There’s a reason why cities are banning and restricting people from owning pit bulls. That data shows that this breed is responsible for two-thirds of fatal dog bites. To lower the risk of pit bulls being bred to fight and the risk of severe, and possibly deadly, dog bites to their citizens, cities like San Francisco are taking measures to hold pit bull owners liable for injuries caused by their dog.
So, what should you do if you’ve been bitten by a pit bull and are in a city with a law restricting or banning them? Follow these steps to make sure your rights are protected every step of the way.
Step 1: Seek Medical Attention
The very first thing anyone who has been bitten by any dog should do is to seek medical attention for the wound.
Dog bites are not only dangerous because of the damage they do to the skin and underlying tissues, but they’re also worrisome because they can harbor bacteria that can lead to life threatening infections.
Dogs’ mouths are not clean and their saliva can transmit diseases like rabies, cellulitis, and tetanus, and various infections including staph and strep.
If you’re not able to get to medical attention immediately, carefully wash the wound with soap and water. This will help wash away surface bacteria before it can get into the wound.
You’ll still want to see a doctor, though, because they’ll want to keep an eye on your wound to make sure it doesn’t become infected and it heals properly.
You may need antibiotics or a wound cream, but always wait for your doctor to prescribe the right medication.
Step 2: Contact Animal Control
You should report the dog bite to animal control for several reasons. The first is so that there is an official record of the incident and resulting injuries.
This may become important later on if you need to prove the dog owner’s liability. More importantly, you need to make sure the dog doesn’t have rabies.
The owner will be required to produce proof of rabies vaccination and if they can’t, the dog will need to be quarantined for a period of time, usually 10 days.
If the bite occurred in an area where pit bulls are banned or restricted, reporting the bite to animal control will initiate the process for either removing the animal from the owner’s home or for holding the owner responsible for the medical bills resulting from the injury.
In some cities, like San Francisco, the owner may also be required to pay for any work you miss because of your injury. To enforce the laws surrounding pit bulls, animal control has to be involved.
Step 3: Document the Incident and Your Injuries
Whether you live in an area where pit bulls are banned or restricted or not, you need to carefully document the entire incident from what you were doing before the attack to everything you did after the attack.
Even in cities that regulate the type of dog an owner can have, you may still be responsible for your own medical bills if you provoked the attack. For this reason, write down the answers to these questions:
- What were you doing before the attack?
- Where did the pit bull come from and did you see it approach you?
- What did the pit bull look like? Be as detailed as possible from color to size to distinguishing marks.
- When did the attack start?
- What did you do when you were attacked?
- How did the attack end?
- Do you know the dog?
- Did you speak with the owner following the attack? If so, what did each of you say?
You should also take pictures of your injuries from several angles and perspectives so the size and severity of the wound can be determined.
For example, if you were bitten on your leg, take a picture of the wound close up and from a slight distance so that the placement of the bite is obvious. Additionally, take pictures of the area, documenting where you were when the attack began and where the dog came from.
If you feel safe in doing so, you should also get the dog owner’s name and contact information. They may be reluctant to give it to you, but it’s important to obtain it for claims purposes.
You can ask a police office to get the information for you, especially if the owner doesn’t agree the bite was the dog’s fault.
Step 4: Get Witness Statements
Once your wound has been attended to and you’ve taken all the pictures you’ll need to prove your injuries, you’ll want to get witness statements from anyone who was around when you were attacked or involved with getting the dog away from you.
These statements may become vital if you end up going to court over the dog bite. The more people who saw what happened, the better off your case will be.
Not everyone is going to be comfortable with giving a statement, so you may need to have an investigator get one from anyone who is reluctant.
If you were alone when the attack occurred, it can still be beneficial to ask your neighbors if they heard or saw anything before or during the attack.
Maybe someone heard you yell at the dog or perhaps they saw the dog running toward your direction. Any piece of information they have can help your case, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Step 5: Consult an Accident Attorney
Even if your city doesn’t have a ban on pit bulls in place or only has restrictions, the final action you should take after you’ve been bitten by a dog is to consult an accident attorney.
They can guide you through the legal process and make sure you are fairly compensated for your injury. They can also provide you with investigative services to help you get witness statements and will handle all communications with the dog owner’s insurance company.
Your job is to focus on healing. Their job is to protect your rights.
Pit bull bites are no joke. They can be deadly, and even a nip can be serious enough to require intensive medical attention. Get immediate help, then follow the remaining steps to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
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