Whether you purchased your dog as a puppy or adopted one from a shelter, they are a part of your family. They offer companionship and comfort and can be trained to carry out amazing and amusing tasks. Unfortunately, dogs bite; and it’s an owner’s responsibility to ensure no one is harmed by their dog.
Millions of dog bites occur on an annual basis. While many result in minor injuries, serious attacks can cause fatal injuries. If you’ve been injured by someone else’s dog, you may have grounds to file a personal injury claim. Doing so can help you afford your injury treatments and any other related losses.
With the help of a Morgantown dog bite lawyer from DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, you can file a claim that proves you were wrongfully injured and deserving of compensation. In order to file a successful claim, there are a number of factors to consider. Let’s start by taking a look at why dogs bite.
Why Do Dogs Bite?
While we like to think of our dogs as family members, it’s important to remember that they are still animals – no matter how cuddly or sweet they seem on a regular basis. Male or female, young or old, big or small, dogs sometimes bite. It’s important to understand why they bite and what it means. In most cases, biting is a reaction to something.
Dogs aren’t always showing aggression when they bite. If a dog is playing, they might nip. While this isn’t a full-on bite, it can be harmful – especially to young children. Any type of activity that makes a dog overly excited can lead to them biting.
When a dog intentionally bites a person and injures them, the animal may have felt threatened. This typically happens when they’re protecting something valuable to them like their puppies, food, or toys. Dogs also bite when they’re not feeling well. An injured or ill dog might show their teeth or bite if they want to be left alone.
While you can educate yourself and your children on the proper way to approach a dog and prevent biting, there are situations that are out of your control. If you get bitten, it’s important to know what to do to protect yourself and secure your future.
What to Do If You’ve Suffered a Dog Bite Injury in Morgantown
Whether you’re playing with a dog and get bitten, or you’re attacked while walking down the street, the actions you take after getting injured could impact your health and future. Regardless of how or where you get bitten, it’s imperative to seek medical attention right away.
The number one concern with an animal bite is infection. If the bite is mild enough to warrant managing it at home, take care to get there as soon as possible. You’ll want to press on the wound gently to cause some bleeding. This helps flush out as much of the bacteria as possible. Wash the area with mild soap and water. If it’s bleeding a lot, you can slow the bleeding with a clean cloth and pressure. Once you’ve sufficiently cleaned the wound and the bleeding has slowed or stopped, wrap it in a sterile bandage. Even though you’ve cleaned the area, you’ll still want to make an appointment with your primary care physician to have the injury evaluated.
If the injury is serious, head to the emergency room right away. They will clean the wound, apply antibiotic appointments, and prescribe medication to fend off potential infections. While dog bite wounds are typically left open to heal, the doctor may recommend stitches if it’s particularly deep or on the face. You may also receive a tetanus or rabies vaccine as a precaution.
Injuries to Be Prepared For
Abrasions, lacerations, and punctures are the most common types of injuries associated with animal attacks. Abrasions are superficial injuries and are commonly treated at home. A laceration is a deep cut or tear in the skin. It can go into the muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels. Medical attention may be necessary. A puncture happens when a dog’s teeth pierce your skin. While they are typically small wounds, they are at risk for infection because they tend to be deep.
If a dog bite isn’t cleaned and infection sets in, there are a number of diseases a person can develop. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 18% of dog bites get infected with bacteria. While over 60 kinds of bacteria have been found inside dogs’ mouths, only a small number can make a person sick.
The most serious disease people can get from a dog bite is rabies. While this is rare, the risk is still present. Rabies is a virus that affects the brain. Once symptoms appear, the disease has already progressed to a fatal point. Another rare bacteria called Capnocytophaga is more likely to be developed in people with weakened immune systems.
Seen in over half of infected dog bites, Pasteurella causes a painful, red infection at the site of the bite. Swollen glands, joint swelling, and difficulty moving are also common symptoms. If a dog bite victim contracts MRSA, which is a type of staph infection, they’re at risk for developing skin, lung, and urinary tract infections.
Understanding Your Legal Options After a Dog Bite
You may be considering not taking legal action after a dog bite if you know the owner. Filing a claim, however, is important to secure your future. If you have medical bills related to the incident and have suffered emotionally, you deserve compensation to expedite your recovery.
If you decide to file a claim for your injuries and losses, it’s important to keep in mind the statute of limitations. In some cases, your claim may not settle outside of court. If this is the case and you’re proceeding with a lawsuit, you have two years from the time of the incident to file a lawsuit. If those 24 months pass and you haven’t filed your lawsuit and try to, the court has the right to dismiss your case without review.
Once you’ve sought legal representation from a dog bite attorney, they can begin investigating what happened to you and building a case that proves you deserve monetary recovery. The basis of your case will depend on which state laws apply to your situation.
Animal Attacks Laws in West Virginia
West Virginia imposes strict liability on dog owners when an animal causes injury after it has been allowed to run at large. At large refers to the dog being off-leash, uncontained, and unsupervised. For example, if a dog breaks out of its yard and is running around a neighborhood by itself, that dog is considered to be at large.
The official law is stated in section 19-20-13 of the West Virginia Code. Under the law, an injured person does not have to prove that a dog’s owner knew the dog would act aggressively or bring harm. The fact that the owner let their dog run at large and the dog caused injuries is enough to hold them legally accountable.
If, however, a dog causes injuries on the owner’s property or because someone other than the owner allowed the dog to run at large, strict liability does not apply. Instead, the injured person is required to file a claim based on negligence principles or West Virginia’s “one bite rule.” Under that rule, an injured person must prove that the dog caused their injuries and the owner knew the dog was dangerous. Without that knowledge, the owner cannot be held responsible – even if the dog caused serious harm or death.
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Being attacked by a dog is a traumatizing event. We understand how it could seem easier to recover and move on without filing a claim, but it’s important to think about your future. Additionally, filing a claim will let the dog’s owner know that you mean business and that the animal needs to be properly controlled and restrained so that no one else gets hurt.
Our Morgantown dog bite lawyers have extensive experience representing injured victims, and we’re prepared to take your case on. There’s no obligation to work with us once we’ve met. When you contact us, we can schedule a free consultation to review the details of what you’ve been through. From there, we’ll help you determine the best course of action based on your circumstances.