This blog is the first of a two-part blog series addressing typical questions posed to the Oklahoma personal injury attorney at the Hedrick Law Firm. The average person typically views dog bites and attacks as rare occurrences that result in minor injuries. Our Oklahoma personal injury attorney recognizes that canine attacks all too frequently cause disfiguring injuries, especially among young children. Because dog bites often result in severe physical injury, families can struggle with significant financial hardships that might include loss of income, costly medical bills, counseling expenses, and other expenses.
Do I Need to Seek Medical Treatment if I am Bitten by a Dog?
The short answer: YES. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that over 4.5 million people suffer dog bite injuries every year in the United States. Of those injuries, 1 in 5 bites will become infected, which can lead to serious illness or even death. For deep wounds, the CDC recommends you seek medical treatment immediately, calling 911 if you are unable to stop the bleeding. Even if the wound is minor, however, you should seek medical treatment immediately if it begins to look infected, or if the dog was aggressive.
In addition to the risk of infection, those with severe injuries should seek medical treatment immediately, as many dog bites require reconstructive surgery. In fact, during a recent one-year period, 27,000 people in the U.S. were forced to undergo reconstructive surgery because of a dog bite or attack.
Other Than Seeking Medical Treatment, What Else Should I Do If I am Bitten?
Once you have taken care of your health, your next call should be to the authorities, either the police or animal control, to report the dog bite. This is especially the case if you are not familiar with the dog and have no knowledge of its vaccine history.
You should also collect the name and any contact information of the dog owner, as well as contact information of any witnesses of the attack, or of persons with knowledge of the dog.
Finally, take pictures of your injuries and clothing. It is important to document all stages of your injury and recovery.
Are dog owners liable for the injuries their dogs inflict?
Oklahoma dog bite law differentiates the type and degree of proof necessary to hold the owner of the dog liable for your injuries based on the dog’s location. The legal community often refers to this as City Dogs vs. Country Dogs. And no, country dogs don’t wear cowboy boots and hats. Instead, the question is whether the dog – or more accurately the property on which the dog is situated – is located in a rural area.
If not, the owner of the dog is generally liable to the victim, but under Oklahoma dog bite law, the victim will still have to prove he/she was bitten and injured by the dog, the victim did not provoke the dog, and the victim was lawfully on the dog owner’s premises when the dog bite occurred. And though the question of ownership is not often contested, the victim will have to prove the identity of the owner. This issue occurs most often where the dog is able to escape its yard or enclosure, and the dog bite or attack occurs off the dog owner’s property.
If the dog is located in a rural area, Oklahoma’s strict liability law discussed above does not apply, but the dog owner may still be liable for the injuries caused by its dog. In such a case, the victim will have to prove his/her case of liability. While some states impose what is known as the “one bite” rule, under Oklahoma dog bite laws, the victim does not have to prove a dog’s “bite” history. Rather, Oklahoma dog bite laws impose liability on a dog owner who knows or should have known that his or her dog had dangerous or vicious propensities or tendencies, and who failed to exercise appropriate precautions.
If the dog has not previously physically attacked, mauled, or bitten a person, a careful investigation and artful advocacy often will be needed to prove the dog owner had the requisite knowledge of the dog’s vicious tendencies.
Evidence that we might use to establish the liability of the owner could include some or all of the following:
- Tendency to lunge, attack, threaten, or bark at people
- Prior complaints about the dog
- Dog’s breed
- Prior fight training
- Muzzling of dog
- Growling and snarling at people approaching the dog
- Displaying aggressive behavior toward other animals
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog bite or attack, please contact the Hedrick Law Firm to analyze your situation and determine the appropriate strategy we should take in your case. At the Hedrick Law Firm, we are here to help you. Contact our office today at 405-361-7844 to schedule your free consultation, so we can answer any questions you may have regarding your case.