We all know that dogs are usually friendly creatures, but some dogs — either due to mistreatment or because they feel threatened — may sometimes viciously attack humans, even if the human they attacked isn't the one who threatened them. If a dog attacks
someone, the owner of the animal may be liable for the injuries you suffer, and the steps you take immediately following the incident may have a serious impact on both your healing and your legal case.
Medical Care Comes First — Call 911
Once the animal is contained, assess the extent of the injuries. Also ask the dog's owner (if possible) about the animal's shot records. Be very specific to ask about when they had their last rabies vaccination. Even if you live in a state where rabies vaccinations are required yearly, don't panic about an expired vaccination. The manufacturer's recommendations for most rabies vaccinations is every three years and the antibodies may last as long as seven or eight years in some dogs. That doesn't mean the owner didn't violate the law, it's just something you should know to avoid panicking the victim (or yourself if you are the victim).
In general, you should call 911. This will ensure the paramedics and police come out, both of whom you'll need. If for any reason you elect that the injuries aren't serious enough for a 911 call, contact the police anyway.
Get the Owner's Contact Information
In order to get compensation from the dog owner, you'll need to get all their contact information, including their full name, address and telephone number. But don't discuss the injuries or incident with the owner outside asking about the dog's vaccination history. They're likely to be panicked as well, and they'll feel guilty and want to know how you are, but don't tell them you're fine or that the injury isn't that bad, even if you think it isn't. You'll need to wait for a medical opinion on that, as there could be injuries you can't see or you could develop an infection or serious semi-permanent or permanent damage.
Document the Accident Site
Take pictures of the scene of the accident, including any blood or other evidence of the attack (like your belongings on the sidewalk) in the surrounding area, any debris or landscaping you may have tripped on or that prevented you from escaping, and especially of the animal that attacked you (from a safe distance) — you may have to identify the dog later.
Take notes, too (your phone's notes app is handy if you don't have paper). Was the dog leashed when it attacked you? Where was the owner and at what point during the attack to you recall being aware of their presence? Did it appear the dog simply got away from them during a walk or was it out alone? How did they react when they witnessed the attack? Did they call the dog off? Pull it off you? How long did it take them to end the attack and restrain it? What did you hear during the attack (i.e., the owner screaming the animal's name)? What was the dog's demeanor as it approached you? After the attack? What was the owner's behavior like? Did they say anything to you? Every little thing you can think of, no matter how minute, could help ensure you keep the story straight in your head, as it could be quite some time before the trial.
Look around to see if there are any witnesses. In this day and age, people often pull out their cell phones to video things like that for this very reason. Get their contact information and ask for a copy of any video or pictures they took.
Obtain a Copy of the Police Report & Report it to Animal Control
It may take a few days for a copy of the police report to be available, so don't expect to walk away with one, but do ask the officer when it will be ready and how you can get it. Also inquire as to whether they'll notify animal control.
In many areas, the police will take care of reporting the incident to animal control, but if they don't, you need to. Many dog bite incidents are one-time lapses in which a normally friendly dog simply lashes out unexpectedly, but animal control will need to monitor this type of behavior in case the animal becomes a habitual attacker. When you report the incident to them, don't give them too many details until you've spoken with your attorney.
Consult a Qualified Dog Bite Attorney
Even if you're not sure you plan to seek compensation, it's advisable to seek the advice of a Kissimmee personal injury attorney as soon as possible. They'll be able to tell you what type of information you should give animal control, how to communicate with any insurance companies involved and help you decide whether or not a lawsuit is in your best interests. If a dog in the Kissimmee, Florida area has bitten you, call the experienced personal injury attorneys at Draper Law Offices at 866.767.4711 for a free, no-obligation consultation.