Bites from pet dogs account for the majority of animal-caused injuries in New York City. Each year, according to the New York City Department of Health, dog bite injuries cause about 6,000 New York City residents to be sent to emergency rooms. As the Department of Health (DOH) observes, “these injuries are largely preventable and have significant public health impacts related to physical trauma, infections and psychological costs.”
Young people are particularly susceptible to dog bites; the DOH notes that “among NYC residents in 2014, children ages 5 to 12 were at the highest risk of a reported dog bite.” But New Yorkers of every age have reason to be concerned, given that the most common reported activity associated with being bitten by a dog was merely “passing by, entering, or leaving the dog’s area.”
Victims of dog bites also need to be concerned by New York’s complicated, antiquated laws governing the liability of dog owners for injuries caused by their owned animals. In the majority of U.S. states, dog owners are held liable for personal injuries caused by their animals without regard to whether the owner knew (or should have known) that their animals exhibited vicious tendencies (this is called “strict liability”). In New York, however, only owners of dogs, previously determined to be “dangerous,” will be held strictly liable for injuries caused by their animals (this is often called the “one bite rule”).
Consequently, victims of dog bite injuries may face a difficult bar when bringing offending dog owners to court. That’s why it’s critical to contact a New York-based personal injury attorney with experience helping people who’ve been injured by dogs get the compensation they deserve.
What to Do After Sustaining a Dog Bite Injury
- Protect yourself and leave the danger zone. Put any personal objects, such as backpacks, handbags, or clothing within reach between yourself and the path of the advancing dog. If knocked down, roll into a ball with your hands covering your ears and neck. As soon as possible, move to an area where the dog cannot bite you again.
- Get medical attention. Dog bites can result in deep wounds with immediate, life-threatening effects. Even minor wounds can result in severe consequences for the victim. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60 different types of bacteria have been found in the mouths of dogs. Dogs can also carry rabies, Capnocytrophaga bacteria, Pasteurella, MRSA, and Tetanus – these diseases are grave enough to warrant immediate treatment at a medical facility. Because of the high risk of infection from a dog bite injury, and because symptoms of any infections may take time to manifest, it’s crucial that you monitor your health very carefully in the days and weeks following your injury.
- Gather information. Take note of exactly when and where the attack occurred. Identify any witnesses who saw the attack. Try to ascertain the identity of the dog owner. If the dog’s ownership isn’t clear (for example, if the animal was running free when it attacked you), take note of the animal’s breed, description, and dog tag number if present. It’s possible that you (or your attorney) may need to do some additional “detective” work to establish custody of the dog; for example, by reaching out to local law enforcement and/or canvassing the neighborhood.
- Document your injuries. Take photographs of your dog bite injuries, any damaged clothing and/or property, and take steps to obtain the medical records created when you sought medical attention.
- File a report. New York’s Health Code requires that animal bites be reported to the Department of Health within 24 hours of the bite. You can file a report using the form at the following website: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/animals-and-wildlife-report-animal-bite.page
- Document your expenses. Any costs associated with your dog bite injury need to be documented, including medical expenses, lost work, transportation to/from medical facilities, and other related costs.
- Contact an attorney. Because New York’s laws controlling the circumstances under which a dog owner is liable for the injuries caused by his/her owned animal are confusing and out-of-date, many victims mistakenly believe that their efforts to achieve just compensation will fail in court. That’s why reaching out to an experienced New York-based personal injury attorney familiar with animal bite cases is essential. This attorney will be in the best position to advise you of your rights and plot your best course toward obtaining just compensation for your dog bite injuries.