No parent anticipates their child being bit by a dog, but statistically dog bite attacks are the second most common cause of childhood emergency room visits. The frequency of these injuries exceed playground accidents and are only slighter less frequent than injuries from baseball or softball. In fact, estimates show that about half of all children under the age of twelve have been bitten by a dog at some point in time in their lives. Children ages five to nine are the most likely targets of dog bite attacks.
Dog Bite Risk Factors
There are several reasons why children are vulnerable to dog bite attacks, these include:
- Children are more likely than adults to approach an unfamiliar dog.
- Very young children often try to play with dogs in a way the animal misinterprets as aggressive.
- Children are drawn to puppies and dogs will instinctively protect their young from a child’s inquisitive hands.
- Children are less likely to recognize cues of danger such as raised fur, rigid body posture, bearing teeth and lip licking as signs that a dog is about to attack.
- Because of their smaller size, children aren't physically able to fend off a dog until help arrives.
Types of Dog Bite Injuries in Children
In about 75 percent of cases, a child who is attacked by a dog will receive injuries to the face, lips, and cheek area. These injuries may require reconstructive surgery and may leave disfiguring scars that can make a child feel self-conscious about his or her appearance.
Nerve damage to the arms and legs is another common type of dog bite injury that can result in a loss of sensation and limited range of motion. Physical therapy can help restore some function, but a serious dog bite attack may leave a child with lifelong disabilities.
Fractures can occur when a dog's jaws crush the bones in a child's limbs or the child falls while trying to escape. Another complication from this type of injury is an infection caused by bacteria entering the body through the teeth puncture wounds. Fatalities from dog bite attacks are rare, but nearly 80 percent of all fatal attacks involve a child as the victim.
The Emotional Impact of a Dog Bite Attack
Dog bite injuries often result in emotional problems for children. It's common for a child to become fearful, agitated and anxious for many years following a dog bite attack. Parents or caregivers may also notice that the child experiences nightmares, separation anxiety, or signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Therapy can benefit a child overcome many of the negative psychological effects of a dog bite attack. But even given the passing of time and psychological assistance, many adults report their childhood dog bite injuries remain with them causing feeling of unease and apprehensive around animals.
If your child was the victim of a dog bite attack, on behalf of your child, you are entitled to seek compensation for the injuries, from the owner of the dog or from an insurance company who insured the dog’s owner. When insurance coverage is available, a claim against the owner's homeowner’s insurance policy is the best opportunity to secure a reasonable resolution. If there is no insurance available, compensation may still be available directly from the dog's owner. Unfortunately, securing compensation from the dog’s owner is much more challenging if there are limited resources to pay for the injuries. Unfortunately, some dog bites occur from a dog whose owner is unknown. In these circumstances, there may not be any compensation available to the injury victim.A dog bite claim may include compensation for:
- A child's medical care, including surgery, hospital stays, prescriptions, and physical therapy
- Counseling for emotional trauma a child experienced relating to the dog bite attack
- Loss of wages, if a parent needed to take time off work to tend to the child's injuries
- Loss of future earning potential, if a child is left severely disabled by the dog attack
- Pain and suffering experienced by a child in the past and for the future.
California’s dog bite law, classified as a statutory strict liability law. This means you do not have to prove the dog’s owner negligence to seek compensation. Rather, you merely prove who owned the dog and that the dog caused harm to the child or individual. While this might sound simple, hiring an attorney to advocate on behalf a child is always recommended. The experienced dog bite attorney will know where to turn to in order to find the necessary insurance coverage, if any, he or she will know how to evaluate the claim, and will know how to negotiate with the other side’s insurance adjuster. The attorney will handle all communication with the insurance company, allowing you to focus on your child's recovery. Additionally, a skilled attorney can ensure that your child receives the maximum amount of compensation available for the injuries.
Inland Empire Law Group’s attorneys have extensive experience assisting California parents with children who have suffered dog bite injuries. Please call (888) MY IE LAW to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at either our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville offices.