What to Do After a Dog Bite

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), more than 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs each year. Nearly 20% of those bitten require medical attention. Michigan, unfortunately, is one of the top ten states for dog bite claims.

Why Dogs Bite

Dogs bite for many reasons. If a dog is frightened, is in pain, doesn’t feel well, or feels threatened in some way, it may bite. Some dogs are naturally aggressive, and some are trained to be aggressive. You should always approach an unfamiliar dog with caution (after receiving permission from the owner). Before petting a dog, hold out your fist to allow the dog to sniff you and look for friendly, receptive signals from the dog that it’s “okay to pet”:

  • Wagging tail
  • Ears in their natural position or slightly pulled back (not flat against the head)
  • Not cowering or backing away when you approach
  • Relaxed body

Children, especially young children, should be taught how to behave around dogs (both ones they know and don’t know) and always be supervised when they are with a dog. In fact, according to the AVMA, most children who are bitten by dogs are interacting in a familiar way with dogs that they know. The most important thing to realize is that any dog can bite; even the most calm, friendly dog can turn on you if it feels threatened enough. Always remember that they are animals.

How to Prevent a Dog Bite or Attack

Although some situations are unavoidable, there are many ways to prevent a dog bite or attack from happening:

  • Do not approach a dog that is eating.
  • Do not attempt to take a toy, bone, or food away from a dog.
  • Do not intentionally startle, tease, or actively provoke any dog.
  • Do not hold food in your hand in front of a dog.

If a dog is behaving aggressively toward you:

  • Remain still and keep your arms at your sides.
  • Do not make eye contact.
  • Do not run!
  • If the dog stops pursuing you, back away slowly until you can no longer see it.

What to Do During a Dog Attack

If you are being bitten or attacked by a dog, try to keep these tips in mind:

  • If you have a walking stick or a bite stick with you (two things that can be useful to take with you on walks) try to use them to put distance between yourself and the dog. These can also be used to give the dog something to bite, or can even fend the dog off.
  • Hunch into a ball and use your arms to protect your neck, head and face as much as possible.
  • If you have a child with you, cover him or her with your own body.
  • Try to remain as calm as possible; screaming can make the situation worse.

What to Do After a Dog Bite

Even if the bite is minor, if the skin has been broken, you should get medical attention after a dog bite. Here are other important actions to take after a dog bite:

Sometimes, people are reluctant to take legal action after a dog bite, especially if the dog’s owner is a family member, friend, or neighbor. Please do not make this mistake. Michigan has a strict liability rule in the case of dog bites. That means that with the exception of cases where the bite victim was trespassing or actively provoked the dog, the dog owner is liable and any damages will be paid by the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy. Rarely, if ever, does an individual pay a settlement in a dog bite case. Sometimes in life we have to navigate uncomfortable situations, but don’t let a personal relationship deter you from pursuing the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

Dog bites are frightening and can be devastating, with lasting physical and emotional effects. If you or someone you care about has been bitten or attacked by a dog, you don’t have to proceed alone. Contact Whiting Law today and let us evaluate your case and help you move forward with your life.

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