More than 4 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year.  If a dog bites you or a loved one, knowing what to do can help control the harm that follows.

The most important thing to remember is that a dog bite can cause major complications. Even if a dog is not rabid, its bite can still cause infection. Depending on the location and severity, dog bites also can cause nerve damage, scarring, and lasting pain or other symptoms.  Aside from the medical aspect of a dog bite, knowing what to do is essential to getting treated fairly. Here are our attorneys’ three tips for what to do after a dog bite.

Tip #1: Report the Incident.

Report the incident to the local police or animal control officer.  Authorities typically will help manage the process of confirming whether the dog’s rabies vaccination is current and having the dog quarantined if necessary. You must be sure that either a veterinarian confirms the dog’s vaccinations or the dog is monitored for signs of rabies. The potential for rabies must be taken seriously, regardless of what the owner tells you about the dog’s vaccination status. In unvaccinated humans, rabies is almost always fatal, and if infected, the dog will almost certainly bite again.

If the same dog has had prior incidents, information you add may be important for authorities to know in deciding what action, if any, to take against the dog’s owner.  Your report also may affect how the dog and its owner are handled if the dog attacks someone else. All too often, the dog that bit you already bit someone else, or will in the future.

Tip #2: Get Medical Attention.

Get the care needed to minimize effects of the attack. Anti-biotics may be critical to treat or prevent infection, and closing an open wound with skillfully placed stitches may help reduce visible scarring.  Follow-up care is often needed to minimize long-term effects of wounds that are severe or in particularly vulnerable locations. Professionals who offer therapy for the PTSD that can follow a dog attack may be able to help you minimize fear and other emotional effects naturally resulting from being attacked.

The dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy may offer immediate no-fault medical benefits to cover the first few thousand dollars of necessary treatment costs. But whether you need to use your own health plan or pay the costs out of pocket, get the help you need.

Tip #3: Find the Experts.

Laws vary by jurisdiction, and in South Dakota, dog owners are not automatically liable for harm caused by their dogs.  However, it is not true that a dog must have been declared “vicious” before an owner can be held liable. South Dakota law requires dog owners to exercise reasonable care for the safety of others; the breed of dog, its disposition, and the circumstances of the attack all may be factors.  The party at fault likely will be represented by a skilled adjuster or insurance company lawyer, so you want a knowledgeable advocate on your behalf. If you or someone you love has been bitten by a dog and required medical attention, get in touch with Turbak Law Office for a free consultation at 866-231-0914.