A bite to a child can result in serious physical and emotional injuries. Serious injuries include any injury to the face, however small, because of the scars that such injuries leave. Children can also sustain serious bites to the arms and legs, the head, and the torso. The good news, however, is that kids heal miraculously much of the time.
The first thing to do after a child is bitten is to get him to a doctor. This is necessary not only for purposes of treatment, but also for purposes of documenting what occurred. Furthermore, an injury that does not appear serious can become infected and if that happens, the parents will be blamed for the scarring and hospitalization rather than the dog owner. Therefore you must do whatever is necessary to avoid the infection.
After that, you have to identify the dog and the dog's owner. Often this is no problem at all, because 75 percent of the time the dog and its owner are well known to the victim. Dogs usually end up biting a friend of the dog owner, or his neighbor or his relatives. If you do not know the dog owner, you need to investigate so as to find out who he is. See the section of this website called Investigating the Attacking Dog.
The third thing that you should do after a child is bitten is make a report to animal control. The animal control authorities in your jurisdiction might be called the dog warden, or the animal control department, or animal control might be performed by the local police or sheriff. However they are named, you need to go there and make a written report. One of the mistakes often seen in these cases is relying on the hospital or the doctor to report the dog bite incident. It is true that they make reports, but they are reporting the bite for the sake of statistics and prevention of rabies, not to help anybody make a dog bite claim or get a dangerous dog off the street. The animal control investigation which follows a bite report is extremely important in cases where people do not know who the dog belonged to. The other purpose of such a report is to enable the authorities to identify dangerous dogs living in the community, so something can be done about them and in particular the dog that bit your child.
The fourth thing that you need to do is retain an attorney to protect your child's interests and guide you through the process of getting bills paid and adequate compensation put in the bank for future medical treatment. This is a difficult process that requires retaining a lawyer. The good news is that attorneys who take these kinds of cases do not charge fees up front. For more about the need to have an attorney for this kind of case, see Should Parents Get a Lawyer for Their Injured Child?
All the ways that the case will benefit your child
Pursuing a dog bite case can have a variety of important benefits for your child. The most obvious has to do with medical attention. The insurance company for the dog owner or liable party will be required to pay medical expenses. These include not only the cost of current treatment but also future treatment. Make no mistake about it: a bite to the face will require some future surgical or other medical treatment to minimize the damage to the skin. Furthermore, emotional counseling might be required in order to help the child deal with the distress, anxiety and fear that frequently results from a violent dog attack. It would be completely unfair for you to have to pay this from your own pocket, or worse yet, for your child to have to do so at some later point in time. It also is simply not right to ask your own health insurance to pay for it, because this is not a normal health risk and your company should not have to bear the expense of dealing with it. Similarly, it is unjust to rely on Medicaid or other government programs to pay the costs, because that means the taxpayers, and the taxpayers did not own the dog that did this damage.
The second item of loss requiring compensation is your own loss of income. You probably have been forced to take time off work to deal with your injured child. That is a consequence of the dog bite, and therefore the dog owner is the one who should pay for this. If you took vacation time or sick leave, that is unfair to you unless you are compensated, because the dog owner should not be permitted to take advantage of these employee benefits that belong to you and should be used under other circumstances.
Your child is entitled to compensation for pain and suffering. Those are two separate things. Pain includes the pain of the actual bite, as well as the pain of treatment and the pain that must be endured during what could be a long period of recovery. Indeed many dog bite victims have painful scars and have painful crush injuries, meaning injuries to the soft tissues beneath the skin which form scar tissue and therefore become painful over time. The other category is suffering, which includes fear of going outside, anxiety at night, fear of dogs, and possibly many other things. Your child is entitled to significant compensation for these two categories of damages.
When a good attorney settles a child's injury case, the money is put into an annuity which makes significant payments to the child later in life, specifically during the college years. These payments can provide a college education or, at the least, give enough income to your child so that he or she will not have to work as hard to support himself during college. This is an extremely important benefit for obvious reasons, and there is no excuse for passing it up. It takes knowledge, however, to put together the so-called structured settlement and make sure that it operates as a tax shelter. When done correctly, all of the money paid to your child in the future will be entirely tax free. An attorney who handles many dog bite cases will be able to set up this tax shelter and do the structured settlement for you.
There is an important intangible benefit to bringing the case on behalf of your son or daughter. Kids know when you are standing up for them, and when you are not. If you don't bring the claim, at some point your boy or girl will learn that you waived his rights. Either he will meet another kid whose college is being paid for, or he will read about a case in the news. You need to always stand by your children and make sure that they know that you're doing it. It is a basic duty of being a parent. Sometimes this means taking an unpopular position in your neighborhood or among family members. But the welfare of your child should be your paramount concern, not your own popularity.
The top 3 fears that parents have, and why there's nothing to worry about
The first fear that parents express is that they will involve their child in some kind of litigation. You don't have to worry about that, because a dog bite case rarely goes to court. Even if a court case has to be filed, all that we're talking about is taking the child to the defendant's insurance doctor for an examination (which will seem like any other doctor visit), and possibly answering questions in a conference room (if the child is a teenager or an older child). Whenever attorneys take the deposition of a minor, the lawyers are extremely polite, gracious and cordial, for a very simple reason: kids won't talk to us if we are not that way! And you will be there as well as the lawyer who represents you, so it will not be a bad experience at all for your child.
The second issue that parents raise is the possibility that there will be some kind of fallout from the fact that a claim is made. In other words, that either the child or the parents will not be as popular or will actually be criticized. In fact, most of the time the opposite is true: when parents do not stand up for their children, people find out and they don't like it. The dog owner might be upset when they find out that a claim has been made, but then again they might not. We all have homeowner insurance and renter's insurance to cover such things, and most people understand that this is what the insurance is for.
The next issue that parents often raise is whether or not the dog owner is going to have to pay anything out of their own pocket. Frequently the dog owner is a friend, neighbor or relative, and people don't like to feel that they are taking money out of someone else's pocket. Well, there's nothing to fear there, because dog bites are covered by homeowner insurance and renter's insurance, and these policies do not have deductibles and do not require co-payments. In other words, it won't cost the other party one thin dime.