With Halloween right around the corner, people throughout Southwest Florida are working on their kid's costumes, stocking up on candy and making plans to enjoy trick-or-treating in their neighborhoods. But, Halloween is also a time when people, particularly younger children, can become the victim of a dog that bites them.
Dog bite injuries can happen anywhere at any time, but there are several things that make Halloween night one of the most potentially dangerous when it comes to being attacked by a dog. It's easy to understand that a usually well-behaved dog can be scared by the doorbell ringing and people yelling trick or treat, along with the startling, loud noises from fireworks. You may have the gentlest dog in the world, but you never know when the sight or scent of a group of strangers, especially in costume, could agitate them to the point of charging and attacking someone.
Halloween night can be a hectic time, dealing with kids who are looking forward to getting out in the neighborhood to collect some candy. A door or gate to a yard can easily be left open by mistake, allowing a dog to escape and take off. If you're a homeowner and your dog gets loose and bites someone, you can be held legally liable for their injuries. And if you're the victim of a dog attack that results in serious injuries, it will become the scariest Halloween ever. It's important to always keep your pet secured in your home, even if you need to keep it in a separate room until the kids stop coming to your door.
If you're taking your kids out trick-or-treating on Halloween night, here are some steps you should take to reduce your risk of being bitten by an aggressive dog:
- First, it's a good idea to talk with your kids – especially if they are younger – about what to do and not do regarding safe trick-or-treating. Explain the rules about staying in a group and not darting ahead alone, not walking in the middle of the road and other safety precautions.
- Always keep your kids within sight. If you know a certain house has a dog living there, use extra caution when you go up to the door.
- Teach your kids to never approach a strange dog, especially on their own. You may think a dog looks like the friendliest pooch in the world, but even gentle dogs can be provoked to bite. Keep your distance.
- Never approach a stray or a group of dogs you may encounter on your Halloween rounds. Dogs that wander around at night can be among the most dangerous and aggressive when encountered by strangers. You're much better off calling 911 or your local animal control department to report loose or stray dogs.
- If you do encounter an aggressive dog acting in a defensive manner, try not to make eye contact. It's best to remain still and calm, avoiding direct eye contact but still keeping the dog within your field of vision to make sure it isn't chasing or lunging at you.
Florida #2 in the Country for Dog Bites
In 2017, there were 1,345 reported dog bite attacks in Florida, with an average cost per claim of $44,700. This is the highest cost per claim in the country. A recent report produced by the insurance industry's Claims Journal notes the average cost per claim in the United States increased by 11.5% from 2016, due to the severity of the injuries caused by the dog bites, increased medical costs and the increased amounts awarded to plaintiffs in jury awards, settlements and judgments.
Southwest Florida dog bite injury lawyer Sheba Abraham, a Partner with the law firm of Goldberg Noone Abraham, points out that being bitten by a dog can not only result in serious injuries, but also leave a traumatic scar on a victim's emotional well-being.
“In some cases we've had in our firm, there can be physical scarring that may never go away,” she points out. “This serves as a constant reminder to the victim of what happened, so it really never goes away, even if the injuries are technically gone.” A dog bite victim also may have been a true animal lover who was never previously afraid of dogs prior to being bitten, but now lives in fear every time they encounter a dog.
“It can lead to never trusting a dog again, or for that matter, a dog's owner again, particularly if they have been bitten by a dog whose owner had stated that “their dog never bites”, says Abraham.
What Should I Do if I've Been Bitten by a Dog?
The first thing you should always do after any type of injury, including a dog bite, is determine the extent of your injuries. Seeking immediate medical attention is critical – particularly if your injuries are serious enough that you may be considering legal action. You'll need to accurately keep track of your medical treatment to effectively file an insurance claim.
Calling 911 is also an important step after being bitten by a dog. Even if you do not feel that you have suffered a serious injury, calling 911 and obtaining a written police report of the incident will be very helpful later, should you decide to take action against the dog's owner. This report will contain important details, like the name and contact information of the dog's owner, their insurance information, a written account of what happened and your injuries and other pertinent details.
It's also a good idea to try to get statements from any witnesses that may have seen what happened. Be sure to get their names and contact information, in case your attorney needs to reach them for a deposition or a recorded statement. You should also take photos of your injuries, assuming you are too injured to do that. If so, ask someone with you to take some for you.
If you have been the victim of a dog bite, you will likely have serious medical bills that will need to be paid. Hiring a personal injury law firm that is experienced in dog bite injury cases can help you receive fair financial compensation for things like your pain and suffering, lost wages if you're unable to go to work, physical rehabilitation and continued medical care, and more.
Do I Need an Attorney After a Dog Bite?
The simple answer is, maybe. It depends on the severity of your injuries, and if you don't know how all of the bills incurred will be paid.
The good news is you'll never have to wonder after making one call to Goldberg Noone Abraham. We don't charge a thing to speak to you about your case, and give you our honest opinion as to whether we feel you may have a legal case or not. And, just as in a car, motorcycle or other type of vehicular crash, you'll never pay us anything at all out of your pocket. We earn our fees based on a percentage of what we are able to recover on your behalf.
If you do end up hiring our law firm, we'll negotiate with the insurance carrier of the dog owner's homeowners coverage. It's never a good idea to make any kind of recorded statement with the insurance company – that's what we're here for. What you say, or don't say, may adversely affect any reasonable settlement that may be rightfully yours.
Don't let an unfortunate incident take a bite out of your Halloween fun. Take precautions to stay safe, and enjoy a fun trick-or-treat night out with your family.
If you ever have any type of legal question about any topic, please give us a call at 239-461-5508, or fill out this form and we'll contact you right away.