According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) there are 4.5 million dog bites reported every year in the United States. Of these, 1 in 5 dog bite injuries will become infected and require medical treatment.
It can be hard to think that man’s best friend could hurt anyone, but it happens all the time. So the question is: What happens if you’re bitten by someone else’s dog? One of the most important steps you can take is to contact the Madison dog bite attorneys at Boller & Vaughan.
Our skilled lawyers have extensive success in personal injury cases, including those related to animal bites, and we can help you pursue the compensation you need for medical expenses and other damages.
Wisconsin Dog Bite Laws
Wisconsin is a “strict liability” state when it comes to injuries caused by dogs. This means that the dog’s owner can be held liable regardless of whether they knew the dog had aggressive tendencies.
A dog’s owner is liable for any injuries their dog causes to people, property or other animals. Additionally, if the owner “was notified or knew” their dog had caused injury before, they are liable for double the amount of damages.
The law does not specify what an injury is, so the owner’s liability is not limited to dog bites but includes other dog-inflicted injuries as well. For instance, if a dog knocks someone over, their owner is still liable for any injuries caused.
There is one way an aggressive dog’s owner may not be responsible for all damages the dog caused, and that is if Wisconsin’s modified comparative negligence rules apply. Under these laws, the person who was injured could be partially or wholly responsible for their injuries if they provoked the dog before it attacked.
If the injured person provoked the dog and is found to be 50 percent or less responsible for their injuries, the dog’s owner will only have to pay 50 percent of the damages. However, if the injured person is responsible for 51 percent or more of their injuries, they cannot recover any damages from the dog’s owner.
Why Do Dogs Bite?
Dogs may be domesticated, but that doesn’t mean they lack their wild, natural instincts. Some dogs can become aggressive in certain situations or around certain people, causing them to become vicious or bite. Even well-trained dogs can be aggressive in some circumstances.
Some people think that certain breeds of dog are more prone to biting than others, but the truth is that any dog, regardless of breed, size or gender, can lash out and bite.
Dogs may bite because they are:
- Startled or scared
- Defending their territory, possessions or puppies
- Sick or sore from an injury or illness
- Playing without realizing they are being too rough
Tips for Avoiding Dog Bites
Like any animal, dogs deserve respect of their personal space. We may own them, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are animals with unique personalities. A dog’s reaction depends on that specific dog and the situation it’s in.
Responsible dog owners should be aware of their dog’s mannerisms and tendencies. They should educate others on how to approach their dog and warn people if their dog can be aggressive.
The following tips won’t necessarily prevent a dog bite, but they can help avoid situations where dog bites may occur:
- If you have a puppy, socialize them with unfamiliar people and animals while they are young. This will help them adapt to new people and situations when they’re older.
- Ask for permission before approaching someone else’s dog. Give them a few moments to get used to you before you pet them.
- Learn how to read a dog’s body language. Tense bodies, stiff tails, laid back ears, staring, or backing away are all signs that a dog feels threatened.
- Don’t go near a stray or unfamiliar dog.
- Making sudden movements or approaching a dog from above can startle them. Instead, stand back and crouch down to eye level to make yourself less intimidating.
- Don’t make eye contact when meeting a new dog. They can take direct eye contact as a challenge and become aggressive.
- Be cautious when approaching a dog who is eating, sleeping or caring for its young.
- Never leave a child alone with a dog, even your own dog.
- If the dog you are near does become aggressive, stand still with your arms at your sides. Don’t make eye contact, run, scream or make loud noises. Instead, slowly back away until the dog loses interest or you can reach a safe place.
What to Do if a Dog Bites You
A dog can bite in an instant with little to no warning. While adults are often dog bite victims, children are much more likely to be injured by attacks. Remember the following tips if you or someone you know is bitten by a dog:
- If the dog still has a hold on you, do not pull away. This can make them sink their teeth in deeper and do more damage.
- Stop any bleeding by applying direct pressure to the wound using a clean cloth.
- Clean the wound by rinsing with warm, soapy water. Apply antibiotic ointment and cover the area with a bandage, tape or gauze.
- Minor wounds can typically be treated at home. However, if you can’t stop the bleeding or the wound becomes infected, call 911 or visit the emergency room right away.
- Once the wound has been treated, write down details about the dog bite. Include where you were, when it happened, and a description of the dog and its behavior.
- Try to find the dog’s owner and get their contact info. Ask them if the dog has had all its shots. If the dog is a stray, seek medical attention immediately regardless of how severe the bite is.
- Finally, report the incident to the police and animal control so that they may take the steps needed to prevent the dog from biting someone else.
Madison Dog Bite Attorneys
Not only do dog bites leave physical scars, they can leave emotional scars as well. Some people have had such traumatic experiences with dogs that they cannot own or be around them.
If you or a loved one was the victim of a dog bite, you may be able to seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Wisconsin’s statute of limitations for dog bite victims is three years from the date the injury occurred, so don’t wait.
To find out what your case could be worth, contact the attorneys at Boller & Vaughan. We provide free consultations and won’t charge for our services unless we win your case. Contact us online to schedule your appointment or call us at 608-268-0268.