Here’s the short list of steps to take:
- Gather information. Write down the names and addresses of any witnesses, the dog owner and the people who were responsible for the dog at the time of the bite.
- Gather evidence. Take photographs of the wounds, and document time and date of the photos.
- Go to the doctor. A trip to the ER or a walk-in clinic will likely get you in faster than your primary care doctor, and time is of the essence so that infection has less of a chance to settle in.
- Find out who does animal control in your area. In Whatcom County, call Animal Control at (360) 733-2080 x 1. Here is a dog bite form that you will need to fill out. Once you make the report, cooperate with all the responding authorities.
More discussion and next steps:
Hopefully it will be possible to identify the dog owner and animal that bit you. A stray, or dog that can’t be identified, may have rabies which can mean you must be treated for prevention of this disease and that is a painful process. Also, it is possible to recover financial damages from the animal’s owner. These damages can cover your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering you’ve incurred, and maybe even cosmetic surgery if the bite merits that. You do have legal rights to help you recover; call us at Bill Coats Law to find out more.
Photographic evidence is so important; I cannot stress that enough. Photo the wounds before they’re treated to get the full picture of what happened. But do not delay medical attention. Dog bite wounds are dangerous because they are puncture wounds, and dogs’ mouths are not known to be sparkling clean. If you or a loved one is bit in the face, insist that a plastic surgeon sees you right away. ER docs are trained on keeping people alive, but there is an art and science to making cosmetically-minded stitches and wound treatment.
While recuperating, follow your doctors’ orders. Make sure to take all your medications, especially antibiotics, even if you start to feel better. If they tell you to avoid sunlight, use sunblock, re-dress wounds, come back for follow up checks and treatment, massage the healing areas, then do it!
Your doctor will have to decide if you need rabies shots. They’ll evaluate whether or not rabies is in our area. Unfortunately, a few bats tested positive for rabies a few years ago. Feel free to seek a second opinion if you want.
The hospital or medical care provider you visit may not report the bite to animal control, so make sure to do this yourself. Animal control officers will conduct interviews and find out more information that can be used to protect others in the future and/or build your case against the owner who is responsible for the animal.
You should always make your own report to the agency that does animal control in your jurisdiction. Sometimes it is the animal control department of the city or county, sometimes the humane society, and sometimes the police department. Do not rely on the hospital to make a report for you. Yes, they make reports, but generally their reports are for the purpose of keeping statistics on injuries and diseases, not keeping dangerous dogs off our streets. Furthermore, it is critical in a dog bite case to establish the identity of the owner of the biting dog. The animal control investigators also will interview witnesses and do other things that will help your case as well as prevent dog bites in the future.
Hopefully the owner of the dog that bit you is insured. If so, you may receive a call from an insurance company representative on behalf of the owner. Write down the following:
- Insurance company name, address and contact information of the adjuster
- Claim number
- Name of the insured
- Amount of money available to pay medical expenses
Do not do the following:
- Discuss money or payment, accept a settlement, or do anything involving money
- Don’t agree to meet with them
- Don’t write a letter or memo, or be tape recorded
- Don’t let them photograph the victim
- Don’t discuss who is responsible
A free call to Bill Coats Law can help you navigate the next steps in your claim. Consultations are free. Contact Bill here or call (360) 392-2833. For more information about dog bites, visit this page.