A Dog Bit Me – What Next? Avoiding, Treating & Suing for Dog Bites Explained

A dog growls at a man, acting aggressive

A few months ago, we published a Dog Bite FAQ. Now, as the United States Postal Service (USPS) wraps up its National Dog Bite Awareness week, we’re revisiting the topic from another perspective. Today, we’ll cover how pedestrians can avoid dog bites, what to do if a dog bites you, and what to expect if you sue someone over a dog bite injury. 

How Many Dog Bites Happen in Los Angeles?

The first question on your mind is probably, “should I really be worried about dog bites?”

The answer: Yes and no. There aren’t packs of feral hounds roving the streets of Los Angeles (or at least, not many), but LA is a city with a high incidence rate of dog bites. Each year, around 20,000 people suffer from dog bites in Los Angeles. Furthermore, California consistently ranks near the top of the U.S. for dog bite fatalities compared to other states.

A lot of that has to do with the population – California is, after all, the most populous state in the U.S., and more people means more dog owners. It’s worth understanding how to avoid dog bites – and what to do if a dog does bite you – so that you can play it safe. 

USPS worker running from an angry dog.

How Do I Stop A Dog from Biting Me?

If you want to avoid a dog bite…

Know What An Aggressive Dog Looks Like

Aggressive dogs often display the following behavioral signals:

  • Still or rigid posture;
  • Low, guttural barking;
  • Lunging or charging movements;
  • “Muzzle punching,” where the dog jabs its head toward a perceived threat;
  • Snarling, growling, and showing teeth;
  • Quick nip or bite attempts;
  • More aggressive nip or bite attempts in rapid succession. 

Dogs can proceed through stages of aggression quickly. If you see a dog suddenly become rigid, let out a low bark, or lunge toward you, start moving to make yourself safe – further aggression could follow shortly. 

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Today, people are less aware of their surroundings than ever before, thanks to items like smartphones that provide pedestrians with constant distractions. 

If you go out in public – especially in an area that has a high dog population – try to keep your phone in your pocket and earbuds out of your ears. Look around as you walk to ensure you’re aware of your surroundings. 

Know How to Play Nice

Dogs respond to body language and communication in different ways. If you’re near a dog, try:

  • Asking before petting. Plenty of people are happy to pet dogs without asking first. Just because they’re on a leash or in a dog park doesn’t mean they won’t bite. Always ask an owner before petting a dog. 
  • Slowly presenting the back of your hand for them to smell. Reaching over a dog’s muzzle or head can make them feel threatened. Letting a dog get your scent first can help make it less aggressive. 
  • Moving slowly and keeping your voice neutral. The more intentionally and slowly you move, the less likely the dog is to perceive you as a threat. Additionally, never try and “talk” to a dog by barking or growling – it could provoke the animal. 
  • Standing still or moving slowly. Chances of outrunning a dog – especially a fit one – are slim. If you’re around a loose dog, moving less can help you avoid catching its attention. 
  • Whistling or tossing rocks near them, if all else fails. A short, high-pitched whistle may be enough to drive away a dog. Similarly, throwing rocks near them can help keep you safe. If you want to stay safe, you can always invest in a dog whistle or natural dog deterrent. 
A man suffer from a dog bite.

What If A Dog Bites Me?

If a dog bites you, taking immediate measures to seek medical care and prevent infection is crucial. After suffering a dog bite, you should:

  • Wash the wound with mild soap and warm water for 5-10 minutes. Then, apply antibiotic cream and wrap the wound in a sterile bandage. 
  • See a doctor. After cleaning the wound, visit a medical professional. They can take care of any additional measures (such as stitching or giving you booster shots to help avoid infection). 
  • Rest and heal up. Your doctor should provide instructions on handling recovery – follow them closely. 

Unfortunately, bite wounds sometimes become infected. Look out for:

  • Numbness or lack of dexterity in the limb or digit closest to the wound;
  • Swelling and tenderness or numbness around the wound;
  • Pus or fluids coming from the bite area;
  • Difficulty breathing, chills, feelings of fatigue, or stiffness in your neck or jaw. 

Dog bites can cause infections ranging from Pasteurella to Rabies, so take recovery seriously. If you fear a bite may be infected, it’s always better to be proactive and visit your doctor – infections only worsen with time. 

A "beware of dog" sign outside of a house.

How Do Dog Bite Cases Work in Los Angeles?

According to California law, if a dog bites you, the owner must provide their contact information and dog’s medical history within the past 48 hours. Failure to do so could result in legal penalties. 

If a dog bites you, try and get the owner’s contact information immediately. You should also contact law enforcement and make a police report. If you can, request that the owner stays with you until law enforcement arrives to ensure they’re held accountable for the attack. 

If the owner leaves in a vehicle without giving you their contact information, try and get the license plate number. They could face additional legal penalties for fleeing the scene. 

To obtain compensation for your dog bite, you’ll want to file a personal injury lawsuit. Typically, dog bite victims file against the owner’s home or renter’s insurance. However, if the owner does not have insurance, they may file against the owner directly. 

Dog bite victims who settle their cases receive an average of $51,000. You could receive compensation for various damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and disability benefits. 

At Wilshire Law Firm, we’re dedicated to helping dog bite victims receive the care and counsel they deserve. To schedule a FREE consultation with an award-winning team responsible for recovering over $1 BILLION for clients since 2007, contact us online or give us a call at (800) 501-3011.