After a dog bite, your immediate concern will likely be cleaning any open wounds to reduce the risk of infection. However, it's also important to pay close attention to signs of nerve damage. If you experience nerve damage following a dog bite attack, you may be eligible to seek compensation from the animal’s owner.
Symptoms of Nerve Damage
Dogs are genetically carnivores and thus possess an exceptional amount of jaw strength. The largest breeds of dogs can have as much as 200 pounds of pressure per square inch when they bite. Because of this force, it's common for dog bite victims to suffer nerve damage when bitten in areas where nerves run near the surface of the skin, such as, the hands, neck, torso, thighs, or stomach. Signs of nerve damage include:
- Prickling or tingling sensation
- Partial or total paralysis of the affected area
Types of Dog Bite Nerve Damage
Axons are the long threadlike part of your body's nerve cells. Impulses are conducted along axons from the cell body to other cells. This process is similar to how electrical wires carry currents throughout your home to power your various appliances.
Dog bite victims with nerve damage will find that their condition is classified in one of three ways according to how axons are affected. The following is an overview:
- Neurapraxia. A physiologic block of nerve conduction within an axon that occurs without any anatomical interruption, neurapraxia is the least serious type of nerve damage. This type of damage is the result of a compression of a nerve, as opposed to a loss or severing. Most dog bite victims with neurapraxia will fully recover after a few months.
- Axonotmesis. When a damaged nerve is stretched and there is crushing force to the tissue, axonotmesis can result. This type of nerve damage involves interruption of the axon with partial or no interruption of the connective tissue and may result in paralysis. Victims will often recover from axonotmesis, but it may take weeks or even years for a full recovery. In adults, axons grow at a rate of about one inch per month. Children will regenerate axons more quickly, which often speeds the recovery process.
- Neurotmesis. Neurotmesis is the most severe form of nerve damage since it involves anatomic disruption of both the axon and connective tissue. Neurotmesis will likely result in permanent damage. However, some dog bite victims may recover partially if they seek early medical care and appropriate rehabilitation.
Doctors typically use a nerve conduction velocity test (NCV) to determine the severity of a patient's nerve damage. This test uses electrodes and tiny electrical currents to see how well your nerves are transmitting messages throughout the body.
Treatment for Nerve Damage
Treatment for nerve damage depends on the area of the body affected and the severity of the injury. Physical therapy and the use of pain relieving medications are the most common treatments. Neurotmesis may result in the need for surgical nerve repair.
Acupuncture, hypnosis, meditation, and biofeedback have also been shown to provide benefits for patients suffering from severe nerve damage. These alternative treatments can reduce pain and enhance the patient's overall quality of life.
Compensation for Nerve Damage Following a Dog Bite
If you've experienced nerve damage following a dog bite, you may be entitled to compensation from the owner of the animal. Your personal injury claim may include:
- Medical expenses
- Loss of wages, if your nerve damage prevented you from doing your job
- Future loss of earning potential, if you're not expected to recover fully and won't be able to return to your job in the same manner as before the injury
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress caused by the trauma of the attack and your injuries preventing you from doing activities you once enjoyed
Retaining an experienced personal injury attorney to advocate on your behalf is the best way to ensure you receive the compensation you need to move forward with your life. The Inland Empire Law Group has extensive experience assisting California residents in receiving compensation for their dog bite claims involving nerve damage. Call to schedule a consultation at either our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville offices.