Most Americans assume that dogs are friendly and mostly harmless — but any dog can bite. Unfortunately, there are some dogs that tend to bite more than others, often due to poor training or socialization by their owners. Moreover, many dog bites can be very serious, causing nerve damage, disfiguring injuries and psychological trauma, especially among children.
In Connecticut, dog owners are strictly liable for the harm their dogs cause, unless the injured person was trespassing, committing another civil wrong, or teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog. When the victim of a dog bite is under 7 years old, the law presumes they were not in the wrong, although the dog owner may present evidence to overcome that presumption.
What should you do after a dog bite?
- The first thing to do is to get the victim appropriate medical care. Many dog bites create puncture wounds, which are prone to infection. If possible, take photographs of the bites to accurately document them.
- Exchange information with the dog owner or caretaker. You will need their name, address and phone number, along with any other contact information. Once the victim has been cared for, you will need to obtain the dog’s vaccination history and the owner’s homeowners insurance information.
- Gather the contact information of any witnesses. The statements of eyewitnesses can be very helpful in an insurance claim or lawsuit. Ideally, get a basic statement as soon as possible.
- Contact animal control. This may seem harsh, but your local animal control officer may have crucial information about whether this dog has bitten before. Animal control officers are tasked with investigating complaints of biting animals.
- After the bite, do your best to document the effects of the injuries on the victim, such as pain, suffering and loss of mobility or function. This could involve taking photographs or making journal entries. Also, write down the events leading to the bite in as much detail as possible and date that record. Save your medical records relating to the bite and any correspondence about it. For phone calls, try to write down what was said and date your record.
Finally, you may wish to contact a personal injury attorney who is experienced with dog bite claims. Once the seriousness of the bite has been assessed and the wound has been treated, you may need to make a claim against the dog’s owner. This may merely involve filing a homeowners insurance claim rather than filing a lawsuit. Your attorney may be able to maximize the compensation you receive.