an Attorney: Simply because you were bitten or attacked by a dog does not guarantee you a recovery. Pennsylvania and New Jersey have extremely nuanced laws when it comes to civil liability for a dog bite injury. In addition, there are sometimes parties outside of the dog owner that can be held accountable, such as a property owner or landlord. Especially in cases involving more significant injuries, evaluating potential defendants outside of the dog owner is a must. Therefore, retaining a law firm that has extensive experience handling dog bite injury cases is incredibly important to ensure that you maximize your chances of recovering for your injuries.
The attorneys at DiSandro and Malloy, P.C. have the experience necessary to handle these often difficult cases. This experience includes numerous cases involving dog bite injuries sustained by individuals within the course and scope of employment such as USPS mail carriers, Amazon and third-party provider delivery persons, UPS delivery persons, FedEx delivery persons, and pest control technicians. If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog bite incident, please contact us today for a free consultation.