I’ve been attacked by a dog. What should I do?
If you, your child, or someone in your family has been attacked, you should call the police and seek medical treatment immediately. Even small bites can cause very, very serious infections. The police (or animal control) will document the attack and confirm that the animal has been properly vaccinated and/or quarantined. You should also document everything that happens. Take a variety of pictures of the wound with a high quality camera. Continue to carefully document the wound over time. I always encourage people to retain an experienced dog bite attorney early in the process to help deal with the investigation, the dog owners, and their insurance company.
Have you ever had a client with a severe infection caused by a dog bite?
Over the years, I’ve handled hundreds of dog bite cases and thankfully only a few have had severe infections. A young man I represented was a contractor working in a woman’s house. As he knelt down to adjust a furnace valve, the home owner’s small terrier nipped him right between the thumb and index finger. The bite caused only a little blood from two small but deep puncture wounds. The guy did not think anything of it and did not want to go to the doctor because he did not have health insurance. About three days later, a severe infection developed, he became delirious, and was lucky to make it to the hospital. He nearly lost his hand. The lesson here is simple: if you are bitten, go to the doctor.
How do I choose the best attorney for my case?
There are a lot of good lawyers in Minnesota but, like any professional, you need to find someone who is a good fit for your case. Lawyers have areas of the law they focus on just as doctors have a specialty. You want a lawyer who does mainly or exclusively personal injury work and has a track record of success in dog attack cases.
Almost as important, you need to trust your lawyer and the lawyer has to respect you. If I do not really believe in the case and believe that I can help, I don’t take the case. Be careful of the lawyer who is desperate to take any case or makes outlandish promises.
I try to have potential clients talk to some of my prior clients. Hearing about what we can do from them is often more powerful than anything I could say.
One last point: some lawyers have only handled cases where the injury is a dog bite. Often, there are other injuries. For example, I extensively litigated a case where one dog was playing with another and bumped into my client. She suffered a significant hip dislocation and ultimately needed a hip replacement. The owner’s insurance company refused to accept responsibility because the animal did not “attack” my client. We successfully brought a motion to the judge which forced the insurance company to resolve the case.
What can you do for someone who is attacked?
Because of my experience with dog cases, I know how to maximize recovery at each stage of the process. We typically launch an exhaustive investigation of the dog’s history and the animal’s owners. We establish an insurance claim with the owner’s insurance company. We document the injury carefully and make sure our clients get the medical treatment they need. At the end of the case, we use our knowledge of how insurance companies and juries look at scarring to maximize value. In short, we guide our clients to the best possible outcomes.
What is a typical case like?
No two cases are the same but most of the cases I’ve handled involve children. For example, a recent case I worked on involved a small child attacked by a German shepherd. The case hit me really hard because the child was attacked while walking with his father on a sidewalk, two doors down from their house. The animal bit the child in the face and left a bad scar; but the psychological impact on the boy was just as painful. He was scared to leave his house for a time and insisted on covering his face for pictures. One thing I learned from that case was not to underestimate the psychological impact these attacks can have on kids.