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What to Do if Your Dog Bites Someone on Your Property

September 11, 2018

What happens if your dog bites someone on your property?

Answering this question is easier when you first understand what can happen. A dog bite left untreated for any length of time can cause a disability or life-threatening infection. Animal control can seize the dog and, in the worst case, euthanize it. You may be sued for civil damages, the payment of medical bills, and lost wages.

You can avoid some or all of these unwanted consequences by taking the following steps.

Calm the Situation

Most dogs kept as pets will not intend to seriously injur or kill a human, but any dog can if provoked. This is especially true if they believe a person is encroaching on their territory. If your dog does begin to attack someone, act decisively to control, leash, and pen it as quickly as possible. The sooner an attack ends, the less harm the person being bitten will suffer.

Ensure the Person Who Got Bit Receives Appropriate Medical Care

Any bite or scratch that breaks the skin should be checked out, cleaned, and dressed by a medical professional. You may not need to call 911, but ensure that anyone left bleeding from a dog bite goes to the emergency room or a critical care center.

Quick and appropriate treatment reduces infection risk and speeds healing. Both can be important if a report is filed. A dog bite victim only has grounds for filing an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit if they can show that the bite caused significant harm and saddled them with unreasonable costs.

Figure Out Why the Dog Attacked

The law treats your dog as one of your household possessions. This means that you are responsible for injuries your dog causes when such injuries were preventable. Just like you must keep stairs in good repair to protect visitors from trips and falls, you must train and fence your dog so it does not attack people.

At the same time, you are not responsible for irresponsible or reckless injuries people visit upon themselves while they are on your property. You owe nothing to a guest who inexplicably jumps from a balcony. Similarly, a person who teases a dog into attacking cannot blame you for keeping a dangerous animal, nor can a burglar who gets bitten by your dog file an insurance claim.

After the attack has stopped and once suitable actions have been taken to treat bites and scratches, recreate the incident. Ask witnesses what they saw and write down what they tell you. Proving that a person taunted or abused the dog will relieve you of any responsibility for the attack. Additionally, proving that a person was on your property without your knowledge or permission will also mitigate your responsibility in any dog bite incidents.

Gather Vet, Shot, and License Records

Regardless of why your dog bit someone, you may need to fight city or county officials to keep possession of your pet. Animal control officers have standing orders to impound dogs that have a history of biting people, that lack up-to-date vaccinations, or whose owners do not have all the proper paperwork. Each of these problems could crop up even if the dog bite victim has no grounds for taken legal action.

Consult a Personal Injury Attorney

You may do all the above and still find yourself facing an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. When that happens, it will help you to enlist the advice and representation of a personal injury lawyer who defends homeowners and dogs. Tyack Law in Columbus, Ohio, employs several such attorneys, and you can request an appointment online or by calling (614) 221-1342.

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