We have been receiving more calls from clients who suffered dog bites by pit bulls, Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, and numerous other breeds. If this happens to you, what do you do to protect your legal rights?
First, make sure that you obtain the owner's information, especially the address, and find out as much information as you can about the dog--its name, whether it has been licensed, had all of its shots, and most importantly, had the dog bitten anyone previously--this is critical information as will be discussed further below.
Second, if a cell phone or camera is available, take photographs of the dog, and of the property where you suffered the injury.
Third, you must report the incident to the police so that there is an official report. Make sure that the police officer investigating the incident questions the dog owner about rabies shots and prior bites by the dog. The issue of previous attacks or bites by the dog is vital to a successful claim against the dog owner, based on the legal concept of notice. Notice means that the dog owner knew (or should have known) that his or her dog was dangerous based upon a previous attack, yet did not properly restrain or fence in the dog to prevent future attacks.
Fourth, obtain prompt medical attention for your injuries at an emergency room or your private doctor. It is very important to confirm with the triage nurse or staff at the doctor's office that they described the incident accurately, including where the dog bite happened, how it happened, and when it took place. We have seen numerous situations in which hospitals do not accurately describe the circumstances of an incident, which causes many complications when we are attempting to resolve the case for the client.
Fifth, obtain a copy of the police report of the incident if some time has passed before you seek legal counsel. If there are any inaccuracies in the police report, you should notify the department immediately that you wish to file an amended report so that all information in the report is correct.