Many internal injuries eventually heal, but scars left from a dog bite leave a lasting reminder of the trauma suffered during the attack. California law allows dog bite victims to seek financial compensation for not only medical expenses incurred from the attack, but also mental and psychological damages associated with the resulting disfigurement and the trauma of the attack.
Dog Bite Scars Effect the Mental Wellbeing of a Victim
Nearly all dog bites will leave some residual reminder of the event. These wounds, which result in scars are typically irregularly shaped with jagged edges, non-uniform in depth and appear in varying colors when they heal. This makes dog bite scar much more noticeable than other types of scars. The most noticeable and traumatic of all dog bite scars are those which occur following facial attack by a dog. Facial attacks are most often seen with children.
The time for healing and scar formation generally takes about a year from the date of the injury. During this time, the victim will often feel extremely frustrated seeing the changes occurring at the wound site. Victims are often frustrated as they attempt to get back to their "normal" life while visually being reminded of the trauma they've suffered. Once that year has passed, the scar will normally become permanent with only slight variations thereafter. The victim must then realize this dog bite scar is a permanent part of his or her life.
Common psychological effects associated with dog bite scars include depression, low self-esteem, poor body image, and anxiety. Children fear being teased or bullied by their peers because they are injured, while adults struggle with their appearance and how it might impact the professional life or interfere with a romantic partnership.
There are some sources of help which can diminish the appearance of the scarring in public. A victim might consider using makeup designed to cover tattoos or special scar camouflaging kits with color correcting benefits. These products can provide temporary confidence while in public, but these products are no foolproof solution. Once at home, and the makeup or camouflaging if taken off, the victim is once again left alone with the scarring and a reminder that she has to live life hiding herself from the world.
In some situations, cosmetic surgery might be an option. These surgeries can be expensive and are not always successful in fully correcting the damage. Depending on the nature of the scarring and the damage caused, any corrective measure must be weighed against the possible risks associated with surgery or other cosmetic repair.
Early Treatment may Temper Dog Bite Scarring
Seeking medical treatment immediately after a dog bite attack is crucial to minimize the potential for disfigurement. Bites which become infected heal more slowly and will leave more visible scars than similar scars treated correctly from the beginning. If your doctor can clean and repair the wound, then prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection, your scar risk improves. Remember, taking the medication provided is an important part to the recovery process.
There are creams and other products are designed specifically to help reduce scarring through regular application to a scar or over the affected area. Certain silicone products are proven to minimize scarring and fade existing scars if used appropriately.
For some individuals, exposure to the sun's UV rays can cause scars to become more prominent by becoming darker or lighter than the surrounding skin. If your scar is on an area that is regularly exposed to sunlight, apply your scar treatment product as directed, then apply a quality sunscreen and protect the area from direct sunlight when possible.
When dog bite injuries to the arms or legs are severe, a doctor might recommend the use of a pressure garments. These help suppress the growth of hypertrophic scar tissue and keep the skin smoother. You may have to wear these types of garments for a year while the scar stabilizes.
Advanced Techniques for Scar Treatment
When a dog bite victim has severe scars, more advanced treatment options might be recommended to reduce the level of disfigurement. For example:
- Dermabrasion or laser resurfacing can be used to make rough or elevated scars less noticeable by creating a smoother surface.
- Keloid or hypertrophic scars can be treated with injected medications that reduce scar size or they can be removed surgically. The incision for the procedure will leave a fresh scar, but it will be less prominent.
- Scar revision surgeries can be done by recreating the incision and moving the skin around to make the scar less visible.
While the above procedures are designed to help improve the appearance of a scar for cosmetic reasons, some dog bite victims with injuries to the extremities will require a separate surgery to address scar tissue that limits their range of motion.
It should be understood that while these procedures may improve the physical appearance, the emotional scars from the attack may never heal. A dog bite victim may require the assistance of mental health professionals to work through the trauma, the fear of dogs, the desire to hide the scar from the public or other emotional issues associated with the trauma. Pharmaceuticals (drugs) may be necessary to address issues of anxiety, trouble sleeping or residual pain.
Receiving Compensation for Dog Bite Scars
Dog bite victims should receive appropriate compensation for their accident-related medical expenses, as well as the pain and suffering related to their injuries. If the victim is able to identify the dog that caused the injury and the owner of that dog, then the victim may be ableto secure recovery from the dog’s owner. Most dog bite claims are paid through the dog owner's homeowner's insurance, if that insurance provides such coverage. Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners’ insurance claims in 2015, resulting in payouts of over $570 million. Because this is such a high source of expense to an insurance company, many insurance companies exclude dog bite claims from their policy coverage. This leaves a homeowner or renter without insurance coverage to pay for the damages suffered by the dog bite victim. While you are still entitled to compensation from the animal's owner, if there is no insurance coverage, the case will be much more difficult to resolve or to secure appropriate compensation for the injuries.
Since laws regarding liability for dog bites can be complex, working with a skilled personal injury lawyer is the best way to protect your rights and ensure that your claim is processed in a comprehensive and timely manner. The legal team at the Inland Empire Law Group has extensive experience assisting California residents in settling dog bite claims resulting in disfiguring scars. To learn more, call (888) MY IE LAW. Free, no-obligation consultations are available at either our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville offices.