What to Do if You are Bitten by a Dog

In the United States, we are a nation of dog lovers. There are an estimated 78 million dogs living in the United States, and approximately 44% of all households in the United States own a dog. That’s a lot of dogs running around. While the vast majority of dogs in this country live up to their title of Man’s Best Friend, not all of them do. Sadly, many dogs endure neglect and abuse at the hands of their owners, which often have the effect of making the dogs more aggressive than they would naturally be.

Below, we’ll go over what you should do if you are bitten by a dog and what legal options are available to you.

Steps to Take if You are Bitten by a Dog

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites in the United States each year, but that number is likely on the low side because many people do not report dog bites. We do know that almost 900,000 dog bite victims seek emergency care at hospitals in the US each year, with 25,000 of those having to undergo reconstructive surgery. In 2013, there were 31 deaths as a result of complications from dog bites.

Being bitten by a dog is frightening, and because it often happens so fast, you might not know how to react if it happens to you. Besides getting as far away from the vicious dog as possible, the Cleveland Clinic recommends that you take these steps immediately after being bitten by a dog:

  1. Press on the wound gently to cause some bleeding to help flush out as much bacteria as possible.
  2. Wash the wound with soap and water.
  3. Slow the bleeding with a clean cloth.
  4. Apply over-the-counter antibiotic cream to the wound.
  5. Wrap the wound in a sterile bandage.
  6. Change the bandage several times a day.
  7. Watch for signs of infection, including redness, swelling, increased pain, and fever.

If you know who the dog’s owner is, you should obtain information about the dog’s rabies immunization status. If that is not possible, hospital, animal control centers, or law enforcement personnel can help you gather the required information.

Legal Liability for Dog Bites

In Georgia, strict liability applies to dog bites. This means that the owner of the dog that bit you is liable for your injuries even if they did not know that the dog had a propensity to bite. The relevant statute reads, in pertinent part:

A person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and who, by careless management or by allowing the animal to go at liberty, causes injury to another person who does not provoke the injury by his own act may be liable in damages to the person so injured. In proving vicious propensity, it shall be sufficient to show that the animal was required to be at heel or on a leash by an ordinance of a city, county, or consolidated government, and the said animal was at the time of the occurrence not at heel or on a leash.

Thus, under Georgia law, you may be able to seek compensation for your dog bite so long as:

  1. The dog was required to be on a leash per city ordinance,
  2. The dog was not on a leach at the time of the bite because of the careless management of its owner, and
  3. You did not provoke the dog.

Contact an Atlanta Dog Bite Attorney

If you have been bitten by a dog and suffered injuries, you may be able to seek compensation under Georgia’s strict liability dog bite law. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Fulton County, Gwinnett County, and Cobb County.

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