No matter how cute or interesting they appear, it’s important to remember that dogs and other pets are animals — and animals can sometimes act unpredictably. While many bites end up being superficial, some carry a serious toll that requires medical care for a lengthy period. What are the long-term effects of animal bites, and how might those long-term effects play a role in your insurance claim or personal injury litigation? The personal injury attorneys at De Castroverde Law can help answer those questions while providing experienced legal counsel after the animal bite.
Why Do Animals Bite?
Every case and situation is different, but research shows that animals bite for a common set of reasons. Perhaps most obviously, dogs and other animals can be territorial and may simply bite as a way of defending their territory.
Animals also bite because they are startled. For example, maybe you have come from behind to pet the animal, and, unexpectedly, the animal lashes out. Children love dogs but can easily surprise them with a sudden movement. Animals may also bite because they feel ill and are just saying, “leave me alone.” They may also bite to protect their offspring, their food, or some other possession.
It’s incumbent on pet owners to understand their animals and take reasonable precautions to prevent situations like this from developing. If they don’t, the law may hold owners legally responsible. While dogs tend to be a significant source of bites, other types of pets such as rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, cats, and even horses, have also been known to bite.
Long-Term Effects of Animal Bites
Many pets and other wild animals possess sharp teeth, and those teeth can cause deep, lasting wounds that raise a substantial risk of serious infection. During the bite, the animal may end up pushing bacteria deep into your bloodstream. A German medical study estimates that anywhere from 30% to 50% of cat bites and 5% to 25% of dog bites lead to infection.
Signals of infection include swelling, fever, pain, redness, or oozing pus. In the event of any animal bite, it is wise to call your primary care provider so they can give you advice on how best to treat the infection. They may well want you to come in for an exam. Both cat and dog bites can lead to infections. Bites can also lead to diseases such as rabies or tetanus which require long and painful treatments. Other types of disease are also possible.
Depending on the part of the body involved, animal bites can also cause significant soft-tissue damage. If you are bitten in the face, for example, you may need plastic surgery to restore your appearance or your ability to eat and smile. Animal bites can also cause muscular issues and leave parts of your body less functional than before the bite. Certain dog bites have been known to crush bone or destroy muscle, interfering with your ability to move normally. These injuries may require lifelong treatment, or they may not be treatable at all.
The potential for long-term effects from animal bites makes it imperative for you to get medical treatment right away, and then consult with a personal injury lawyer. The team at De Castroverde Law can help make a record of the effects of your bite to support your insurance claim or litigation.
Frequency of Animal Bites
Animal bites happen more often than you might think. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the number at more than 4.5 million, with 800,000, or a little less than 20 percent, requiring medical attention. The actual number of bites could be much higher since many are minor or just simply are not reported.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bite liability led to more than $850 million in claims against homeowners’ policies in 2020, with the average claim size increasing by about 12 percent. In 2020, amid the COVID pandemic, the total number of bite-related claims declined.
The Insurance Information Institute indicates that California had the most dog bite claims, with more than 2,100. Nevada homeowners made about 170 claims, resulting in $7 million in insurance payouts.
How Should You Respond to an Animal Bite?
Immediately after an animal bite, your initial concern should be for your own welfare and that of others nearby. Hopefully, the owner has gotten the dog or other animal under control, but if not, leave the area and get others away too. Then you should assess your injuries and those of others. If you have severe wounds that are bleeding excessively, call 911 for emergency help. You will also want to call your primary care doctor at your earliest convenience.
To the extent you are able, try to document what happened. Take photographs of the scene and your wound before it is treated. Get the contact information for witnesses who may back up your account of what happened. Discuss the situation with the owners if it is safe to do so, and inquire specifically about obtaining vaccination records for the dog or cat.
When you feel it’s the right time, consider consulting with personal injury counsel. The team at De Castroverde Law can help assess your situation and outline potential actions. You may be able to obtain compensation for your out-of-pocket medical costs and pain and suffering.
Recovering Damages After an Animal Bite
Getting bitten by a dog or other animal is jarring, both physically and emotionally. Should you decide to make a claim related to the animal bite, let the personal injury attorneys at De Castroverde Law of Las Vegas represent you. Our team has extensive experience in all forms of personal injury litigation, including car and truck accidents, casino mishaps, medical malpractice claims, slip and fall accidents, product and premises liability, wrongful death, and excessive force injuries. Our attorneys and professional staff will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve, including amounts for pain and suffering. Call us or contact us online to schedule a no-obligation consultation. We will review the facts of your situation and make recommendations for the best way to proceed.