What To Do After a Dog Bite

A dog bite is a frightening event that causes severe physical and emotional scarring for both the victim and their family.  Dog bites should be taken very seriously.  If not properly treated, a dog bite can pose a serious threat to your health and your life.  Two things are absolutely critical immediately after a dog bite: (1) you must receive prompt medical attention for your wounds; and (2) you must determine if the dog that bit you was carrying the rabies virus and you must do this immediately as the rabies virus can pose a serious threat to your life.

Threat of Rabies

Most domesticated dogs receive vaccinations for the rabies virus when they are puppies, as this is a requirement under California law.  However, not all dog owners give their dogs the legally required vaccinations.  And while rabies may be virtually nonexistent nowadays among domesticated dogs when they are born, if a dog is not properly vaccinated then it will be susceptible to contracting the disease.  The rabies virus is carried by many wild animals that dogs may come in contact with, such as raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, wolves, and bats.

Treatment for Rabies

If it is determined that a dog that bit you has received its rabies vaccinations and was not carrying the rabies virus, then you are safe and cannot contract the disease.  If, however, it is determined that the animal that bit you was carrying the rabies virus, you will need to receive immediate medical treatment for the virus.  The rabies disease is treatable with about 100% rate of success if treated immediately after a bite from a dog carrying the rabies virus.  But once the symptoms of rabies begin, usually in about one to three months, the rabies virus will infect your brain and death is virtually certain.  Therefore, treatment must begin before the first signs of any symptoms of rabies.  It has to be determined whether the animal is carrying the virus.

Report to Animal Control

As soon as possible after a dog bite attack, you should report the incident to your local county Animal Control agency.  The owner of the animal is legally required to report to Animal Control within 48 hours, and to provide you, as a dog bite victim, with their name, address, telephone number, name and license tag number of the dog, and information regarding the status of appropriate and necessary rabies vaccination.  However, the owner may not be aware of this legal requirement and the penalty for violation of the law is not severe.  More important, once Animal Control gets involved, compliance is mandatory, and the penalties for noncompliance become very severe.  After all, your health may be at risk.

Compliance with Animal Control Mandatory

Once Animal Control request that the owner produce the animal and the rabies vaccination information, compliance is mandatory.  Failure to comply with Animal Control’s requests is a crime and can carry jail time.  Most dog owners will immediately provide Animal Control with the required vaccination information, which is imperative to protect your health and safety.  Animal Control will also require that the animal be quarantined, usually in the owner’s home, pending the results of the rabies investigation and/or testing.  This will protect others pending a determination that the animal does not have rabies and failure to comply with the quarantine requirement is also a crime carrying jail time.

Talk to a Dog Bite Lawyer

Once you have received medical treatment and have determined that you are not at risk of contracting the rabies disease, you should contact a dog bite lawyer immediately.  Do not talk to the owners for any reason other than to obtain information about the dog’s vaccinations.  If the owner’s insurance company contacts you (their homeowners’ insurance carrier may provide coverage for the dog bite and therefore an insurance agent may attempt to contact you), do not speak with them.  They will attempt to elicit statements from you and use your statements against you to reduce their coverage for the bite or attack.   Your San Diego dog bite lawyer will handle all communications with the owner and his or her insurance carrier, and make sure that your legal rights are protected.

Take Pictures

Take as many pictures as possible, before you receive medical treatment if possible, after you are initially treated, during the days that follow, and after any subsequent treatment.   A picture is worth a thousand words and there is nothing better than a picture to show a jury at trial the trauma and the horror you have been through than photographs depicting your injuries.  Pictures will become very important to you and your dog bite attorney as you are building up a case to submit to an insurance company or to present to a jury at trial.