In recognition of Dog Bite Awareness Week, the United States Postal Service (USPS) is urging pet owners to help reduce the number of dog bites experienced by postal workers.
According to the USPS, there were 491 dog attacks on Texas postal workers in 2019, the second-highest state total in the nation. 127 of these attacks took place in the Rio Grande District.
As the USPS reminds everyone to “Be Alert: Prevent the Bite,” the team at Ramos James Law, PLLC, is here to break down everything you should know about dog bites, including what to do if you or a loved one get bit.
What Constitutes a Dog Bite?
It’s important to understand what level of a dog bite you have suffered in order to seek proper medical attention. The type of dog bite also affects the legality around the event and any insurance claims you may file.
Dog bites can be categorized into six levels:
- Level 1: The dog is intimidating you, but there is no contact between their teeth and your skin.
- Level 2: The dog makes contact with their teeth and your skin, but there is no puncture.
- Level 3: The dog makes one to four punctures in your skin from a single bite, no deeper than a half-length of their teeth.
- Level 4: The dog makes one to four punctures in your skin from a single bite with at least one puncture deeper than half of the length of their tooth.
- Level 5: The dog bites the victim several times with at least two level 4 bites.
- Level 6: The victim dies from the dog bite.
Level 1 and 2 comprise most dog bite incidents, and owners have the potential to resolve the problem with training. Level 3 and higher are more problematic and can result in the need for extensive hands-on training or, in some instances, euthanasia of the animal.
How Common Are Dog Bites in the U.S.?
Dog bites happen more often than you may think, with an estimated 1,000 people in the U.S. requiring emergency care treatment for serious dog bite injuries every day. Here are some other shocking statistics regarding dog bites in the U.S.:
- Up to 18% of dog bites become infected with bacteria.
- People in the U.S. have a 1 in 112,400 chance of being bitten or struck by a dog, according to the National Safety Council.
- Homeowners insurers paid out $675 million in liability claims related to dog bites and other dog-related injuries in 2018, as per the Insurance Information Institute.
- Roughly 66% of fatal dog attacks between 2005 and 2017 were caused by pit bulls, according to DogsBite.org.
- In more than 84% of dog bite-related fatalities, the dog wasn’t neutered or spayed, as determined by the National Canine Research Council.
Dog Bite Liability by State
The liability that owners have if their dog bites someone depends on the state and local level.
Some states hold owners liable for any bites that occur, while others have a “one bite” law for owners, which doesn’t hold them accountable for the first bite if the dog hadn’t exhibited dangerous tendencies in the past.
Some states target specific breeds, requiring insurance coverage for owners of dogs that are considered risky.
There are three types of laws that impose liability on owners: one-bite rule, dog-bite statute, and negligence laws.
- One-bite rule: The owner is not held liable for the first bite a dog inflicts. Texas has a one-bite rule.
- Strict liability dog bite statute: The dog owner is held responsible for any injury or property damage that the dog causes if the dog is known to be dangerous. Some states may be less strict if the bite took place on private property versus public property.
- Negligence Laws: While the dog owner is held liable if they’re negligent in controlling their dog, states also have their own laws about what is considered negligence.
Steps to Take in Case of a Dog Bite
Dog bites can happen at unexpected times, but it’s imperative to take the right steps to ensure your health and safety. Follow these steps to reduce the risk of infection and get the help you need:
- Collect information from the dog owner: While it’s important to prioritize your injury right away, depending on the circumstances, you or a loved one will want to grab the name, address, and phone number of the owner to request proof of rabies vaccination. This information will prove to be vital if you need to file a claim.
- Seek medical attention: If your wound can be managed, immediately use soap and water to wash it and cover it with a clean bandage. See a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
- Photograph the injuries: Even if it means temporarily removing the bandages, it’s crucial to have images of the wounds on the day of the attack to back up any claims filed.
- Report the bite: Contact the closest animal control agency or police department to report the attack.
- Contact an attorney: Legal council will help you navigate through the incident.
Fight Back Against a Dog Bite with Ramos James Law
Let Ramos James Law, PLLC, work tirelessly to get you the care, compensation, and justice you deserve if you have suffered from a dog bite. Contact us now at (512) 537-3369 to get started on your road to recovery.