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What to do after a dog bites

Getting bitten by a dog can be a terrifying experience. If it happens to you or your child, you may not know what to do or how to react. Here is what you need to know.

Get first aid immediately

Whenever any animal bites you, you should immediately wash the area with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a sterile bandage. Animals' mouths harbor bacteria, so you need to take steps to prevent infection.

It may be that a little nip from sharp puppy teeth is initially painful, but ultimately nothing to worry about. For more serious bites, however, you may need medical attention. Go to the doctor if any of these circumstances apply:

  • You don't know the dog
  • You think the dog might have a disease
  • The bite is deep
  • You cannot control the bleeding
  • The wound is unusually warm or red
  • The wound is swollen or oozing
  • You have a medical condition that weakens your immune system

Report the bite

Under Ohio law, every animal bite must be reported to the local health commissioner. This is to ensure that the dog is up-to-date on its vaccinations and does not have rabies.

If you're concerned that the dog is vicious and may harm someone else, you may want to consider filing a police report. However, contacting the police is not mandatory.

Make an insurance claim

The medical costs from a serious dog bite can be staggering, especially if surgery is required. Many people are hesitant to seek compensation from the dog's owners, because they don't want to cause their friends or neighbors any hardship. In most cases, though, the owners' homeowners or renters insurance policy will cover the victim's damages.

In Ohio, the law applies a principle called "strict liability" to dog bite claims. This means that owners are liable when their dog bites someone, and victims don't have to prove that the owner was negligent or that the dog was vicious. An exception is when the attack was provoked, or when the victim was trespassing.

If the owner resists, the insurance company does not treat you fairly or your injuries are very serious, you may want to contact a lawyer to help you pursue compensation.

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