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What to do when a dog bites your child

By Ken Gibson on October 11, 2021

It’s traumatic for all concerned when a child is bitten by a dog.

Sad Facts:  Any dog will bite under certain circumstances, and all children are vulnerable to serious injuries. Dogs are more likely to attack children than adults, and dog bite injuries tend to be more serious in children. Severe dog bites most frequently involve the head and neck and occur in children younger than five, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Steps to take when a dog attacks

If a dog is attacking your child, stay calm, remain in control of the situation, and take the following steps:

  1. Do not scream, yell, or make sudden movements, because these actions can cause the dog to become more aggressive.
  2. Avoid eye contact — the dog may take it as a challenge.
  3. Use an object to create a visual barrier between you and the dog. You could use a blanket, a purse, an umbrella, a garbage can – anything to cause a distraction.
  4. Slowly pick up your child if you are able. This will restrict the dog’s access, and move the child’s head and neck farther from the dog’s reach.
  5. Tell your child to curl up in a ball, to protect her face and vital organs, and try to cover her ears and back of the neck with your hands.
  6. Do not pull the child away if the dog bites down. It could cause tearing and serious injury. Instead, lean into the dog with the child in your arms.
  7. Fight back as a last resort. Only fight if absolutely necessary, because it can escalate the attack. Try putting something over the dog’s face to disorient it, such as clothing. If you have to use force, aim for soft tissue, such as the dog’s eyes or ears.
  8. Do not turn your back on the dog when the attack is over.

Steps to take after a dog attack

Do the following if your child has been bitten by a dog:

  1. Remain calm and comfort your child.
  2. Call 911 or get medical attention right away for your child’s injuries. There is a high risk of infection or rabies if a bite broke the child’s skin.
  3. Find out who owns the dog or who was in charge of the dog when it attacked. Obtain contact information from the owner or person in charge of the dog, and ask for proof of rabies vaccination.
  4. Call Animal Control, and report the attack.
  5. Document the incident: Get contact information for eye witnesses and any police reports or documentation from Animal Control. Take pictures of your child’s injuries and document them from the time of attack through every stage of the healing process.
  6. Speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer about filing a claim for compensation. Most dog owners are covered under their homeowner’s or renter’s policy.

Dog bite laws in Virginia

Virginia follows the “one bite” rule for dog bites. This means owners are only liable for injuries if they knew the dog was aggressive. Typically, evidence to prove the owner knew the dog would bite is proof that the dog has already bitten someone or has demonstrated a pattern of aggressive behavior.

However, Virginia also follows a “negligence per se” rule for dog attacks. Owners are required to exercise reasonable care in controlling and restraining their dogs, regardless of if they knew the dog was dangerous. This means that, despite the one-bite rule, dog bite injury victims may be able to recover compensation if they can show that their injuries resulted from the owner’s failure to use reasonable care and comply with local ordinances such as leash laws.

What should I do after a dog bites my child?

If your child has been bitten by a dog, your best course of action is to contact an experienced Virginia dog bite lawyer as soon as possible. At GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys, we know how to argue against defenses the dog owner or insurance company may raise.

Our firm seeks to help prevent injuries from happening by sharing useful safety information.  But when injuries do occur, we consider it our calling to help those who have been hurt. Call us at (804) 413-6777. We do not charge any fees until we recover compensation for you.

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