Dogs may be man’s best friends, but they are also animals. Dogs have motives and instincts we can’t always anticipate or understand. When a dog decides to bite a person, it can be very difficult to successfully fend off an attack. A dog attack is traumatic and terrifying, sometimes leaving victims with injuries that can have long-term consequences physically, emotionally, and financially.
When a victim sustains serious dog bites in New Jersey, they don’t have to suffer undue financial burdens caused by medical bills and time away from work. New Jersey holds dog owners accountable for their dog’s actions from the moment they take ownership regardless of a dog’s previous history. Unlike states that don’t hold a pet owner liable for damages the first time a dog bites, under the premise that the owner couldn’t know the dog was capable of biting a person before it happens at least once, in New Jersey, pet owners are liable even the first time a dog bites.
Before you can recover compensation for damages after a dog bite, like your medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering, it helps to know what to do immediately after the attack and in the days following so you can protect yourself physically and financially.
Steps to Take After a Dog Bite in New Jersey
Dogs have sharp, jagged teeth that function like serrated blades to tear apart tough meat. When a dog bites a person, wounds can range from bruises and abrasions to deep puncture marks and tears. Depending on the severity of the attack, the size of the dog, and the amount of time the victim is exposed to the attacking dog, injuries can range from mild bites and bruises to severe injuries leaving fractures, extensive scarring, the loss of fingers or toes, and sometimes causing death. Children and the elderly are at the greatest risk of severe injuries in a dog attack in New Jersey, but injuries can happen to victims of any age.
After a dog bite or a severe attack with multiple bites and injuries, it’s important to take the following steps at the scene of the attack as soon as the dog has been subdued or restrained:
- First, apply emergency first aid to serious wounds
- Then, call 911 to report the attack and request emergency services, the police, and animal control. Having a police report helps recover compensation later
- Then, use your cell phone to take photos of the dog
- Take photos of anything relevant to the attack such as an open gate, a broken fence, or a broken leash
- Take photos of your visible injuries
- Add the contact information of the dog’s owner if they are present at the scene
- Add the contact information of any eyewitnesses to the attack
- Go to a hospital immediately after the bite, either in an ambulance or by arranging transportation as soon as the police take down your information
Once at the hospital, it’s important to have a thorough medical examination. Be sure to tell the doctor about every symptom you feel, as well as the obvious bites and injuries. Ask for a detailed medical report listing the injuries, the doctor’s recommendations for treatment, and the prognosis for your recovery.
What Happens to the Dog After a Dog Attack in New Jersey?
When a dog bites, scratches, or knocks down a person in New Jersey, animal control takes the dog into a 10-day quarantine at the owner’s expense. During this time, animal control officers and health specialists monitor the dog and test for infectious diseases, including rabies. Meanwhile, animal control investigates the dog’s history, including its vaccination records as well as any previous history of biting.
In the majority of dog bite cases, the dog is returned to the owner and animal control officers instruct the owner on putting preventative measures in place to prevent further incidents. These measures could include fencing and warning signs. Vicious dogs with a history of attacks, those with rabies or other infectious diseases, or dogs that caused fatal injuries may be euthanized.
What Happens After a Dog Bite in New Jersey
Many dog bite victims experience emotional trauma after the attack. Besides the physical injury symptoms, dog bite victims may notice emotional changes such as anxiety, sleep disturbances, and depression. Many dog bite victims have to undergo addtional medical care which could include any of the following:
- Treatment for infection
- Treatment for rabies prevention
- Reconstructive surgery for scarring and deep-tissue wounds that impact the victim’s range of motion
- Medical treatment for lost digits (fingers or toes)
- Plastic surgery for facial disfigurement
- Counseling for emotional trauma
In rare cases, a dog attack results in fatal wounds, including wounds categorized as level-6 dog bites. These are the most severe injuries which include multiple deep, tearing bites in more than one location, sometimes with flesh consumed by the dog.
What to Do in the Days After a Dog Attack in New Jersey
During the days immediately following a dog attack in New Jersey, you may be dealing with significant physical and emotional trauma, but this is also the time to take important steps to protect your legal rights. After suffering dog bite wounds, you are entitled to compensation paid through the dog owner’s property liability insurance, even if the attack occurred away from the owner’s property. During the days after a dog attack in New Jersey, take the following steps to ensure you receive the full compensation coming to you:
- Obtain a copy of the police and animal control reports
- Get a copy of your medical report
- Keep copies of your medical bills, invoices, and receipts for related expenses
- Avoid posting on social media
- Call an experienced dog bite lawyer in New Jersey before communicating with insurance company representatives
Insurance companies sometimes reach out to dog bite victims very soon after an accident with a low settlement offer in exchange for signing away the right to file a lawsuit. It’s always best to discuss your options for compensation with a Cherry Hill dog bite attorney before accepting an early settlement offer.