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What Happens When A Dog Bites A Child?

In the United States, there are more than 800,000 people who are dog bite victims. The majority of these cases are children who were bitten by a dog. Actually, dog bites are the leading cause of children’s emergency room visits. Younger kids are more vulnerable to bite injuries.

When a dog bites a kid, it is very likely that the child’s parents will try to sue the dog owners or keepers. Parents will normally report the aggressive dog to a local dog control officer or a police officer. If a lawsuit is filed against the dog owners, a jury will determine if the owners are liable or not. In most cases, the dog owner or keepers of the dog will have to pay for the medical expenses that the bite victim had to incur.

In some cases, with the necessary evidence, the judge may award compensation for further damages such as pain and suffering or punitive damages. Similarly, the owners may also be penalized with fines or even time in prison. 

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What should I do if my child is bitten by a dog?

When a dog bites a child, the child’s parents must treat the kid’s injuries as soon as possible. Depending on the severity of the injury, the parents should take the child to the hospital. Some dog bites may seem not too serious but it is not possible to know the full extent of the damage. In some cases, small bites may cause serious damage to muscle, soft tissue, and nerves. Additionally, the dog bite victim might need to take a rabies shot.

Dog bites in children cannot only result in costly medical expenses, but the experience can be so shocking for a kid that they may end up traumatized. Parents should also try to find the dog’s owner or keeper and make sure they provide them with their contact information and insurance policy information if they have one.

Keep in mind that not in all cases the owners can be held liable for the injuries the child suffered. There are some circumstances that will be evaluated to decide if the owners are responsible or not. If you believe that the owners should be held liable for their dog’s actions, contact a dog bite attorney to get legal advice. 

What can I do to prevent my child from being bitten by a dog?

The best way to prevent children from being bitten by a dog is to keep a close eye on them. The majority of dog bite incidents happen on the dog owner’s property. That means that parents are not taking the necessary precautions to keep their kids away from danger.

Kids need to be taught the places where they are allowed to play. In some cases, dog encounters are not avoidable. Parents need to teach kids what is the correct thing to do when they find a dog who is showing aggressive behavior towards them. Kids should not try to pet an unknown dog without an adult’s supervision, for a child it may be hard to tell the difference between a friendly dog and an aggressive dog. Children need to remain calm and try not to scream or run, which may cause the dog to attack immediately.

On the other hand, dog owners must also ensure that their dog cannot leave their property, especially if the dog has aggressive behavior and is trained to attack trespassers. 

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What is the impact of canine aggression toward a child?

A dog attack can have long-term physical and mental consequences. The majority of dog bite incidents occur in children aged 4 to 9. Due to their height, dogs prefer to attack younger children in the neck and/or face; however, as children get older, dog bites are more commonly directed at their extremities.

You can easily imagine how dangerous a dog bite to the face and neck can be. Some kids might end up with permanent scarring on their faces that may cause them several problems in their adult life. Emotionally speaking, many children that experienced a dog bite suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some symptoms that PTSD causes are anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, difficulty focusing, irritability, and abnormal behavior.

It can be difficult for adults to understand how traumatic an event of this kind can be. Therapists advise parents to imagine themselves being attacked by an open-mouthed bear in the middle of the forest. For a kid, a fully grown dog looks just like an aggressive bear. Any adult would have a hard time going back to the forest after a bear attack, the same thing happens with kids. Children may grow older and they may feel extremely nervous or scared around dogs, even if they are small and friendly. Taking your child to a therapist after a dog bite injury is very important to help the kid overcome any emotional trauma.

Who is responsible for a dog attack? 

Depending on the circumstances of the accident the owner may or may not be held liable for the physical injuries suffered by the victim. In some states, the “one-bite rule” exists, while other states use “strict liability”. Strict liability means that the dog owners are always liable for the damages caused by their dog. One-bite rule, on the other hand, means that the owner may not be held liable if the dog has never bitten another person before. New York is a mixed state, which means that both approaches are used when determining liability. 

When owners may be held liable

  • If the dog has never bitten anyone in the past but the owner was negligent or their actions were careless and caused someone to be injured by their dog. 
  • If the dog has been deemed as dangerous in the past and bites someone again. 

When owners may not be held liable

  • If the dog has never bitten anyone before but there is no evidence that the owner was negligent at any point.
  • If the person injured was trespassing.
  • If the dog was provoked or assaulted.
  • If the dog was trying to protect itself or its puppies. 
Aftermath of Dog Bite on Child
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My dog bit a child. Now what?

If your dog has recently bitten a child, make sure that you notify your insurance company if you have homeowner or renters insurance. Regardless if you have an insurance policy or not, you should contact a dog bite attorney as soon as possible. They will help you understand your legal options.

Are there criminal penalties?

Yes, there are criminal penalties for dog owners that are found guilty. Depending on the severity of the injuries suffered by the victim, the penalties can be more serious. Normally, the dog owner will have to pay for the medical expenses the victim incurred. In addition, they may face fines up to $1,500 and up to 90 days in prison. Finally, the judge may also order euthanasia.

Dog bites can become a serious legal issue. If you have recently been involved in a dog bite incident, contact a lawyer who specialized in cases like these. At Greenberg & Stein P.C., our attorneys have worked with dog bites victims and have helped them recover compensation for their injuries. If you wish to schedule a free consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers, call us at 212-716-4324.

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