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Gelman Gelman Wiskow & McCarthy LLC
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What to Do If Your Child Is Bitten by a Dog

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As a concerned parent, you take all the necessary steps to keep your child safe. Unfortunately, if a neighbor or stranger has an aggressive and improperly secured dog, it can lead to a potentially dangerous confrontation. Even a minor dog bite can lead to a nasty infection and a major hit to your finances.

If you are ever in this situation, it is important to know how to act, both directly after the bite and in the days and weeks that follow. Here are the steps you need to take after your child is bitten by a neighbor or stranger's dog.

Immediately After the Bite

After the bite occurs, your first instinct might be to find the dog's owner and confront them. However, it is critical to treat your child's wound before taking any other action. To begin, clean the wound with soapy water. Gently dab at the wound with a clean cloth to remove the excess water, then dress the wound with antibiotic ointment and a bandage.

Next, apply gentle pressure to the bite. This will help encourage the wound to stop bleeding.

Finally, no matter how severe the bite, it is critical to take your child to the doctor right away. If the bite was deep, your child may need stitches, but even if the wound is shallow, your child will still need medical attention. An average dog's mouth can contain several different types of dangerous bacteria. While your child will probably be fine, the worst case scenario (which is rare) is that the dog’s saliva contains lyssavirus, otherwise known as the rabies virus.

Ask your doctor to document the wound and confirm that it was caused by a dog. This information will prove very valuable if you decide to file a lawsuit against the dog's owner.

Document the Scene and Your Injuries

Now that your child's wound has been attended to by a professional, it's time to further document your child's wounds, and the site where the attack occurred. Grab a camera or your cellular phone and take pictures of the owner's property. For example, was there a hole in the fence where the dog escaped? Was the dog's chain broken or long enough to reach the sidewalk and street?

If there were any witnesses to the attack, find them and ask for their statements. Ask for the witnesses' names and phone numbers.

Finally, continue to take photos of your child's injuries over the following days and weeks. Take note of any complications that occur, such as an infection, or any injuries that manifest after the initial bite. For instance, if your child fell after the bite, they might begin to feel an ache in their arm, or complain that they neck or back hurts.

Speak With the Dog's Owner

Whether or not to speak with the dog's owner is tricky, especially if the owner is a stranger. If the dog's owner is a friend or family member, you may prefer to work out the issue with them, instead of involving the courts.

However, if the owner is a stranger, it is best to allow the authorities to handle the issue. The dog's owner may attempt to handle the matter privately or even become belligerent. Additionally, if you do speak with the owner, and he or she is a stranger, never admit any fault or agree to speak with his or her attorney or insurance provider. This could weaken your case.

Call a Personal Injury Attorney

Finally, you may need to contact an attorney to learn about your options. Your attorney will help you determine the best course of action, which could either be to settle with the dog's owner for your child's medical bills, pain and suffering or to take the owner to court.

Your attorney will also help you understand the dog bite laws in New Jersey. In the state of New Jersey, the dog's owner is completely responsible if the dog bites another person. This strict liability law states that even if the owner posted signs that the dog is dangerous, or took all the necessary steps to keep the dog chained or in their yard, they are still responsible for the accident.

However, if your child was trespassing on the dog owner's property, there might be an issue. In New Jersey, the owner is liable if the dog bit an individual in a public area, such as the street, or if the person was not trespassing.

It is critical that you work with your attorney to determine if you have any liability, and if so, if the circumstances of the incident will impact your case.

The first few minutes, days and weeks follow a dog bite can be overwhelming and confusing. If you or your child is ever the victim of a dog bite, don't hesitate to contact the professionals at Gelman, Gelman, Wiskow & McCarthy, LLC.

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