At the Charleston office of Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, our West Virginia dog bite lawyers understand just how much people across the state love their pets. Unfortunately, we also know that other people’s animals can pose a threat to society at large if not properly trained or restrained in public. If you were bitten by a dog, you may seek compensation in a personal injury lawsuit for costs resulting from your injuries, including medical care, pain and suffering and lost income. Get to know your rights and let us protect them.
Dog Bite Resources
- National Dog Bite Statistics
- West Virginia Dog Bite Laws
- What to Do After a Dog Attack
- Diseases Caused by Dog Bites
- Contact a Lawyer in West Virginia
Dog Bite Statistics
Injuries and deaths from dog bites in the United States have increased over the years. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- More than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year
- Each year more than 800,000 Americans require medical attention for dog bites
- Half of the 800,000 who require medical attention for dog bites are children
- 386,000 require emergency treatment
- Children aged 5 to 9 have the highest rate of dog bite injuries
- Almost 2/3 of injuries to children less than four are to the head and neck
A Brief Overview of West Virginia’s Dog Bite Laws
If a dog is unleashed and bites a victim while running freely, the owner is strictly liable for damages. This means that negligence is automatic and the victim does not have to prove negligent conduct on the part of the dog owner. However, if a bite occurs when the dog is not running freely, the victim has the burden of proving that the owner’s negligence caused the attack. If the owner had previous knowledge that the dog was dangerous and was prone to bite, the owner will be strictly liable for any injuries. Because of the complexities of West Virginia’s dog bite laws, it is highly advisable to be represented by a knowledgeable attorney. Tiano O’Dell, PLLC has a successful track record representing claimants injured by negligent parties.
What to Do After a Dog Attack in West Virginia
Dog attacks can lead to incredibly severe physical injuries, emotional trauma, and death. After such an attack, it is understandable that you might feel confused about your rights and how to proceed. You may have suffered significant injuries, the dog’s owner may not have been willing to exchange information, or you may simply be wondering what your rights are moving forward. Here’s what to do after being attacked by a dog:
- Identify the Owner of the Dog
If the dog’s owner or the people who have custody of the dog are at the scene of the attack, ask for his or her name and contact information. Gather as much information as possible to prevent the owner from escaping liability for your injuries. If the dog’s owner refuses to give you his or her identification, call the police and gather other forms of evidence if possible. This can include taking a photograph of the dog and its owner/guardian, writing down the location where the attack occurred, and getting the information of any eyewitnesses to the incident.
- Get Information About the Dog
Next, acquire information about the dog. Ask for its name, breed, and any prior history of the dog attacking people or livestock. Be aware that the dog’s owner or guardian may not be truthful about the dog’s history of violence. Inquire as to the dog’s vaccination history, and review documentation if possible. Learning about the dog’s history can help you avoid having to undergo a series of painful and expensive rabies shots. Find out the dog’s permanent residence if the dog is in someone else’s temporary custody.
- Seek Medical Attention for Injuries
Depending on the extent of your injuries, you may need medical attention before you can gather information from the dog’s owner. If this is the case, ask someone on scene to get information for you. If the attack is bad enough to warrant the need for an ambulance, the first responders will gather information on your behalf. Seek medical treatment for your injuries as soon as possible after a dog attack. Going to a doctor right away can help you prove the extent and nature of your injuries to a judge or jury later, if necessary. Follow treatment directions from your doctor exactly. Any variation can lead to the defendant arguing that you made your injuries worse by failing to adhere to the doctor’s directions. An attack leading to superficial wounds may only need a topical antibiotic and a bandage, while more significant puncture wounds or gashes may require deep cleansing, stitches, and other treatments. If you suffered a bite from an unknown dog, you may need rabies shots and other treatments to prevent illness and infection.
- File a Dog Bite Report
Next, file a report with the property authorities. Find your department by county and explain what happened. Give the dog and owner’s names if possible. This will legally document your case and may prevent future attacks from the same canine. Filing a report can allow the authorities to enforce local rules and enhance the safety of everyone in the city. In Charleston, West Virginia, or elsewhere in Kanawha County, you can report a bite by calling the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department at (304) 344-5243.
- Contact an Attorney
It is always a good idea to talk to a West Virginia personal injury lawyer after a dog attack that results in significant injury or property damage. Most personal injury attorneys, Tiano O’Dell, PLLC included, offer free initial consultations to discuss the merit of your case. A personal injury claim may lead to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. West Virginia’s dog bite law only holds a dog’s owner strictly liable for injuries if the dog was running at large at the time of the attack.
Injuries Caused by Dog Bites
Being attacked by a dog can result in a number of serious injuries, including:
- Broken bones
- Puncture wounds
- Nerve damage
- Secondary infections and diseases
- Psychological damage and post-traumatic stress
Common Dog Bite Diseases
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost one in five dog bites requires medical attention. After a person sustains a dog bite, it is immensely important that he or she takes the correct steps to clean and treat the wound to prevent infection and disease. Responsible dog owners vaccinate their pets for transferable diseases but others may not. Here are the potential diseases a victim could incur after an attack.
What is the Most Serious Dog Bite Disease?
One of the most serious diseases caused by dog bites, rabies can lead to symptoms such as pain, fatigue, headaches, fever, seizures, hallucinations, and paralysis. Rabies in humans is almost always fatal. Thanks to canine rabies vaccinations, the risk of getting rabies from a dog bite is fortunately rather low. Still, it is important to know what to do to prevent the risk of rabies after a dog attack. If you do not know the dog, seek medical treatment to prevent rabies. This is especially true if the dog showed signs of being rabid, such as partial paralysis, choking sounds, foam at the mouth, disorientation, or trembling.
Rabies vaccines after a potential exposure involve four doses of the medication at separate times. A doctor will administer the first dose right away and give additional doses on the third, seventh, and 14th day after the bite. You may also get a second shot right away, called the rabies immune globulin. It is possible to receive a preventative rabies vaccine, but typically one would only get this if he or she were at high risk of getting the disease, such as working with wild animals.
What Other Diseases Can You Get from a Dog Bite?
Rabies is not the only disease one should fear from a dog bite, although it is the most serious. Dogs can also carry harmful bacteria in their mouths and saliva that can lead to various diseases in humans. For many reasons, it’s imperative to seek medical attention for dog bites as soon as possible. A doctor can appropriately disinfect the wound to prevent harmful illnesses. Here are four more diseases to be aware of:
- Capnocytophaga – These bacteria live in the mouths of cats and dogs, and they can spread to humans via bites and scratches. People with weakened immune systems are at a greater risk of contracting illness through Capnocytophaga bacteria. This type of infection can cause blistering or pus around the wound, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, and muscle pain. Various antibiotics can help defeat this virus in humans.
- Pasteurella – Seen in more than 50% of infected dog bite wounds, these bacteria can cause painful infection and a more serious disease in people with weak immune systems. Symptoms of this disease include swollen glands and joints, and difficulty moving.
- MRSA – This is a form of Staph infection that can affect the skin, lungs, and urinary tract. In some cases, MRSA can spread to the bloodstream and lead to life-threatening complications. MRSA is resistant to many antibiotics.
- Tetanus – If you are not up to date on your tetanus vaccinations, you may contract tetanus from a dog bite. Tetanus comes from a type of bacteria called Clostridium tetani, which can cause rigid paralysis in humans.
You may be at risk of contracting any of these diseases after a dog bite in West Virginia. Always see a medical professional as soon as possible after a dog attack to receive the proper treatment, shots, and antibiotics to prevent related diseases. After taking care of your initial medical concerns, consult a West Virginia dog bite lawyer at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC for legal help after a harmful dog attack, especially if you contracted a disease related to the injury.
Seek Justice for Dog Bites in West Virginia
While these laws sound clear-cut, it is highly advisable to obtain experienced and effective legal counsel. Most negotiations are conducted with the negligent party’s insurance company. Each West Virginia dog bite attorney at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC has decades of experience negotiating claims with insurance providers and will work his hardest to maximize your chances of receiving compensation after an injury. A successful settlement will eliminate the need to take the bite case to court. If the insurance provider does not offer an amount that is to your liking, your lawyer will take the case to trial before a jury. We will not be intimidated by insurance companies.
What Damages Can Be Recovered for Dog Bites in West Virginia?
Several types of compensation are available to dog bite victims. Our Charleston personal injury lawyers will look to secure the following damages so you receive the compensation you deserve:
- Medical bills for hospitalizations, prescription medicines, and necessary surgery
- Lost wages, if your injuries caused you to miss time from work
- Future medical expenses
- Pain and suffering, both physical and emotional
Free Consultation with a West Virginia Dog Bite Lawyer
Tiano O’Dell, PLLC is a plaintiff’s rights law firm. We fight for justice on behalf of injured victims. We feel that the responsible party—in this case the dog owner—should be held accountable for his or her actions. We feel we are providing a service to the community by sending a message that irresponsible conduct will not be tolerated. Tiano O’Dell, PLLC is recognized as West Virginia Super Lawyers in addition to Top 100 Trial Lawyers. Our client review rating is Preeminent—a perfect 5.0 out of 5. We are honored by this rating, which is a result of client dedication and a commitment to excellence. We do not charge any fees if we do not win your dog bite case. We offer a free case evaluation where you can ask questions and review your options. To schedule your free consultation, call our Charleston, WV office at (304) 720-6700 or contact us online.