When many of us think of dog attacks, we imagine the terrible stories that make national news, which usually feature a dog breed known to be aggressive (and possibly some of his gang) owned by an irresponsible owner who didn't ensure the dog was properly secured attacking an innocent bystander who had no way to see it coming.
The reality is, many dog bite cases in Orlando and beyond involve dogs the victim knows, and according to DogsBite.org, most of the 5 million victims annually are children who are typically bitten in the face by a dog they know. Of the total people injured each year, approximately 800,000 need medical attention and between 15 and 20 die as a result of their injuries. Every year, about two Floridians die from injuries resulting from dog bites.
For example, in Florida this year, after falling on the animal, a young girl was bitten on the face by a mixed breed and hospitalized. It's likely the dog misunderstood the situation and thought he was being attacked, but that doesn't change the fact that the girl may have to live with the scars of a severe facial laceration.
Another young Florida boy was bitten on the neck by a dog that had two prior bites to the owner himself and the owner's niece. The boy, who was left alone with the animal, required hospitalization.
Preventing Dog Attacks on Young Children
While you can't ever ensure total safety when children and dogs (even sweet dogs) are in the same room, there are some things you can do to reduce the likelihood of an attack or bite.
• Teach your kids how to play with dogs — to be gentle and to always back away slowly or stop when a dog growls or shows other signs of aggression or if an adult tells you to. Never teach your child that a wagging tail automatically means a dog is feeling friendly.
• When going to a friend's house, ask about their dog's vaccinations, temperament, socialization (especially with children) and whether or not the animal is trained in basic commands.
• Never leave a child unattended with a dog, even your own.
• Teach your child not to disturb a sleeping or eating dog.
• Teach your children that if they're knocked over by a dog, they should roll into a ball and cover their faces and stay still, and that they should only scream if they need to get an adult's attention. They should also be taught not to run away from or scream around a dog.
• Teach your children never to approach a dog or play with one unless they're supervised by an adult and have asked their parents' and the owner's permission.
• Never let your child engage in behavior a dog may find threatening, including aggressive play, or allow them to tease a dog.
Remember, the goal isn't to teach your kids to fear dogs, but to respect them as individuals who may not always be in the mood to play and are just as capable as being afraid of humans as we are capable of fearing them. Dog's can read your body language and may even be able to literally smell fear, and if we're nervous, they may be, too.
What to Do if Your Child is Bitten by a Friend's or Stranger's Dog in Orlando
If your child is bitten by a dog, especially if the bite is serious, the first step should be to contact a qualified Orlando personal injury lawyer, like attorneys at the Draper Law Office, even if the dog who bit your child belongs to a friend or relative.
It's difficult to think about suing someone you care about, but remember that contacting us for a free consultation doesn't obligate you to file the suit. But you have your children to think of, too, and a serious injury could rack up a lot of medical bills, and since children are more likely to be bitten on the face and neck, there may be years of surgeries ahead of them. In this situation, it's not about the money, it's about your child living with scars or disfigurement if you don't have the money later.
But when you call, you're just exploring your options. Call sooner than later, as there's a statute of limitations on filing lawsuits on dog bites or attacks in Florida. We'll take the time to understand the situation, including your objections and discomfort with suing a friend, and advise you of the potential implications of your decision based on our years of experience with animal bite and attack cases.
To discuss your case, contact the Draper Law Office at 866.767.4711.