1 in every 6 dog bite injuries requires medical care, and 1 in every 14 injuries requires emergency care. As dog ownership has increased on a yearly basis, jumping from 68 million in 2001 to over 80 million today, as has the number of dog bite incidents. Additionally, and perhaps more significantly, the cost of treatment for such injuries is also on the rise. For instance, in 2003, the average dog bite lawsuit claim was barely greater than $19,000. 10 years later, the average cost of treatment rose to $27,862, before jumping to an average of $37,214 in 2015. Furthermore, a multitude of dog bites falls under individual’s homeowner’s insurance, costing over $570 million in insurance liability claims in 2015.
Is Compensation Based On Severity Of Injuries?
Yes, additional compensation is highly dictated by the severity of a victim’s injuries, and other details from their specific incident. For instance, if an individual is severely or seriously injured by a dog bite, they can likely pursue full compensation. Additionally, if a victim is bitten by a “dangerous dog,” they likely also can pursue maximum compensation. In Pennsylvania, dog bite victims are heavily protected, and dog owners are almost always responsible for at least medical expenses. Additional compensation can include emotional trauma, pain and suffering and current and future lost wages. We encourage all victims to refer insurance adjusters to an experienced attorney to negotiate on their behalf. For a more comprehensive guide on whether you may or may not have a plausible case, visit our case eligibility page here.
Pennsylvania Dog Bite Law Defining “Severe Injuries”
According to Pennsylvania State Dog Law, Section 102 states that a “severe injury” is: “Any physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.”
Fractures, Amputations, & Crush Wounds
Bone fractures resulting from dog bite injuries can be further complicated than most fractures. For instance, according to a 2001 Center For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) study amputations and crush wounds were far more common than typically broken bones. Their study estimated that nearly double the amount of victims were debilitated by amputations or crush wounds, in comparison to fractures and dislocations. Regardless, both types of injury are considered “serious,” and can render victims with lifelong medical complications. Furthermore, damages can also include chronic physical and emotional pain, as well as lost wages and earnings potential.
Lacerations, Puncture Wounds, & Disfigurement
Puncture wounds and deep cuts are also common injuries resulting from dog bite attacks. Often times, these injuries fall under the “severe injuries” domain, as sutures are typically required. Injuries of this nature can also be caused by non-bite injuries from a canine’s paws, from actions such as clawing or being knocked down. Bite wounds can also cause deep tissue damage, sometimes resulting in permanent nerve damage to a victim’s limb.
Some lacerations can leave victims with permanent disfigurement in the forms of scars, or any other extensive change to a victim’s outward appearance. Nonetheless, any cut that needs one or more sutures to repair it, warrants the potential for full damages compensation. Cosmetic surgery is also common for dog bite victims, sometimes including treatment costs of $20,000 for the first night. If surgery is medically necessary, it is typically covered in a victim’s awarded damages in Pennsylvania courts.
Bruises, Flesh Wounds, & Other Minor Injuries
In Pennsylvania, all dog bite victims injuries are to be covered by the dog owner. Even minor injuries resulting in medical treatment are the responsibility of the dog owner. Pennsylvania state law indicates that all resulting injuries from an attacking or biting dog, are fully paid by the owner of the guilty dog. Regardless of the severity of a victim’s injuries, we recommend exchanging contact information with the dog owner, thus clarifying who the liable party is.
There are some cases, where individuals afflicted with various minor injuries may be entitled to full compensation. For example, if a dog is considered a “dangerous” dog, victims can pursue maximum compensation regardless of resulting injuries. “Dangerous” dogs are dogs who have previously displayed aggressive tendencies, or bitten other victims. For more information on the actions to take following a dog bite, refer to our step-by-step guide here.
Infections, Illness, & Long-Term Medical Treatment
According to the CDC, out of the nearly 4.5 million annual dog bites, nearly 20% become infected. Infections can be spread from injuries as minor as flesh wounds to severe avulsion injuries resulting in amputation. The most common symptoms of infection from animal bites are pain, swelling, redness, and inflammation around the wound. Therefore, we encourage all victims to seek medical treatment for injuries ranging from “minor” to “severe.”
Fortunately, over 50% of dog bites occur with dogs the victim is familiar with, so they can easily obtain the animal’s medical records. If the dog is up to date on vaccinations it is a positive sign for victims, however, in some cases obtaining a dog’s vaccination history can prove to be more challenging. For example, if a victim is bitten by a stray dog without proper documentation then there is far greater uncertainty regarding the risk of infection. Infections can cause severe, permanent living conditions, and in some cases, if untreated can produce fatal results. Infections and illness often follow dog bites due to the increased level of bacteria commonly found in a dog’s mouth.
Below we will explore two of the most dangerous illnesses that can result from dog bites in greater depth.
Rabies & Rabid Dogs
Currently, dogs are the leading carriers of rabies worldwide. However, it is extremely rare for a domesticated dog confined in a household within the United States to carry rabies. In 2009, Pennsylvania authorities had 453 reports of rabid animals, the fourth highest among all U.S. states. Therefore, we encourage all dog bite victims to seek the attention of a trained medical professional anytime skin is broken. All 50 U.S. states require a rabies vaccination for domestic pets, therefore, it is no surprise that victims assume that no illness was transferred. We strongly recommend that all victims take this additional safety precaution to ensure their safety, and well-being. This recommendation is vital for victims, as rabies is a deadly disease, taking the lives of 99.9% of patients once symptoms are present.
Symptoms & Treatment
Symptoms will not appear until the disease has spread to brain tissue, which can take up to three months. Therefore, if a victim was bitten by a dog carrying rabies, they must be treated immediately to eliminate the virus. Symptoms surface resembling the flu, featuring: chronic fatigue, weakness, aches and pains, and headache. As mentioned above, if a patient experiences symptoms, there is little chance of survival. Potential symptoms range from psychosis to hallucinations and paralysis, almost always alongside extreme nausea, and vomiting.
If you were bitten by a dog suspected to be carrying rabies, a doctor should suggest a rabies vaccine as a precaution. Although this is extremely rare in the United States, if it does happen, the dog must endure a mandatory confinement period. Pennsylvania law defines this period as a minimum of 10 days, after which the dog must be monitored as a “dangerous” dog. If the dog was infected, the confinement period will result in the infection killing the canine. In which case, victims will receive a series of medical treatment for 2 weeks. Rabies is exceptionally uncommon in the United States, and currently only takes the lives of 2 to 3 Americans per year.
Rabid Dogs: How To Tell?
Dogs are infected the same way humans are, which is most- typically by being bitten by an infected animal. Rabies in canines usually occurs in three different stages. Initially, it may not be easy to tell if a dog has rabies, which is why all victims should seek medical attention directly after a bite takes place.
- Prodromal Stage- Lasts 2 to 3 days in most dogs. Dogs in this stage often appear anxious and spend time alone. Dog owners have documented an increased level of behavior variability, depending on the canine, dogs can be increasingly friendly or aggressive. Most dogs will lick the site of their wound repetitively.
- Furious Stage- Lasts 1 to 7 days in most dogs. As dogs enter the second rabies stage, they likely will appear vicious, usually roaming around the room. Caged animals in this stage are known to attack the cage continuously. Dogs may also appear hyperactive in this stage, reacting to even the faintest of noises. While this stage of rabies looks to be the most dangerous, some dogs skip over this phase directly.
- Paralytic Stage- Since death to infected dogs almost always occurs within 10 days of the initial infection, it is unclear when this stage truly begins. Symptoms for infected canines include paralysis, seizures, and nerve damage. All of which, weaken the animal until total respiratory failure kills the dog.
It is not uncommon for dog bite victims to suffer from various forms of emotional trauma after their accident. In fact, children who are the most likely individuals to become victims can become especially traumatized. According to a study published by The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in 2010, individuals 14 or younger are the most likely to require emergency medical treatment. This most likely stems from the fact that children are most commonly bitten on the face, while adults typically suffer wounds to their arms or legs. Children also innocently assume that all dogs are friendly when in reality this may not be the case. Therefore, the potential for fatal injuries to child victims is greater than it is for affected adults.
Regardless of age, severe trauma associated with dog bites can negatively affect victims. Young children may develop a lifelong fear of dogs, and are also at an increased risk for short-term emotional distress. This can be exceptionally devastating to a child that was bitten by their own pet, which isn’t uncommon. All victims can experience negative symptoms from dog attacks, such as depression, anxiety, and extreme fear. It is not rare for victims to experience horrifying flashbacks, resembling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following a dog bite. Victims suffering from severe emotional trauma are often entitled to full damages compensation, taking into account pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Contact An Attorney
As mentioned above, we recommend that all victims secure the counsel and assistance of an experienced dog bite lawyer. This is the first step in securing maximum compensation and is a useful resource for victims in any state. Our experienced team of lawyers is currently offering all dog bite victims a free legal consultation. We believe with our expertise, and more than a decade of service aiding similar victims, we can best counsel all victims. Contact our law firm today, to take the first step in securing your financial future, and progress towards necessary legal justice.