According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 73 people in the United States are attacked and bitten by a dog each year. Have you or a family member been attacked by a dog belonging to your friend, family member, or a neighbor? If you’ve been bitten, you need to arm yourself with knowledge of how the laws of West Virginia view dog bites, the actual dangers you may face, and how to protect your rights moving forward.
What to Do If a Dog Bite Breaks the Skin
-Seek Immediate Medical Attention
-Record All Relevant Details Possible (Date, Time, Location, Witness Contact Info, Vaccination Records, etc.)
-Document Injuries & Treatment (Take Pictures, Save Bills, Receipts, etc.)
-Report the Dog Bite to the Proper Local Authorities
-Do Not Provide a Statement to Any Insurance Company (Including Your Own)
-Do Not Discuss the Incident With Anyone Except Your Attorney
-If You Haven’t Contacted an Attorney Yet, Call Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law Immediately: (304) 292-4381
Zoonotic Infection and Disease
Any dog bite that penetrates the skin, no matter how minor, is capable of transmitting serious zoonotic (transmissible from animal to human) infection and disease. These infections can include those caused by a wide range of pathogens. A dog bite can result in anything from an annoying rash such as ringworm to life-threatening bacterium. Dogs are known to serve as reservoirs for harmful intestinal parasites like ringworm and roundworm, visceral larva migrans and parasites responsible for creeping parasitic eruptions. No matter how clean or well cared for the dog is, its mouth will commonly harbor pathogens including those that can cause salmonellosis, brucellosis, campylobacteriosis, leptospirosis, Q fever, cryptosporidiosis, echinococcosis, Escherichia coli, and other harmful agents.
Symptoms to Watch Out For
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know you have become infected with a dangerous pathogen until it is too late for medical treatment to be effective. There may be no observable symptoms present. In some cases, dog bite victims may experience significant life-long complications from these infections – or even death. This is especially true with infections and diseases involving certain pathogens including the following:
Pasteurella multocida and Pasteurella canis – These bacteria live in the mouths of many dogs and cause cellulitis infections. Within 24 hours, a bite infected with this bacteria becomes red, swollen, and tender. Untreated, it can lead to blood, eye, urinary tract, and lung infections such as pneumonia, as well as meningitis and serious infections of the bones, joints, and tendons.
Staphylococcus and Streptococcus – Many forms of these bacteria exist in the mouths of dogs. They can cause a wide range of potentially serious infections throughout the body, including the deadly antibiotic resistant MRSA infection. Initial symptoms may resemble cellulitis infection (see above), as well as fever, swollen joints, and pus-filled blisters.
Capnocytophaga canimorsus – Despite its relative rarity, a bite infected with this bacteria may spread into the bloodstream with fatal consequence. Initial flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, vomiting, etc.) can rapidly develop into sepsis, a severe, life-threatening condition.
Remember, ALL dog bites require immediate emergency medical attention. There may be no signs of infection until it is too late to initiate effective treatment.
The Deadliest Virus Known to Mankind
If the thought of worms living inside your body isn’t enough to persuade you to seek prompt medical treatment, the possibility that the bite transmitted rabies into your bloodstream should. The virus that causes rabies rapidly infects the central nervous system and brain. There is no cure for rabies once it reaches the stage of active infection. Once rabies infection is established, it always leads to a horrifyingly painful and torturous death.
Rabies is so highly contagious that it has been transmitted by bat bites and scratches that people received during the night while sleeping. The skin damage was so minor that they never even realized they had encountered a bat (or been infected with rabies) until it was far too late.
Early rabies symptoms to watch for include:
-Partial Body Paralysis
-Fear of Water
As the disease progresses, these symptoms become more severe, with death occurring within days.
Prophylactic Treatment Available, But Costly
With prompt medical treatment, the development of a full-blown case of fatal rabies can often be avoided. Unfortunately, the preventive treatment protocol involves a series of injections of rabies immune globulin. These injections can be extremely painful. They are also quite costly. In 2017, the average cost for just 10ml of Sanofi Pasteur’s rabies immune globulin was $3,612. If infected, you will likely require multiple injections with each treatment – and several treatments. This amount does not include any other required medical services. It is not something you will want to endure “just in case.”
Report the Bite
If you have been bitten, you should report the bite to your local animal control official or health department immediately so that the dog can be detained for observation. This will help determine whether or not you should receive treatment to prevent a fatal rabies infection.
The owner of the dog is responsible to pay for all medical expenses and losses you incur as a result of their dog’s actions. Unfortunately, this does not allow adequate time for you to make a claim on the dog owner’s insurance policy.
Paying for Emergency Care After a Dog Bite
You could ask the dog owner to accompany you to the hospital and pay the bill (this is rare). Most dog bite victims choose to use their own health insurance. If you do not have health insurance, you may have no other option than to seek care at the nearest emergency room. You will be billed for this service later. No matter which method you choose, a dog owner who is found legally liable can be held responsible for paying the bill for emergency medical treatment, as well as all other medically necessary bills related to the at-fault dog bite you suffered – but you must file a timely claim.
What Happens If I Don’t Want to File a Claim?
You should be aware that your health insurance is unlikely to pay claims that indicate payment by any other source or insurance. If you fail to hold an at-fault dog owner legally responsible, you may be held personally responsible to cover the costs of your own medical treatment now and in the future. This may include medical treatment for your existing injuries, as well as any medical condition or disease related to the bite that may develop in the future. Many serious pathogenic diseases can take months or years to become evident.
Help! I Do Not Want to Sue My Friend, Neighbor, or Family Member!
If you have been bitten by a dog belonging to someone you know, the temptation to dismiss the bite as inconsequential can be overwhelming, especially if the bite barely broke the skin and didn’t result in significant pain, mental anguish, or financial loss. This is the worst possible mistake you can make in this situation!
Dog Owner Responsibility
While you may think it is unfair to hold the dog’s owner accountable, it is not. If the dog was unleashed and running at large off of the owner’s property or had a history of prior attacks/aggression, the dog’s owner is responsible. Period. If the bite happened on the owner’s property, the situation can become a little more complicated, but that does not necessarily mean the owner is not responsible.
Unfair for the Victim to Assume Responsibility
What would truly be unfair is for you – the victim of the dog bite – to intentionally make yourself responsible for someone else’s liability. Don’t do that. Medical expenses from seriously infected dog bites can rapidly and unexpectedly approach six or seven figures. If you are unsure of what to do, contact Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law immediately.
We Handle Claims Involving Personal Relationships With the Utmost Discretion
You should understand that in most cases, the dog’s owner will not be involved in any claim negotiations. Your attorney will discuss your losses with the dog owner’s insurance company to reach a compensation amount that takes your losses into account in a manner that is fair and in full compliance with the law.
At Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law, we are committed to protecting our clients’ rights. When claims involve friends, family members, and neighbors, you can be confident that we will take measures to handle these matters with the utmost discretion and professionalism. We avoid straining your important relationships whenever possible.
Contact Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law
West Virginia’s Most Trusted Law Firm
Since 1952, Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law has been West Virginia’s most trusted law firm. If you or a loved one have been bitten by an out-of-control dog in West Virginia, it is very important that you take the proper steps to protect your rights. Seek professional legal counsel right away – even if the animal belongs to a friend, family member, or neighbor. Your time to file a claim for existing and future medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses related to the bite is limited by law.
Call Now! (304) 292-4381
No attorney fees are due unless we win your dog bite injury claim. Our phones are answered 24-hours a day for your convenience and if you are too injured to visit our office in Morgantown, one of our attorneys can arrange to come directly to your home or hospital bed anywhere in West Virginia. Contact Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law today for your complimentary initial legal consultation: (304) 292-4381.