What To Do After A Dog Attack

Dog Attack - First Things To Do For The Victim

Should I Get Medical Attention Immediately?

A dog bite victim needs to do two things very quickly: get medical attention and get information about the dog.   If the injuries are serious, medical attention takes priority over obtaining information about the dog.  Open wounds from bites and scratches can easily become infected.  Emergency room treatment is paramount.  If there are any lacerations, particularly to the face, insist that the emergency room call a plastic surgeon to close the wounds. 

If the victim does not know who the owner of the dog is, steps must be taken immediately to determine the identity of the owner or person in charge of the dog at the time of the attack.  Sometimes the victim or his or her family will need to return to the area where the attack occurred and knock on doors to determine whose dog committed the attack.  If someone witnessed the attack, this same type of door to door canvass may be necessary to locate the witnesses. 

Be sure to take pictures of the victim's wounds after the emergency room and plastic surgeon have completed the treatment.   If the police were not called to the scene of the attack, contact the police to make a report.  Also contact the local health department to report the attack.  You will want to find out if the dog has had all of the important shots.

Who Pays For My Bills?

Ohio law says that the owner of a dog is responsible for any damages caused by his or her dog.  The victim does not need to prove that the owner was careless or that the dog had bitten someone previously.   If the victim did not tease or torment the dog or was not unlawfully on the dog owner's premises as a trespasser, then the owner must pay your medical bills (and other losses).   You must only prove that your medical bills were caused by the dog. 

Interestingly enough, a dog does not have to bite or attack a person to impose liability upon the owner.  For example, if a dog is loose and runs into the street causing a motorist to swerve and then lose control of his vehicle, the dog owner is liable for injuries that were caused by this incident.

Also Ohio law not only imposes responsibility on the owner of the dog, it also holds the keeper of a dog  responsible.  A keeper is a person who is caring for or has control of the dog at the time of the incident.  Ohio law also holds a harborer of a dog responsible.  A harborer is a person who allows a dog to remain on his or her property.  Sometimes a landlord can be held responsible for the attack of a tenant's dog when the attack occurs on common property maintained for the use of all tenants.

What If the Dog Is Owned By A Friend or Relative?

Many people are reluctant to pursue their legal remedies when the dog is owned by a relative, neighbor, or friend.  However, if the dog owner has homeowners or renters insurance, this insurance coverage usually provides insurance coverage for liability arising from a dog attack.  With the assistance of an attorney, the claim can be processed with the insurance company with little or no consequences to the family member or friend who owned the dog. 

If the dog attack caused lacerations to the face or other parts of the body that will require future plastic surgery, the victim will want to obtain a settlement from the dog owner's insurance company to cover future plastic surgery.  Many health insurers do not cover cosmetic surgery.  Therefore, if the victim is to get the future care that he or she needs, a claim should be presented to the dog owner's insurance company for this future medical care.

What Should I Do If the Owner's Insurance Company Contacts Me?

 The insurance company works for the dog owner, even when the dog owner is your friend.  The insurance company representative wants to find ways not to pay anything on your claim or to pay as little as possible.  Unless you have had experience dealing with insurance adjustors, an attorney should be consulted to see if you need help in properly presenting the claim.  Before consulting an attorney, you should not give a statement to the insurance company or give them an authorization to get your medical records or to speak to your physicians.  You will not want to sign any checks or documents without the assistance of an attorney.   You can hire an attorney based on a percentage contingency fee.  The attorney only gets paid a percentage of the settlement or verdict if the attorney makes a recovery for you.