Here is the quick list of what you need to do:
- Obtain the names and addresses of witnesses, the dog owner, and the people who had custody of the dog when it bit you.
- Take photographs of the wounds.
- See a doctor to document your dog bite incident and obtain treatment.
- Go to the agency that does animal control in your jurisdiction and make a report, and then cooperate fully with the investigating officers.
Discussion and further steps to take
It is important to identify the dog owner and the animal that bit you, because if it is a stray and you cannot identify it, you’re facing the possibility of having to submit to treatment for rabies, which can be painful. Also, if you were attacked by a dog or any wild animal being kept by a person, you probably are entitled to receive compensation from the animal’s owner, and you might really need that compensation to pay your medical bills, reimburse you for lost income, pay for cosmetic surgery in the future, and help you overcome the pain and suffering from your injuries. (See Legal rights of a dog bite victim.)
A picture speaks a thousand words, so take photographs of the wounds before they are treated. Be sure to get medical attention, because dog bites can cause infections that could have far-reaching consequences. Over 1,000 Americans arrive in emergency rooms every day of the year because of dog bites alone! If you are wounded on the face, insist on treatment by a plastic surgeon because emergency room doctors are great at keeping people alive but not necessarily the best at making stitches and wounds look good.
After that, be sure to follow the directions of the physician and take all the medications that are prescribed (except for the painkillers, which usually are at your discretion). You might also be ordered to stay out of the sun, use sun block, use scar reduction lotion, change bandages, report for follow up treatment, report for removal of stitches, massage the healing areas, etc. If so, do it!
The decision as to whether you need rabies shots must be left to your doctor. Shots are not always called for, because rabies may not be in your geographic area. Don’t be alarmed if your physician tells you that you don’t need this painful treatment.
You should always make your own report to the agency that does animal control in your jurisdiction. Sometimes it is the animal control department of the city or county, sometimes the humane society, and sometimes the police department. Do not rely on the hospital to make a report for you. Yes, they make reports, but generally their reports are for the purpose of keeping statistics on injuries and diseases, not keeping dangerous dogs off our streets. Furthermore, it is critical in a dog bite case to establish the identity of the owner of the biting dog. The animal control investigators also will interview witnesses and do other things that will help your case as well as prevent dog bites in the future.
If the dog owner is insured, you might get a call from an insurance company representative. You should ask him or her for the following information:
- Name of insurance company
- Address of his or her office
- Telephone number
- Claim number
- Name of the person who is insured
- The amount of money available to pay medical expenses (not everything, just medical expenses)
Do not do any of the following:
- Do not discuss money, payment of money, settlement, injury value or anything else involving money
- Do not set up an appointment
- Do not write a letter or a memo
- Do not permit yourself to be tape recorded
- Do not allow the victim to be photographed
- Do not discuss who is responsible
- Do not accept any money
Consider retaining an attorney who is experienced in dog bite cases. Read Does An Adult Need a Lawyer For a Dog Bite Claim or Should Parents Get a Lawyer For Their Injured Child.