Dog Bite Attorney in Montgomery County
Mistreated, abused, or just plain frightened dogs can turn vicious, and every year, across the world, many do.
There are more than 4.5 million people bitten by dogs in the United States every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and about one of every five victims, over 800,000, requires medical attention. It is important to note that more than half of dog bite victims are children, and that children are usually the most seriously injured of those cases.
The situation in Montgomery County is no different.
Dog attacks are traumatizing experiences. It is even worse that the victims are usually children, often with a dog that is familiar to them. Scarring, disfigurement, orthopedic injuries, soft tissue damage, nerve damage, and infections can result from animal bites. Those infections, in particular, demand immediate medical attention and they can be fatal if that care is not provided. The nerve damage requires it as well, as some nerve damage requires surgery and can be permanent.
The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) states that dog bites pose a significant health risk to our communities and society.
The emotional pain of the scarring and injury are just a small part of the psychological damage from an attack. Many dog bite victims develop a fear of dogs for the rest of their lives.
Beyond getting the medical care and paying for it, victims have the added disadvantage of lost time at work, therefore less wages coming in while bills are accumulating.
For those who were bitten or injured by a dog in Montgomery County, there are laws that will cover costs for the medical bills and pain and suffering from this trauma. Victims should contact an experienced lawyer to take advantage of the legal protections that can ensure that the medical bills and health problems that result from this incident are covered, and that the victim is compensated for loss of work and/or future opportunities while recuperating from the injuries.
What Laws Protect Dog Bite Victims?
In Montgomery County, dog owners are required to license their dogs or face fines of up to $300 per violation.
All dogs three months or older in Pennsylvania need to be licensed every year, or the owner needs to purchase a lifetime license. The license fees are $31.50 for neutered/spayed dogs and $51.50 for dogs that have not been neutered or spayed, annually. The licenses can be purchased online or by mail through the county treasurer’s office.
The lifetime licenses need to be purchased through the county treasurer’s office and require that the dog be microchipped, so even if the dog is running around without a collar, county public health can track down the owner, and by that, the dog’s medical history, which can make a big difference with the medical care.
If a person is bitten by a dog in Montgomery County, they should immediately report it to the Office of Public Health: 610-278-5117 and speak to a disease intervention specialist.
Under Pennsylvania law, the owner is liable for all damages when a person is severely attacked, or if a dog had attacked previously and is considered dangerous. Owners who fail to comply with the state dog laws can be held liable for full compensation to the victims.
There is a separate problem for bites from stray dogs when the owner cannot be found because the dog is not microchipped and does not have a collar identifying the owner. When dogs are licensed, it becomes incumbent on the owner to have the dog vaccinated and receive veterinary care on a regular basis. To make it easier to get this done, Montgomery County has made the licensing procedure simple through its website and at locations where residents can drop off licensing applications and paperwork.
Therefore, although the community and most importantly, the victim and the victim’s doctor, know when a licensed dog was last vaccinated, the bigger problem with a dog bite from an unknown dog is when that dog’s owner cannot be located.
There is often talk following a biting incident, of outlawing ownership of certain types of dogs. However, the AVMA recommends against this, noting that this often happens to pit bull type dogs and may look good on the surface, but it is not a reliable or effective solution for dog bite prevention. The AVMA has made a public stand against these kinds of rules and holds that any dog can bite, regardless of size, gender, or breed. big or small, male or female, young or old. It is more about the dog being provoked, its individual history, and its behavior.
What Victims Should Do Immediately after a Dog Bite
Although serious wounds are going to clearly require immediate medical attention, there are steps that can be taken at home to prevent a dog bite from becoming infected.
Medical News Today advises that preventing infection for minor wounds needs to be done right away. Here are the steps:
- Wash the wound with soap and warm water, cleaning the area thoroughly.
- Run lukewarm water over the wounded area to flush out bacteria.
- Apply antibiotic cream to the wound, and then wrap a clean bandage around it.
With deeper wounds, victims should do the following:
- Press a clean cloth against the wound to stop the bleeding.
- Seek medical attention right away.
- Call 911 if the bleeding is uncontrollable or the bite victim thinks they might faint.
Once the wounded person can get medical care, it is likely that the doctor will clean the bite, using a syringe of water and wound cleaning solution to flush out bacteria and stitch up the wound if needed. The doctor may then prescribe antibiotics to fight off bacteria that have entered the body and a tetanus shot if the victim did not receive one in the last five years. Rabies vaccines may also be necessary.
Bites on the hands or feet carry a higher risk of infection. Certain infections from dog bites, from bacteria in the dog’s saliva, can be very serious and lead to complications. Without treatment, these infections can be fatal. They may be a less obvious problem than a profusely bleeding wound, but infection getting into a dog bite can be just as dangerous.
Symptoms the dog bite is infected include the following:
- Swelling and redness around the wound
- Difficulty moving the wounded body part
- Night sweats
If a person thinks that a dog bite has resulted in damage to the nerves or bones, they should seek emergency treatment. Emergency treatment is also necessary if an infection has spread to other parts of the body.
People should seek medical attention if the dog that bit them was acting strangely, or they are unsure whether the dog has received a vaccine against rabies.
What Are Common Dog Bite Injuries?
Sometimes, dogs are aggressive but do not use their teeth to harm a person. They can knock people down or chase them down, and injuries might happen without any biting at all.
Victims of aggressive dogs deserve compensation for the pain of those injuries and the medical care needed to treat them, regardless of whether the wound involved a bite or being knocked down. The infections that are possible can be serious and if untreated, fatal. Although many know about rabies and tetanus, there are other infections such as sepsis and capnocytophaga, which are infections that are possible as the result of the dog bite. Because of the possibility of these infections, medical care should be sought following a dog bite that breaks the skin.
Although many dog bites, such as those of a teething puppy, are mild and can be treated by washing and using an antibiotic ointment, some require medical treatment, surgery, and sometimes plastic surgery to counter permanent scarring. But there are other serious illnesses that could come from the bite, including the following:
- Puncture wounds
- Broken bones
- Eye injuries
- Head, neck, face injuries
- Nerve damage
- Emotional damage
The infections that can occur can be quick and deadly serious. They are also preventable by seeing a doctor right away.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a virus that spreads to people from the saliva of infected animals, creating a neurotropic viral illness that is almost always fatal, for people and animals. To prevent the onset of rabies following a dog bite, doctors will treat the victim with postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), which means the victim will receive a shot of human rabies immune globulin in the area of the bite. Many dog bite victims say the process is remarkably uncomfortable. However, it prevents the disease and needs to be done quickly, as there is no proven cure after symptoms show. Animals with rabies normally die within five days, and the case-fatality rate approaches 100 percent. There is no way to test a live animal for the disease, as evidence is found in the brain tissue of a dead animal, which is why it is best to seek medical care immediately following a bite from an unknown dog.
Symptoms of rabies include the following:
- Excess salivation
- Muscle spasms
- Mental confusion
What is Tetanus?
Tetanus is a bacterial infection that leads to muscle spasms, particularly in the jaw and neck, and a puncture wound can lead to the infection. A dog bite can cause tetanus bacteria to enter the body. Symptoms of tetanus include the following:
- Cramping in the jaw
- Muscle spasms, usually in the stomach
- Difficulty swallowing
- Muscle stiffness
People with any symptoms of tetanus need immediate medical attention. They will require medications, such as antibiotics, as well as a tetanus vaccine.
What is Sepsis?
Sepsis occurs when chemicals released in the bloodstream to fight an infection trigger inflammation throughout the body. This can cause a cascade of damage to multiple organs, leading to organ failure, sometimes resulting in death.
Symptoms include the following:
- High or low body temperature
- Extreme daytime sleepiness
- Severe pain or discomfort
Treatment includes antibiotics and intravenous fluids.
It is not common that dog bites lead to this illness, but it is another reason to go to the doctor for a dog bite that breaks the skin. Sepsis can be treated with antibiotics and fluids.
What is Capnocytophaga?
This is an illness from a dog bite that can be extremely serious if untreated. Symptoms can appear between one and 14 days after a dog bite. The illness can lead to kidney failure, heart attack, or gangrene and usually most affects those who are immunocompromised, such as a patient receiving chemotherapy, someone who is drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, or someone who does not have a spleen. Doctors will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.
Some of the effects of capnocytophaga are as follows:
- Redness, swelling, and pain around the wound
- Oozing wound
- Vomiting and diarrhea
Types of Nerve Damage
Neurapraxia. This is damage to the myelin sheath, which is not part of the nerve but it insulates the nerve and allows electrical signals to move along the nerves and it allows electrical signals to move along the nerves. Numbness, burning, and stinging are symptoms. Victims may not need invasive medical treatment, but neurapraxia is painful and may result in a loss of function for a few months. Treatment includes physical therapy, range of motion exercises, rest, icing, and elevation of the injured area. It will take several months to heal.
Axonotmesis. This is damage to the myelin sheath and the axons surround it. The damage quickly results in sensory issues, loss of motor function, and possibly paralysis. If the nerve is not severed, people can make a full recovery, but this too, may take several months, possibly years.
Neurotmesis. This is a severe form of nerve damage and occurs when the nerve axons and myelin sheath are completely severed. This will not spontaneously heal, and surgery will be required. Pain, uncomfortable feelings, loss of motor control, and loss of sensation may occur. Doctors will likely wait to see if the nerves regenerate before making the diagnosis.
Unlike other forms of nerve damage, neurotmesis will not spontaneously heal, and a full recovery does not usually occur. Instead, surgery will be required, but it may not undo all the effects of the damage. Surgery may provide some return of function.
What are the Damages for Which a Dog Bite Victim can be Compensated?
Particularly since dog bites are more likely to happen to children, the medical care needed may be extensive. Medical care is costly, particularly emergency medical care and plastic surgery. Most plastic surgery is also not deemed necessary by health care insurance, so it is an out-of-pocket cost.
Medical care to the loss of income, as well as future opportunities, should be compensated for dog bite victims. Non-economic damages include pain and the suffering induced by the treatment for the injury and the emotional impact of the injury on the victim, particularly when it is immediately visible to others. Those who are injured by a vicious dog should call an experienced dog bite lawyer.
How to Avoid Dog Bite Injuries
The CDC estimates of 4.5 million people bitten by dogs each year, which means 10,958 bites happen every day.
Incidents with dogs that are behind a fence are avoidable if individuals do not touch the fence or try and pet a dog when it is behind a fence. The dog is vulnerable and knows this, and it may bite.
One out of every five people bitten by a dog requires medical attention. A wound does not have to have excessive bleeding for a doctor’s care to be necessary.
With something so frequently occurring all around the United States, and so much more likely to happen to a child, it is best for families to take some common-sense precautions. These tips, composed of both those recommended by the AVMA and the dog owner’s website, Bark.com, provide a helpful approach to preventing tragedies.
Dog bites do not always occur with a strange dog. Many of the dog bite injuries to children happen with familiar dogs while children are doing ordinary activities.
Paying attention to body language is often key to avoiding an aggressive dog incident. Although this is difficult to teach a child, it is also more reason to monitor a child when he or she is interacting with a dog until the child can learn to pay attention to the dog’s body language. These behaviors are a dog’s way of letting people know that he or she is feeling stressed, anxious, or agitated. People should give a dog some space and avoid interactions when the animal is manifesting the following behaviors:
- Growling, trembling, snapping, or barking
- Dog not with its owner
- Clinging to owner
- Dog appears to be hiding or seeking time alone
- Dog leans forward
- Bared teeth
- When a dog visibly stiffens its body
- Avoids eye contact
- Submissive urination
- Flattened ears
- Licking its lips
- Hair along the dog’s back is raised; this is often referred to as raised hackles
- Drooling or panting
Friendly dog behaviors include the following:
- Relaxed, wiggly body; this is particularly true with puppies
- Tail loosely wagging
- Relaxed ears
- Mouth gently open
What to Do with a Scared Dog?
Fearful dogs have learned that snarling and biting can end situations that make them anxious. Fear interferes with learning positive lessons, and a scared dog may instead learn that snarls and biting make scary situations go away. Touching or talking to frightened dogs just makes the panic worsen.
Although it is up to a good owner to identify what is making the dog fearful, for example, loud noises and fireworks, and to help them deal with it, there are things people can keep in mind with a fearful dog:
- Know that a fearful dog might be hand-shy, especially those that have been abused. This can be a reason for biting. It is better to pet the chest and ears instead.
- Strong eye contact is a dominant-dog behavior and can be intimidating, so do not look directly at the dog.
- Sit on the floor some distance away, ignore them, and let the dog come to you.
- Standing over a dog who is already anxious will make the dog more stressed. Do not loom.
- Turn sideways.
- Speak in a high-pitched voice.
- Do not show fear.
- Do not show emotion.
Montgomery Dog Bite Accident Lawyers at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. Help Victims of Dog Bites Recover
A dog bite can cause serious injuries and financial losses, but an experienced lawyer can advocate for you. If you or a loved one is a victim of a dog attack, reach out to the Montgomery County dog bite lawyers at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. Our legal team will see to it that you are adequately compensated for the cost of recovering from the injuries. Call us at 267-861-7100 or visit our website to set up a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients in Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Delaware County, and Norristown.
Testimonial From A Former Client
“Anthony represented me in a dog bite accident that wrapped up around 1 year after the initial incident, in June 2020. Anthony was straightforward, honest and calculated with my initial visit. After choosing him for my representation, I was always able to quickly communicate with Anthony directly, not a paralegal. Anthony made a really difficult and confusing situation as painless as possible and broke everything down so I understood everything. As far as compensation for my injuries, Anthony was able to well exceed my high expectations. I could not recommend Anthony anymore strongly.”