In Chicago, victims who are bitten by a dog have rights. You’ll want to take care of your safety first, then you’ll want to take action.
Identify the Dog
If your wound is not immediately endangering your safety, then the best possible thing you can do first is somewhat counter-intuitive: see if you can identify the dog. You may already know the dog’s owner, or if the dog was running off-leash, the owner may be nearby. Call Animal Control and wait for them to arrive. Describe the breed of the dog, its markings. Do you see it regularly in the area? When and where? It’s one of the things you need to know about dog bites.
The reason you’re looking to identify the dog is that the owner will be able to tell you whether the animal has been vaccinated against rabies. If you cannot verify that the dog has been vaccinated, you’ll need to get a series of expensive, painful rabies shots – which you’ll want to avoid if at all possible.
The second very good reason to find the owner is that this is the person who may be liable for your injury. Any prior reports about this dog’s behavior will have been filed under the owner’s name and dog license, and you’ll need to know if the owner has been negligent about keeping a dangerous dog under his or her control.
Seek Medical Care
If your dog bite injuries are severe, naturally you should skip identifying the dog in favor of getting medical treatment as soon as possible. Any severe bleeding or tissue and muscle damage should be attended to as quickly as possible – the quicker you are seen, the more likely a doctor will be able to repair the damage. Contact first responders at 911 and tell them you’ve been bitten by a dog and need immediate attention. Be sure to tell them exactly what’s wrong – you will get a quicker response if you are bleeding severely.
If your injuries aren’t immediately severe, you still need to see medical care as soon as possible. Before you head to the doctor, wash your wound out thoroughly with soap and clean water. Apply a cold clean towel to the wound to stop bleeding. If possible, try keeping the bit area elevated above the heart. If your injury is not that severe physically, you’re primarily concerned with infection and the possibility of disease. The risk of infection is quite high with dog bites, so if your primary physician is not readily available, go to the emergency room immediately.
While you are waiting to be seen, take pictures of your injuries. If you cannot easily see the injury (if you were bitten on the back of the knee, for example), ask someone if they would be willing to take a few photographs for you before beginning to treat the area. You risk infection or further injury if you re-open a wound when you unwrap bandages, so make sure you take photos ahead of time if at all possible.
Report and Pursue
After you’ve been treated, file a bite report with the local police and Animal Care and Control. If you’ve gone through 911 to get medical attention, you’ll likely be asked by the police to fill out an animal control report in Chicago automatically; if not, you’ll need to call them yourself. Don’t wait to perform this step; it legally documents your case and will help make sure this dog doesn’t bite others. It also helps officials keep track of potentially dangerous dogs.
If you did not provoke the animal to bite you by taunting or harassing it, the dog’s owner is strictly liable for payment for your damages. This means that you don’t have to show that the dog owner was negligent in any way (such as letting the dog off a leash). All you have to show is that the dog bit you, and you suffered injury.
At Willens Law Offices, we have helped many dog bite victims in the Chicago area and throughout Illinois get compensation for their injuries. We may be able to help you. For a free initial consultation on your legal rights and options, please call us at (312) 957-4166.