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Halloween dog bite injuries and how to stay safe

The topic of dog bite injuries is important to me for two reasons. First, because as an injury attorney I have seen the pain and suffering caused from this type of injury. Second, because I am a dog owner, so I understand that your dog is part of your family and it can be difficult to imagine him attacking someone. Halloween creates a unique situation that can increase the chances of an animal attack. I hope these tips for both trick-or-treaters and pet owners can help lower the risk of an injury occurring.

In this post I’m focusing on the specific risks related to dog bite injuries on Halloween, but I hope you’ll also read my other Halloween post with general safety tips for trick-or-treaters, drivers, and homeowners.

Halloween and the risk of animal attacks

Halloween is a night like no other and while it’s fun for us, dogs can easily become confused and excited by the decorations, flashing lights, and unusual presence of strangers around their home. A dog may perceive the people coming in and out the yard as a threat to himself or his family and react accordingly.

Keeping yourself and your children safe

A little preparation can help avoid a potential injury for you and your children. Here are a few tips to share with your kids and keep in mind when out trick-or-treating:

  • Never approach a dog, even if he knows you. He may not recognize you with your costume.
  • Avoid houses where you hear a dog barking.
  • Ignore dogs that are out walking with their owners.
  • If someone opens their door and there is a dog there, do not move toward the owner or dog, but wait for them to come to you to give you candy.
  • If a dog escapes from his house or from his leash, stand still, look down at your feet and wait. The dog will likely sniff you and move on. Wait until the dog has lost interest in you before moving.

Keeping your dog out of trouble

If you are a dog owner, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Halloween, but there are some precautions that you can take to keep both your dog and your visitors safe.

  • Close your dog into a room that is away from the front door and doesn’t have a window facing the front yard.
  • Make sure your dog has his favorite chew toys with him.
  • Play music or leave a TV on with the dog to help mask some of the sounds coming from outside.
  • If your dog generally gets excited when the doorbell rings, try to avoid it by waiting outside or by keeping an eye out for people approaching the house. That way you can open the door before they have a chance to ring.
  • Even if your dog is great with people, keep in mind that the dog may mistake children running as a game or certain Halloween props as toys. Situations can escalate quickly, and a scared dog may behave in a way that is out of character. It’s best to keep your dog away from the action.

Introduction to New York State dog bite law

Being attacked by a dog can be a traumatizing experience, as well as a painful one. Like with other kinds of injuries, you may be entitled to receive compensation under certain circumstances.

In New York State, pet owners (usually through their homeowner’s insurance) may be required to cover your medical expenses if you can prove that the attack happened. This generally covers medical expenses that were not covered by the victim’s medical insurance, such as co-pays or deductibles. This is true even if this is the first time that the dog has bitten someone.

In the case of serious attacks, there also can be non-medical damages, for example loss of income or pain and suffering. To receive compensation for these types of damages you’ll have to prove that the dog had “vicious propensities.”

What are vicious propensities?

Vicious propensities essentially means that the dog has previously exhibited behavior that indicate aggressive tendencies. One common way to establish this is by proving that the dog has bitten someone before, although it’s not a guarantee. You may also be able to prove it even if the dog has never bitten anyone before. It’s up to a jury to decide whether the dog displayed vicious propensities and whether the owner should be responsible to compensate you for your injuries.

This is where I would normally give a list of the most common factors that have led juries to find a dog had vicious propensities. However, in this case the best advice I can give is to contact me if you’ve been attacked. There are no factors that can guarantee a successful outcome, it’s a matter of piecing together the facts in each individual case.

Can you be blamed for your injury?

If you are found to be partially responsible for the attack, you may not be able to receive compensation. Potential defenses that can be used to prevent you from receiving full compensation include if you:

  • provoked or attacked the dog;
  • ignored the owner telling you not to touch the dog and did so anyway;
  • ignored warning signs that the dog was excited or agitated and approached him anyway; or
  • were trespassing on private property.

What should you do if you were attacked?

With any injury the most important first step is to seek medical attention. It will be up to the doctor to help you understand how serious your injuries are. The next step is to speak to an experienced attorney who will help you understand if your injuries and the circumstances of the attack warrant legal action. Although I have given a quick introduction covering the basics in this post, every situation is different and only an experience personal injury attorney can help you understand your options.

What if the dog belongs to my friend or family member?

This is a question I hear often regarding all types of injuries and the answer is always the same. Serious injuries come with serious consequences, and should be compensated. In most cases it’s your friend’s insurance that will pay and it likely won’t cost him anything. I have known people involved in this type of case who remained friends and more than just that, were happy about their friend’s settlement. Put yourself in your friend’s shoes, if your actions caused an injury to someone you care about, wouldn’t you want that person to be taken care of?

Helping the Putnam County Community for over 40 years.

If you’ve been seriously injured by a dog bite, it’s already a traumatic and painful time for you. We are here to help, and we’re happy to offer a no cost and no obligation consultation where we will give you an honest evaluation of your case and help you understand your options. Contact us to make an appointment today.

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