When most people think about dog bite lawsuits, they probably envision pit bulls, mastiffs and other large breed dogs with a reputation for biting. However, smaller breeds, such as the chihuahua and Jack Russell Terrier, also frequently bite. Because smaller dogs do not tend to bite as hard, victims may wonder whether it is worth suing because of a small dog’s bite.
Dog Bite Risks
Because their jaws are less powerful than their larger peers, small dogs do not tend to do as much damage when they bite. However, the injuries from a small dog’s bite may still require medical attention.
Rabies cases in humans are rare, with Americans reporting only three cases in an average year. However, because of the potentially severe consequences of an undiagnosed rabies infection, you should always ask about the vaccination status of the dog that bit you and get confirmation from the owner’s veterinarian. If the dog is not vaccinated, seek medical care immediately.
Any dog bite that breaks the skin can lead to infection. People with diabetes or weakened immune systems are the most vulnerable.
When a dog bites, the dog’s teeth push bacteria, such as staphylococcus, capnocytophaga and Pasteurella, from the dog’s mouth and the surface of your skin into the wound. Some infections can lead to serious consequences, such as heart attack, gangrene, kidney failure, amputations and death.
Signs of infection include:
- Blisters around the wound
- Stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea
Capnocytophaga infections can also cause confusion or headaches and muscle or joint pain. If you notice any of these signs, your wound becomes more painful or you develop a fever, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Muscle and Nerve Damage
Even small dogs may create puncture wounds deep enough to damage muscles, nerves and blood vessels under the skin. This type of damage may cause temporary or permanent loss of function.
Large dogs with powerful jaws are more likely to cause fractures. However, small dogs may be capable of breaking smaller bones, such as those in the hands and feet. Additionally, a person attempting to get away from a biting dog may fall and suffer a fracture.
Tetanus is uncommon in the United States due to widespread vaccination. However, dog bites can cause tetanus in unvaccinated people.
Dog bites that tear the skin may cause scarring. Mild scarring may get better over time. However, more severe cases may require plastic surgery.
Dog bites can result in psychological damage, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or an intense fear of dogs. People who suffer from these conditions may have difficulty with day-to-day functioning, particularly as more people are taking their dogs into public places, such as restaurants, parks and shopping centers.
Dog bite deaths are rare in the United States and 70% of the victims are children. Attacks by small dogs are unlikely to result in death unless the person suffers a severe infection or other complication from the bite wound.
When To See a Doctor for a Dog Bite
About 20% of dog bites need medical care. Because the infection risk increases the longer you wait to seek medical care, it may be a good idea to see a doctor whether you think you need to or not.
Additionally, make an appointment with your doctor or visit an emergency room or urgent care if your bite wound meets any of the following criteria:
- You do not know if the dog that bit you is vaccinated or the dog was acting sick or strange.
- Your wound is intensely painful.
- Your wound will not stop bleeding.
- You have a loss of function in a body part.
- You have exposed tendons, bone or muscle.
- The wound is leaking fluid or pus.
You should also get medical attention if the wound is swollen, red or inflamed, you have not had a tetanus shot within the past 10 years, you develop a fever or you feel disoriented, weak or faint.
Dog Bite Law
Dog owners in Massachusetts are strictly liable for any injuries their dogs cause. This means that the dog owner is liable even if the dog never bit before and the owner took precautions, such as keeping the dog on a leash. However, if you provoked the dog or you were on private property without permission when the dog bit, the dog’s owner may not be liable.
Dog Bite Lawsuits
If you know the owner of the dog that bit you, suing may be uncomfortable. However, many dog owners have liability insurance and will not have to pay out of pocket when their dog injures someone.
Who You Can Sue
The most obvious person to sue is the owner of the dog that bit you. However, there are times when other parties may share some liability. If the dog owner has liability coverage through their homeowner’s or some other type of insurance policy, you may be able to recover damages from the insurance company.
Most insurance claims settle out of court; however, if the insurance company refuses to pay, you may need to sue. In some cases, a third party who knew about the dog and failed to prevent the dog from attacking, such as a landlord, pet sitter, or doggy daycare, could be liable.
Damages You Can Recover
You may be able to recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future income, plastic surgery, disfigurement, pain and suffering and emotional distress. Additionally, judges sometimes award punitive damages when dog owners are guilty of reckless or intentional misconduct, such as failing to restrain a dog with a known history of aggression.
Proving Your Dog Bite Case
Because of the strict liability law, you do not need to prove that the dog owner was negligent. However, depending on your case, you may need to prove that you were legally allowed on the property where the bite happened and that you did not provoke the dog.
Additionally, you must prove that the dog bite caused your injuries and the value of those injuries. This is relatively straightforward for physical injuries. You can usually prove this damage by submitting medical records, bills, and expert testimony.
However, emotional distress and conditions such as PTSD and intense fear of dogs are more difficult to prove. The court or insurance company may require extensive documentation from a medical professional to substantiate your claim.
What To Do After a Dog Bite
Get the name and contact information of the dog’s owner and any applicable insurance information. Ask for the dog’s vaccination records. Consider reporting the incident to the police so that you have a record if a dispute arises. Seek medical attention. Contact an experienced dog bite attorney.
Jason Stone Injury Lawyers
The experienced dog attack lawyers at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers will fight to get the best possible results for your claim. The financial burden placed on the victims of personal injury can be immense. To alleviate that burden, Jason Stone Injury Lawyers require no upfront fee to get started on your case.
The first element of the Stone Cold Guarantee ensures we get paid only after you get paid. The team at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers is ready and available to assist you with your claim. Contact us today for your free case consultation.