Of the 2,400 dog attacks that happen every day in the U.S., half of them involve a child bitten by a dog. Not only is such an ordeal traumatic for the child, but it’s also scary and stressful for parents. The most important thing to know is that a dog bite is never a child’s fault. Owners are responsible for preventing their dogs from injuring people. If they fail to do so, they are liable for the cost of medical bills as well as the mental anguish that can happen to a child after a dog attack.
A knowledgeable personal injury attorney will know how to prove the dog’s owner is at fault, and get the compensation the family deserves.
What to Do if a Dog Bites a Child
It’s understandable to feel shocked when a child is bitten by a dog, but it’s crucial that parents follow this protocol to address injuries and begin to gather evidence.
Assess Your Child’s Condition
Stay calm and composed so your child can relax while you examine them. A dog’s mouth is full of bacteria that can lead to infection, so it’s critical to thoroughly clean minor scrapes with warm water and soap, then apply antibiotic ointment and bandages.
If injuries are severe, call an ambulance. Due to immense pressure in dogs’ jaws, injuries from a dog bite can be catastrophic. If any of the following conditions are visible after a dog attack, head to the nearest emergency room or call 911.
- An injury does not stop bleeding after applying direct pressure for 15 minutes
- The child may have broken bones or injured tendons
- The bite occurred on the head, face, neck, hands or feet
- Bites or abrasions appear infected
- A child with a weakened immune system was bitten
Document the Attack
For insurance and legal purposes, it’s crucial to record everything possible about the attack immediately after it happens.
Take photographs. If the dog is still in the area, snap a picture of it. Also take photos of your child’s injuries.
Report the incident to authorities. Animal control needs to know if there is a dangerous dog in the area. They will also have documentation of whether or not the dog has attacked before.
Gather information about the dog owner. If the owner is around, ask for their name, address, phone number and insurance information. Do not discuss any other information about the attack.
Talk to witnesses. Speak to anyone who saw the incident and get their contact information. Their testimony could be key to helping your case.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
As soon as you have tended to your child’s injuries and gathered evidence, an attorney can begin to work on your case. It’s very important that you avoid speaking to the owner’s insurance company, as they may try to offer much lower compensation than your child deserves.
Why Do Dogs Bite Children?
Children are curious, and they have a love for animals. They don’t know that approaching a dog could put them in harm’s way, and dogs don’t know when a child is only reaching out to pet them. According to the CDC, dog bites are most prevalent among children ages 5 to 9, and children under 4 are most likely to be bitten in the head or neck due to their height. Surprisingly, children are often bitten by dogs they know, with two thirds of all dog bites inflicted by a family pet. Whether dogs are simply protecting their food or don’t like to have their ears tugged, biting may be a normal response when a situation seems threatening.
It’s a good idea for parents to teach children how to safely interact with dogs, but because of a dog’s unpredictable nature, it is up to their owners to protect the children around them.
Who is Liable for a Dog Attack?
New Mexico law abides by the “one bite rule,” in which owners bypass legal repercussions after their dog bites for the first time unless they had prior knowledge that the dog could become aggressive. Prior incidences where a dog exhibited aggression include:
- Chasing people, bicycles, or vehicles
- Aggressive barking or growling, whether at strangers or friends
- Aggressive behavior toward other animals, especially fighting other dogs
- Jumping on people
If any of the above issues have taken place, owners have a responsibility to keep the dog from harming people. Dogs should always be on a leash or behind a secure fence, but especially if they have vicious tendencies.
When a Child’s Injuries from a Dog Bite May Not be the Owner’s Fault
There are a few instances in which an owner might not be held responsible for a dog attack. Defenses an owner may use include:
- The child was trespassing in an enclosed yard where the dog was.
- The child provoked or assaulted the dog prior to the attack.
- The dog felt threatened and was trying to protect itself or its puppies.
- The owner does not own the dog.
Using evidence gathered from photos and discussions with witnesses, a dog bite attorney will investigate to determine whether the owner could still be liable.
Compensation for a Dog Bite
Victims of dog bites can receive compensation for medical bills, physical pain and suffering, physical scarring, and plastic surgery to correct scarring. Research from the World Journal of Pediatric Surgery shows that a child bitten by a dog is also likely to need counseling due to post-traumatic stress from the attack. In addition, the owner of the dog may be required to pay punitive damages if he knew the dog was dangerous and did nothing to keep it away from children.
The amount of compensation awarded will vary depending on the severity of injuries. While the average settlement is around $40,000 per case, that number can go up or down. Minor injuries will see a smaller settlement, while significant hospital time and permanent disability will see more money.
Different Levels of Dog Bites
- Level 1: The dog snaps or shows other aggressive behavior, but the dog’s teeth do not make contact with the child’s skin.
- Level 2: The dog’s teeth make contact with the child’s skin, but do not break it.
- Level 3: The dog punctures the skin up to 4 times, with wounds being half the depth of the dog’s teeth or less.
- Level 4: The dog punctures the skin up to 4 times, but wounds are more than half the depth of the dog’s teeth.
- Level 5: The dog has previously bitten someone, AND leaves multiple Level 4 injuries.
- Level 6: The attack results in death.
Statute of Limitations for a Dog Bite
In New Mexico, victims of dog attacks have three years from the day of the incident to file a lawsuit against the owner. Minors can sue for two years after their 18th birthday. However, it is in a parent’s best interest to pursue legal action soon after their child is bitten by a dog in order to pay for medical bills that begin to accrue after treatment.
Your Family Deserves Compensation. Kane Can Help.
To win a dog bite case in New Mexico, victims must prove that the owner either acted negligently or knew that their dog could be violent. While you are taking care of your traumatized child, we will work to build a strong case against the owner who allowed the attack to happen. Contact Kane today for a free consultation. You won’t pay us anything until you get paid what you deserve.
Please note that this article was created for advertisement purposes, and it does not constitute any contractual legal relationship, nor imply one.
Cover Image by Alexas Fotos by Canva.com