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Beware of Dog sign on wooden fence outside of home

Over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year, and many of those bites are severe enough to cause lasting injuries. Even a friendly dog can become aggressive in seconds, endangering everyone in its path. Dog bites can cause puncture wounds, lacerations, and infections. In some cases, they can be fatal. Knowing what to do after a dog bite is essential, even if you don’t own a dog yourself. A stranger’s pet could attack you without warning, leaving you injured and unsure what to do next. The moments following a dog bite can feel overwhelming and chaotic, and familiarizing yourself with the best steps can make a significant difference.  

1. Seek Medical Attention

After a dog bite, you might be tempted to brush off your injury, especially if it doesn’t feel serious. But dog bite injuries can quickly become infected, which puts you in danger. If a bite breaks the skin, it’s crucial to be treated by medical professionals. They will clean the wound, apply antibiotics, and monitor your symptoms. Additionally, you could develop other complications down the road, and having a paper trail will prove invaluable if you eventually need to file a dog bite lawsuit. If a dog seriously injures you, it’s even more important to seek medical attention for the sake of your health.

2. Gather Evidence

Gathering evidence is one of the most crucial things you can do after a dog bite. Take photos of your injury, the location where the bite occurred, and the dog that bit you. If anyone witnessed the attack, ensure that you get their contact information. Dog bites can quickly become a “he said, she said” scenario — the dog owner may allege that you provoked the dog or were trespassing at the time of the bite. Having as much evidence as possible can work in your favor if the facts of the case become contested later on. If the bite is severe, you should also consider calling the police to have a report filed.

3. Get the Dog Owner’s Information

It would be best to ask the dog owner for their name, phone number, and address. You should also ask the dog owner for proof that the animal has been vaccinated for rabies — if it hasn’t, you may need to undergo preventative treatment for the disease, which has a fatality rate of 99% in humans. The owner’s homeowners’ insurance might cover your medical bills depending on where you were when the dog bite happened. However, some insurance policies refuse to cover dangerous breeds of dogs. It’s essential to make sure that you gather as much information about the owner as you can. If a stray dog bites you with no owner in sight, it may be more difficult to determine whose contact information you need. In this case, it’s harder to file a legal claim.

4. Report The Dog Bite

You should report the dog bite to your local health department or animal control agency as soon as possible. Physicians are also required by law to report dog bites within 24 hours of the incident. Per North Carolina law, any dog that bites a human must be quarantined for ten days. If the dog has its rabies vaccine, the quarantine period can happen at home. If it doesn’t, it’ll be quarantined at an animal shelter or veterinary hospital. The quarantine period helps guarantee that a dog didn’t have rabies when it bit you. If owners don’t quarantine their dogs in North Carolina, they could be found guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor offense.

5. Speak To A Dog Bite Attorney

Contacting a personal injury lawyer is the most important step after a North Carolina dog bite. You should find a North Carolina dog bite lawyer experienced with North Carolina law because every state handles dog bite liability differently. North Carolina is a strict liability state, meaning you don’t have to prove that a dog owner acted negligently to recover damages. However, North Carolina also follows the “one bite” rule, which means that the owner is liable if they knew the dog might behave dangerously. An owner must take extra precautions after a dog bites a person or another animal. Understanding the relevant laws after a dog bite can be difficult for the average person, especially if you’re also dealing with injuries.

The attorneys at Whitley Law Firm have more than 80 years of combined experience, and our team handles dog bite cases across North Carolina. We offer free case consultations and work on a contingency-fee-basis—that means we don’t get paid unless we win your case. Call us at (919) 785-5000 or contact us online to schedule your free evaluation.

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