According to the Centers for Disease Control, around 4.7 million dog bites occur each year. In San Diego, California, Animal Control investigates around 6,000 bites per year with the vast majority occurring on the dog owner’s property. When a dog bite injury occurs, great damage can be left behind. Some bites require surgery and extensive hospital stays.
There are multiple types of dog bites, and it is important everyone is aware of these. It is also important dog bite victims in San Diego are aware of their rights and how they can get help for their pursuit of fair compensation.
Types of Dog Bite Injuries
Dog bites vary in type and severity, depending on how the bite was inflicted, where on the body, and what type of breed. When someone becomes a victim of a dog bite, they need to be able to fully understand the different types of bites so they can explain their injuries in court.
Abrasions are superficial skin injuries that only affect the epidermis. This type of wound typically does not produce a lot of blood, though it can lead to scarring in severe cases.
Abrasions are considered the most minor of the types of injuries and they can typically be treated at home. If the wound begins to show any signs of infection, which include redness, swelling, heat, and pus drainage, immediate medical care should be sought.
Punctures are one of the most common types of dog bite injuries. Although these wounds may be much smaller and seem innocuous, there is a much greater risk of infection because the wounds are often so deep.
Puncture wounds can vary in size according to the dog breed. When puncture wounds have occurred deep within the tissues, prompt medical attention should be sought for the prevention of infection that can pose a serious danger to the victim’s health.
Lacerations are serious injuries and they should never be treated at home. These injuries rip deep into the flesh, past the epidermis and dermis, going deep into the muscle and even the bone. These wounds often result in a zig-zag pattern because of the ripping action of the dog’s jaws.
Lacerations can cause extensive bleeding and blood loss if medical care is not sought right away. A dog bite victim should never attempt to close their wounds with tape or self-stitching. Doing this could seal in infection and put the victim’s life in danger. All lacerations need to be treated and closed by medical professionals.
Rabies is the biggest threat when it comes to dog bite injuries, especially when an unknown dog bites a person. The Centers for Disease Control estimates around 50,000 deaths occur each year because of rabies.
When a dog bites someone, they need to attempt to gain information from the owner. It is important that the dog has been vaccinated against rabies and their shots are up to date. If the victim cannot learn this information or the dog did not receive vaccinations, a trip to the emergency room is in order.
Rabies treatments are harsh, but they work to effectively save lives, especially if the treatment is carried out in a timely manner. Even if a dog does not appear to have rabies, it is always best to err on the side of caution.
A dog’s natural instincts in the wild are to attack their prey by biting and then viciously shaking their heads to rip flesh from the body of their victim. When a vicious dog attacks, they can cause great avulsion injuries that can be life-threatening to the victim.
Avulsion injuries can occur anywhere on the body and have been known to cause major scarring and disfigurement. These wounds often lead to a lifetime of pain and problems and they require lengthy reconstruction surgeries to repair.
Many people do not realize the sheer force that can be exhibited by a large dog’s jaws. The average amount of pressure is 269 pounds, with dogs like Rottweilers going up as high as 329 pounds of pressure. With a dog’s strong jawbones and rounded teeth, they can easily cause fractures and breaks, especially to the hands or feet.
Crushing dog bite injuries are especially dangerous for babies. A dog’s bite can completely crush an infant’s skull. Infants comprise around 12% of all dog bite-related deaths annually.
Many dog bite victims do not realize tetanus is a threat to them. Although it is not as common as rabies, it does occur in small percentages. It is important a person’s tetanus vaccination is up to date. A doctor can test for tetanus and determine if the victim has been infected.
It is important to note that this type of condition does not come from the dog, but is found on the skin due to exposure in the environment. When a person is bitten, the bacteria enters the skin and this is what can lead to tetanus.
Types of Complications from Dog Bites
Aside from the damage to the tissues, one of the biggest threats of dog bite injuries is an infection. Around 10% to 15% of all dog bite injuries become infected. For the most part, these infections arise from bacteria in the dog’s mouth, but they can also occur because of bacteria on a person’s skin.
Whenever a dog bite occurs, cleaning the wound and keeping it clean is essential. In most cases, victims will need to make sure they seek medical treatment so they can take antibiotics to prevent possible infections.
Antibiotics work best when administered before an infection starts. If a dog bite wound is becoming infected, prompt medical intervention will be needed to ensure the infection does not worsen or spread to other parts of the body. As stated above, the signs of infection in a wound include redness, swelling, pus drainage, and warmth. If the wound feels warm to the touch, this could be a sign it has become infected.
Scarring is certainly a factor in many dog bite cases. Permanent scarring can lead a victim to feel embarrassed about their appearance. Scar tissue can also lead to adhesions and chronic pain. When severe scarring has occurred because of a serious injury, it would be wise for the injured victim to seek immediate legal help from some dog bite lawyers.
While it is often impossible to completely prevent scarring from a dog bite, seeking medical intervention can help to reduce the severity and scope. Cosmetic surgery can sometimes be effective in removing scar tissue or helping to improve the appearance of the scar.
Depending on the type of dog bite and location, dog bite victims may find they suffer nerve damage. When a dog bites deep into the flesh of their victim, they can tear nerves and reduce the connections. The signs of nerve damage include the following:
- Odd sensations like bugs crawling and burning
- Issues with positional awareness
- Loss of function
There are three types of nerve damage that can be inflicted by a dog bite and they include:
Neurapraxia occurs when the nerve is stretched beyond its normal position. This type of nerve damage also results in damage to the protective myelin sheath. Neurapraxia is temporal and is known to cause numbness, tingling, and a stinging or burning sensation.
Most cases of Neuropraxia heal over time. Dog bite victims with Neurapraxia will need to rest the affected area, apply ice, and follow their doctor’s orders for complete healing.
Axonotmesis occurs when the myelin sheath has been compromised and an injury has occurred to the nerve bundle. Although this type of nerve damage can be caused by stretching, it is typically considered a much more serious injury than Neurapraxia.
The common symptoms of Axonotmesis include loss of motor function, problems with sensory function, pain, weakness, and even partial or full paralysis.
If there is no severing of the nerve, most victims will be able to make a full recovery, though the healing process can be lengthy. As the nerves regenerate, it is common for dog bite victims to feel strange sensations and phantom types of pain. This type of nerve injury often requires a physically and emotionally demanding recovery period.
Neurotmesis is a severe form of nerve damage. This type of injury results in a full separation of the myelin sheath and nerve. With this form of nerve damage, there is no spontaneous healing and most people end up requiring surgery, even though it will not guarantee the return of their normal nerve function.
The symptoms of Neurotmesis may include pain, strange and uncomfortable sensations, loss of both motor and sensory functions, and complete paralysis.
It can be difficult to diagnose Neurotmesis, especially in the beginning stages of healing from a dog bite. Often, doctors must take a “wait and see” approach to diagnosis to see if the nerve tissue begins to regenerate. If proper regeneration is not occurring, the victim will likely need surgery in an attempt to repair the damage that was done by the dog bite.
The CDC has stated that there are between 30 to 50 deaths caused by dog bites each year. While most deaths occur from dogs that are not known to the victim, there have been deaths caused by the victim’s own dogs, although rare.
Steps to Take After a Dog Bite
One of the first things an injured person needs to do is seek medical care. Even if they believe their injury is minor, it would still be wise to have it checked. If the victim ends up needing to pursue a lawsuit, medical records will prove invaluable.
It is also important injured victims know their rights and take the necessary steps to protect them. This begins with consulting with an injury lawyer. If the lawyer takes on the case, they will take over all aspects of holding the dog owner accountable.
During the healing process, it is important to keep a journal of symptoms, medications, treatments, and doctor’s visits. This can be submitted as evidence and will help to prove the measurable damages that were suffered by the victim. Photos and videos can also be submitted.
Understanding the Laws Is Important
The state of California is a strict liability state. This means San Diego dog owners will not be able to avoid paying compensation for the damage their dog did, even if the dog never showed a propensity to bite.
California has a two-year statute of limitations for all personal injuries, including dog bites. This means the victim must file a lawsuit within two years from the date the bite occurred. Failure to file the lawsuit within this time constriction will result in the victim losing their rights to further seek compensation by any means.
The only defense a dog owner would have in San Diego is the victim trespassed on private property. In most cases, trespassers cannot seek compensation because they were not allowed on the property legally.
Dog bite victims can find their injuries to be devastating and far-reaching. Some people never fully recover from a dog bite and they can experience physical and emotional ramifications.
Dog bite victims have the right to hire a personal injury lawyer to help them in the pursuit of fair compensation. Even though the statute of limitations in the state of California is a generous two years, this does not mean the victim should wait too long to seek legal help.
Holding the dog owner responsible is one of the primary duties of a lawyer. The lawyer becomes an advocate for their injured client and works to help them receive the fairest outcome possible.
If you have been injured because of a dog bite, it is your right to seek help from a lawyer. Call the office today to schedule your consultation appointment. With help from a lawyer, you can get the fair outcome you deserve.