Between two and five million people are bitten by animals every year in the United States. About 85 percent of animal bites are caused by dogs, roughly five to ten percent are caused by cats, and most of the remaining bite incidents are caused by rodents. In spite of the large number of bite incidents, most victims are not compensated for injuries. An animal bite attorney can help victims successfully pursue legal action to recover costs associated with animal bite incidents.
Animal Bite Causes
Most animal bites are caused by domestic animals that the victim is familiar with. Animals most often attack after being startled or hurt, whether wild or domestic. Children may inadvertently cause animals to attack by running or yelling.
Types of Animal Bites
Dog bites can range in severity depending on the size of the dog, the location of the bite, and the size and depth of the wound. The location of the dog bite on the body of the victim is generally related to the height and size of the victim. Younger children are most often bitten on the face, head, or shoulders. Older children and adults are most often bitten on the hands, arms, and legs. Dog bites are rarely fatal, but may cause disabling injuries.
Cats are more likely to scratch than bite, but both bites and scratches may pose infection risks. Cat teeth and claws are long and slender, which may drive dangerous bacteria deep into tissue. Most cat bites and scratches are to the arms, hands, and faces of victims.
Other Animal Bites
Rats cause the majority of rodent bites. Wild animals often bite when home residents or business owners attempt to trap or capture the animals. These bites are usually to the hands of victims. Small animals such as rabbits, squirrels, and mice that are kept as pets may bite the hands of owners or visitors when hands are placed in a cage to remove or care for the animal.
Animal Bite Risks
All animal bites carry the risk of infection. Treating the wound immediately may help to decrease this risk. Animals that have not been vaccinated carry the risk of infecting bite victims with rabies. Wild animals such as skunks, bats, possums, and raccoons are at particular risk for carrying rabies.
Treating Animal Bites
After being bitten by any type of wild animal, victims should seek immediate medical treatment and begin rabies medications as soon as possible. The same procedure should be followed for dogs or cats that are unfamiliar and may not have rabies vaccinations. If the animal that attacked was a domestic animal that had been vaccinated for rabies, the wound severity should be assessed to determine the best treatment method.
Minor Animal Bite Wounds
Animal bites that are minor should be cleaned thoroughly with soap and water and washed out. If the skin is broken, victims should watch the wound closely for signs of infection. If the wound shows signs of infection or does not stop bleeding after 15 minutes, professional medical treatment should be sought.
Severe Animal Bite Wounds
Severe wounds may require stitches, sutures, and the setting of bones. In some cases, surgery may be required to properly treat bite wounds. Antibiotics and tetanus shots may be administered to prevent or treat infection or contraction of tetanus.
Preventing Animal Bites
Exercising caution around animals may help to prevent animal bites. Children should never be left unattended with animals, especially if the animal is not familiar with the child. When dealing with wild animals, hiring professional exterminators to remove the animals may help to avoid animal bites. Animal owners may help to prevent animal bites by keeping animals contained at all times. When visitors arrive, animal owners may wish to keep animals away from the visitors depending on the temperament of the animal and the amicability with visitors.
Animal Bite Liability
Animal owners are generally responsible for bites caused by domestic animals. Animal bites are covered under most homeowner’s insurance policies. Homeowners may also be liable for wild animal bites that occur on the property. In cases where the party responsible for the animal bite is unclear, animal bite attorneys may be able to provide assistance.
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