Millions of people are bitten by animals every year. Although most animal bites simply involve nips that don't even break the skin, some result in serious injury that involves loss of work and substantial medical costs. Following are three things that the average person needs to know about animal bites and the law.
Dogs Aren't the Only Culprits
Animal bite lawsuits are primarily associated with dogs. After all, canines are responsible for about 4.7 million bites each year, while their feline friends are only responsible for about 10% of all animal bites. However, a cat bite may be far more dangerous than a dog bite. The reason for that isn't that their mouths contain more bacteria, but rather that they've got sharp little fangs designed to do a maximum amount of damage to their prey. Cats have tiny teeth that sink deep into the flesh and can cause serious injury if the attack is in the area of a tendon or a joint. According to the Mayo Clinic, one in three people who've experienced cat bites have to be admitted to the hospital for treatment, and as much of two-thirds of these victims required surgery as a result of the bite.
Always seek medical treatment immediately anytime an animal bite breaks the skin, and be on the lookout for swelling and inflamed skin -- these conditions could signal infection.
Other animals that may bite humans include horses, ferrets, cattle, snakes, and even supposedly mild-mannered creatures such as rabbits and hamsters.
Dogs Usually Bite People They Know
Nonetheless, dog bites make up the bulk of the personal injury lawsuits involving animal bites, and more often than not, the dog belongs to someone the victim knows. This isn't because dogs are more prone to bite you just because they know you -- they just don't have the same opportunities to bite strangers these days. Unfortunately, many of these incidents involve family pets, and children are far more likely to be the recipients of dog bites than adults.
Because children tend to move quickly and to speak in high-pitched tones, they often activate the dog's prey drive. They are also more likely to engage in behavior such as pulling the dog's ears or tail. If you've got a dog at home, avoid allowing boisterous children to play with the animal unsupervised, and teach your own children how to treat animals as well as how to act around them. Be mindful of situations where your child may play at the homes of friends or relatives -- let them know your wishes against your child being left unsupervised with the dog. If necessary, explain that your child won't be visiting without you until he or she is much older.
Dogs bite adults for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, the animal is ill or injured and snapping out at anyone close at hand, or it may feel as if it is protecting its owner or his property. For that reason, avoid making sudden moves around dogs or acting in a threatening manner, even if it's all in fun. Dogs sometimes misinterpret roughhousing as actual fighting and respond with aggression.
Animal Bite Laws Vary By State
Dog bite laws aren't the same in every state. Some states have a one-free-bite statute that allows, as its name implies, every dog to have a free bite. However, this doesn't mean you can't file a personal injury suit against the owner of the dog, particularly if you've faced financial losses as a result of the bite. In more than half of the states, strict liability laws exist stating that owners are basically liable for any and all damages caused by their furry friends.
12 June 2017