Robert Mazow and Kevin McCullough of the law firm Mazow-McCullough, a personal injury law firm with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire discuss what to do if you get bit by a dog.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Robert Mazow and Kevin McCullough of the law firm of Mazow McCullough, a personal injury law firm with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Robert and Kevin have a great deal of experience as dog bite attorneys, and today we’re talking about what to do if you get bit by a dog. Robert and Kevin, welcome.
Robert Mazow: Thanks John.
Kevin McCullough: Thank you, John.
John: So Rob, what should I do if I’m bit by a dog or maybe a family member is spit by a dog?
What If You Are Bitten By a Dog? First Steps: Get Medical Care
Robert: Well, John, it depends on the severity of the bite. The first thing you’re going to want to do is make sure that the wound is clean. You’re going want to get yourself obviously soap and water. Stop any bleeding with a clean cloth. If you have antibiotic cream, get that right on it and wrap the wound. Certainly if it’s something very severe, you’re going to want to get to the emergency room. Call your doctor. You want to make sure that you’re not getting infected. Lots of times we see infections come out of these dog bites because obviously the dog’s mouth is not necessarily clean. And if the wound hasn’t been cleaned properly, you’re going to get an infection. And that’s when things can get really bad.
Also, if it’s going to require stitches or some sort of a closure, you’re going to need to get to a doctor or an emergency room to make sure that that wound gets properly cleaned out and that the stitches are put in properly so that any wound that’s likely going to be permanent will at least have a cleaner look to it and won’t be raised and the skin won’t be as deformed as what might otherwise happen. So first and foremost, get that clean. And then the next step is going to be finding out what the history of that dog is to make sure that you don’t need to get anything more significant as far as medical treatment.
John: Right. So Kevin, maybe you can talk about that a little bit more. Aside from getting the medical care, what else should I do if I’m bit by a dog?
Gathering Information After Dog Bite
Kevin: Yeah. If you are the unfortunate victim of being bit or attacked by a dog or family member of yours has been bit or attacked by a dog, first and foremost, you want to gather as much information as you can concerning the dog and the dog owner or the handler of the dog at the time of the incident. And that may include getting some information from the dog collar if possible, recalling or getting a description of the color of the dog or the breed of the dog. If you’re able to take notes or write notes, regarding the dog owner and getting their name, address, contact information, all of those things you may be the last thing from your mind if you’re worried about a bite or a wound and keeping it clean or stopping the bleeding, things like that. But it is so important to gather that information concerning the dog and the dog owner.
You also want to be mindful of or aware of any witnesses to the incident. If there are people around you that may have seen what happened or how it happened, gather their name, phone number, address, email information, and again, depending on the severity of the incident, you may not be able to do all of that. So gather as much information as you can and also contact the police. Whether or not an incident is worthy of police involvement, let the police make that decision. I would certainly suggest in a dog bite event or incident to contact the police so that animal control can get involved. They may help with the information that I just mentioned as far as getting information on the dog and the dog owner or witnesses. But if at all possible, get the police involved.
And once you have the ability and you’re removed from the scene, some of the additional things to do beyond the medical care and the medical treatment, take photographs of the wound, document that wound and how it heals. Take pictures over time to show the healing process. A year or two years later when you may be presenting an injury claim, you’re going to want that documentation to be able to show an insurance adjuster or a lawyer or the dog owner the severity of that wound, how long it took to heal or get better or to close over time. I would also suggest, and we advise our clients if you’re comfortable doing it, keep a journal. Describe how you feel on a particular day, a pain level, something that you may not have been able to do, some events that you may not have been able to attend to because of the wound or the injury.
Keep track of any lost wages or missed time from work. Again, depending on the severity of the event. There’s so much that can be done beyond the medical treatment to document the event, to document the injury, and to document the progression or the injury getting better that are so important and become important once the healing is over and you’re trying to present all of this information and everything that you’ve gone through to the dog owner or the insurance company for the dog.
Robert: Right. And Kevin, you mentioned at the beginning there one issue that could be a question for people, which is that you should get the information of who the dog owner is, who the handler is, and those could be different. So, say maybe it’s a dog walker or just a neighbor of the dog owner who’s taking that dog for a walk or is taking care of that dog while that owner is away. Why is it important to make sure that you know who the owner was and who was actually handling that dog at the time of the incident?
Kevin: Great distinction there, John. Because the law in Massachusetts allows a dog bite victim to pursue a dog owner or the dog keeper, whoever was controlling that dog at the time of the event. And oftentimes that the keeper of the dog or the person that had the dog at the time of the event may not be the owner. So it is extremely important to find out who was in control of the dog at the time, and if it’s not the dog owner, to still gather that person’s information. You may have someone saying, “It’s not my dog, here’s all the owner’s information,” and not want to offer any information about who they are. But you still want to gather the information of who had the dog at the time because that would be the person responsible for the actions of the dog at the time of an event. So to be able to capture that information and pursue that person.
We all love our animals and if we go away on vacation, we may have an arrangement with a friend or family member or a professional dog walking service to make sure that the dog gets out and is able to get fresh air and walk. So it is something that happens, and it happens routinely where an event takes place or someone is bit and the person with the dog may not be the owner. So it’s a very good question. It’s a very good distinction to gather the information for both the dog owner and also the person that was in control of the dog at the time of an event or a bite.
When Should You Contact an Attorney About a Dog Bite?
John: Okay, and Rob, when during this whole process, should I consider contacting an attorney about a dog bite?
Robert: So much of it depends upon the severity of the bite. We tend to think you don’t know necessarily when you’re first bit how severe the dog bite might be. This could heal in a bad way. It could become infected, something more could result from this. So even if you have no intention necessarily to make an insurance claim or make a claim for damages against the dog owner or the dog keeper, there’s no harm in contacting their attorney. Certainly in an office like ours, it doesn’t cost anything because we work on a contingency fee. It’s just basically we would only get a recovery of a fee if we got a recovery of the damages for the victim.
It does not hurt to contact an attorney just to go through some questions, just to go through some issues you might have, to talk about documenting, to talk about medical records, to talk about medical bills, to talk about what the person might be entitled to recover for. So anytime shortly after that you get bit and once you’re making sure that you’ve got the proper medical treatment, no harm in contacting an attorney just to go through some questions if there are any.
John: Right. And Kevin, before you talked a little bit about documenting all of the aspects of what happened at the dog bite and incident, talking to the witnesses, getting their information and also documenting a little bit about the wound and how it heals. Can you talk a little bit more about that and how you should go about documenting the effects of your injuries in a dog bite case?
Kevin: Yeah, certainly, John. The dog bite victims and wounds that are a result from a dog bite, everyone is different, depending on the type of dog, the size or age of the victim, what area of the body was bitten, all of those things impact the recovery and the healing process. So if someone’s bit on the hand, how they can move or manipulate their hand for the next year or 18 months will be affected and will be impacted. And maybe they’re bit on the leg and how they’re able to walk or stand or sleep. Those are the types of things that are extremely important to document how the injury and the effect of the injury, how it impacts you on a day to day basis.
Someone who is a physical laborer versus someone who has a desk job, how they heal following a dog bite injury, a dog attack, are going to be completely different, and it’s important to have all of that documented for each specific injury in each specific case. I mentioned a few moments ago keeping a journal, and I think that’s a critical piece because when someone’s living through the recovery or going through the recovery process from a dog attack, they’re going through a difficult time and a difficult situation, and they’re fighting through that and struggling through that. But if they don’t document things and write all of that down as far as how they’re feeling, what they’re able to do, it’s hard to capture that a year or two later when you’re trying to explain to someone what you actually went through and how it affected you.
So however old you are when you’re bit, whatever part of your body gets bit, keep a journal, document what’s going on for you on a daily basis, how it affects you, the things that you’re able to do, the things that you’re not able to do, the things that you might be able to do slightly, but maybe alter how you do it. Those are extremely important when you’re trying to settle a case or evaluate a case or put a settlement range on a particular case to have everything documented, to be able to present it, and to be able to prove it. And having a journal allows you to immediately say, “This is what I went through, this is what my day to day actions were and what my life was like, and it wasn’t fun.”
John: Right. That’s really great advice. Kevin and Rob, thanks again for speaking with me today.
Robert: Thanks, John.
Kevin: Thank you, John.
John: And for more information on dog bite cases or other personal injury cases, visit the firm’s website at helpinginjured.com or call (855) 693-9084.