Dogs rank number one as the preferred choice of home pets and have endeared themselves as “man’s best friend.” They bring joy and protection to many a home, and they somehow have the grace to make a house a home.
However, as much as we love our furry companions, it’s important to remember that they are indeed still animals. No matter how domesticated, they are still led by their natural instinct and a need to defend their territory. They are territorial by nature, and when threatened, many dogs won’t hesitate to snap at you if you don’t respond to their warning signs. This, unfortunately, can lead to serious injury.
Dogs are a common sight, and you likely know someone who has one. According to a UK population survey, it is estimated that a staggering 25% of people will suffer at least one dog bite in their lives.
This guide aims to explain what to do after a dog bite, whether it is yourself, a friend, your child or anyone else that has been bitten by a dog.
When should you seek medical attention after a dog bite?
Serious animal bites can get infected if they are not examined and treated quickly. If the dog bite leaves an open wound, you should always seek medical assistance. Dogs’ mouths (well, any mouth for that matter) are a breeding ground for bacteria. After cleaning up the wound, seek medical help immediately, and don’t wait for signs of infection to appear.
If the dog bite is minor, it can usually be cared for at your local GP or treatment centre. However, you will have to go to the hospital for more severe dog bites.
Your doctor or nurse will take care of the wound to ensure an infection doesn’t set it, which includes:
- Clean the bite injury and, if needed, remove any tissue that is damaged.
- Prescribe antibiotics to combat an infection or prevent one from occurring. In other cases, they might recommend more precise treatment to avoid tetanus if you are considered at high risk.
- Stitch up the wound if you are at low risk of tetanus. However, if the bite is considered high risk, keeping the wound open for further treatment may be beneficial.
- Conduct a blood test to determine further infection. They might also request an x-ray to determine if there is any additional damage to bones or if anything, like a tooth, embedded itself into the opened wound.
- Refer you to a specialist should the dog bite have caused other, more severe damage, like puncturing a nerve.
What are the signs that a dog bite might be infected?
Thankfully, there are warning signs that you can keep an eye out for before things get messy. The following signs would help indicate if the dog bite is indeed infected:
- Swelling and redness surrounding the bite
- The wound becomes hot and progressively more painful
- You experience sweats, chills, or a fever
- Swollen glands in the armpit, neck or groin
- Read streaks that stretch out and upward from the injury
- If liquid or pus builds up from or around the injury.
If you are experiencing some or all of these symptoms in the days after a dog bite, seek immediate medical attention straight away.
Do I need a tetanus shot after a dog bite?
Serious infections like tetanus and rabies are quite rare in the UK, but again, it does happen. It is essential to get serious bites looked at to prevent these infections in the first place.
Technically speaking, you don’t need a tetanus shot for every bite. In the UK, tetanus vaccinations are administered to children as part of the childhood vaccination program. If you’ve had the full course, then you’re in luck, as it will likely be sufficient to provide some immunity against tetanus.
However, if you or your child has an open wound from a dog bite, you will require medical assistance. Don’t follow a DIY clean it under a tap approach. In this case, a medical professional will assess how long ago you last had the vaccination. If it is more than five years since your vaccination, the doctor may advise a booster injection to err on the side of caution and minimise the risk of tetanus.
How and when to report a dog bite?
Certain dog breeds are illegal in the UK. According to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, these breeds include Pit Bulls, Fila Brasileiro, Japanese Tosa, and the Dogo Argentino.
If you are bitten by one of these dogs or a cross-breed of these dogs, then the owner broke the law and should be reported to the authorities. In most situations, it will result in the dog being confiscated from the owner and possibly euthanised, so it no longer poses a threat to the public.
Even if the dog is not a breed included under the Dangerous Dogs Act, it may still be removed from the owner and put down if it is considered a danger to the public. To report a dog bite, call 999 as soon as you safely can. They will have the facilities to remove the dog without further injuries to the dog, and hopefully, anybody else.
Can I make a dog bite compensation claim?
Dog bites do unfortunately happen, and the injuries can be severe – even fatal in some cases. The injury from dog bites could be painful and debilitating for quite a while, so you might need some time off work or school, and adjust your daily routine.
While personal injury compensation may not necessarily restore your mobility, it will go a long way to restore your dignity and your pocket for related financial expenses, such as lost wages and treatment costs.
Before you make a dog bite compensation claim, it is important to remember the following:
What is considered a dog bite?
It may sound obvious, but whenever a dog snaps its jaws around your leg, hand or any other part of your body, it would be deemed a dog bite. However, a dog attack that doesn’t involve a bite can still cause significant personal injury that may entitle you to make a claim.
Who can I claim against?
The dog owner can usually be held liable if their dog bites or attacks somebody. As the owner, they are ultimately responsible for keeping their dog under control and not a danger to others. Any neglect on the owner’s part will thus be reasonable justification to make a compensation claim.
If the dog owner is unknown and can’t be located, it may be possible to claim compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). You will need to ensure the dog bite has been reported to the police to go down this route.
How much can I claim?
As with all personal injury claims, the amount of compensation you can claim depends on the severity of your injuries. Hand injuries are the most common as victims try to fend off the attack, and you may be eligible for up to £4,500 for a minor hand injury. The loss or partial loss of a finger could result in compensation of up to £7,400. For a severe hand injury resulting in permanent damage, you could receive up to £58,000.
The above figures represent general damages, which is compensation for the pain and suffering caused by the injury. Any financial losses, such as lost wages and treatment costs, would be added on top of these figures.
How long do I have to make a claim?
If you want to make a dog bite claim, you should ideally get the process started as soon as possible. If you are claiming against the dog owner, you will have three years from the date of the attack to make a claim.
If the dog owner is unknown and you are claiming through the CICA, the time limit is reduced to two years from the date of the dog bite.
While 2-3 years may seem like a long time, it is in your best interest to at least speak to a personal injury solicitor as soon as possible. Not only will the memories of the event still be fresh, gathering vital evidence to support your injury claim will usually be easier closer to when the incident took place.
What evidence will I need to make a dog bite claim?
Before starting a claim, you should try to gather as much evidence as you can, as soon as possible. Depending on the situation and the type of injury you’ve suffered, this could include medical records, CCTV footage of the incident, and photos of your injury. Witness statements can also go a long way to bolster your claim, so collecting the contact details of anybody who witnessed the dog attack can help.
If your injury resulted in time off work, you could also provide proof of this in the form of wage slips and bank statements. It would also help to keep receipts for any other related expenses, such as medication, treatment or transport costs to medical appointments.
Armed with this evidence, a personal injury solicitor will be able to fight your case and ensure you receive the maximum amount of compensation that you are entitled to receive for your injuries and financial losses.
Don’t worry if you don’t have all of this information to hand, as your solicitor will help gather this evidence for you.
Contact a personal injury solicitor
The first step in any personal injury claim is to speak to a trained legal adviser, who will assess the validity of your case during a free initial consultation. You can do this by calling 0800 678 1410 or requesting a call back.
If you have a valid dog bite claim, they will connect you with a personal injury solicitor, who will talk you through the details of the attack and how to proceed. If they believe you have a strong case based on the information and evidence provided, they will work diligently to get you the compensation you are rightly entitled to.
As part of the process, your solicitor will likely arrange for an independent medical assessment to be carried out by an expert medical professional. This will assess the extent of your injury and how it has affected your daily life, which will be used to determine how much compensation you should receive.
Take the bite out of dog attacks
We love and adore our dogs, but it is wise to remember that any animal has the potential to snap. Animals can sometimes act unpredictably, and bites can occur even without provocation. Dog bites can carry a risk of serious injury, infection, trauma, and stress. While compensation may not undo the incident, it could at least offer some peace of mind.
If you or a loved one has been affected by a dog bite or attack and would like to discuss the possibility of making a claim, call free on 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation. Alternatively, please enter your details into our online claim form, and a legal adviser will be in touch shortly.