A dog bite can range from a harmless situation to a severe injury, causing permanent damage or disability. But recognizing the severity of a dog bite is the first step toward seeking appropriate medical attention and legal assistance to recover from injuries and economic losses as well.
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, it’s essential to understand the indicators of a severe dog bite, and that’s what we address in today’s post.
The Severity Spectrum of Dog Bites
Dog bites can be categorized into six levels, according to the classification proposed by Dr. Ian Dunbar, a renowned veterinarian and animal behaviorist which is highly used in dog bites cases to address the damages.
While the first level represents harmless incidents without skin contact, levels two to six indicate increasing severity, with level five involving multiple bite wounds, deep punctures, and significant injuries such as bone fractures, amputations, and death in the worst cases:
- Level One: The dog threatens to bite but there’s no skin contact.
- Level Two: The dog makes skin contact but there’s no puncture.
- Level Three: One to four tooth punctures from a single bite with no puncture deeper than half the length of the dog’s canine teeth. There may be lacerations in a single direction, caused by the victim pulling their hand away, the dog’s head moving, or the dog releasing.
- Level Four: One to four punctures from a single bite with at least one puncture deeper than half the length of the dog’s canine teeth. It may also have deep bruising around the wound or lacerations in both directions.
- Level Five: Multiple-bite incidents with at least two Level Four bites or multiple attack incidents.
- Level Six: The victim deceased as a result of the dog attack.
Depending on the injury’s extent, medical providers may need to conduct various diagnostic tests, including X-rays, a tetanus shot, or rabies vaccination. It is also essential to monitor the wound for signs of infection over the following days.
Identifying a Serious Dog Bite
While all dog bites should be addressed medically, certain indicators suggest a more severe bite that requires immediate attention:
- Deep Puncture Wounds: These are often a sign of a serious bite. Puncture wounds can damage deep tissues and even reach bones. They pose a high risk for infection and complications, particularly if the bite was from a large or aggressive dog.
- Multiple Wounds: Multiple bites or a single bite causing wounds in more than one place is often a sign of a severe attack.
- Bleeding: If the bite causes persistent bleeding, it could indicate that major blood vessels were damaged.
- Loss of Function: If the bite results in a loss of function or movement in the affected area, it could suggest nerve damage or a significant injury to muscles or tendons. For example, a serious bite to the spine may cause a spinal cord injury that impairs movement and sensation.
- Severe Pain: While some degree of pain is expected with any dog bite, intense or escalating pain could indicate a severe injury beneath the skin’s surface, possibly involving muscles, tendons, nerves, or bones.
- Visible Bone or Tissue: If the bite is deep enough to expose bone or inner tissues, it is undeniably severe and requires immediate medical attention.
- Signs of Infection: Infection is a risk with any dog bite but is more likely with severe bites. Symptoms of infection include increasing pain, redness, swelling, pus drainage from the wound, or fever.
The Importance of Legal Advice
A serious dog bite can have long-term implications, from persistent physical issues such as scarring or traumatic brain injury to financial burdens like medical bills and lost wages.
But Indiana law allows dog bite victims to seek compensation for these damages under certain circumstances. As outlined in Indiana Code § 15-20-1-3, the dog owner may be held liable if the dog bite victim was acting peaceably and was lawfully on the property when the bite occurred.
Given the complexities of the law and the nuances involved in establishing a solid dog bite claim, victims are advised to seek legal counsel. At Christie Farrell Lee & Bell, our dog bite lawyers can guide you through the process, helping you understand your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve.
Understanding the severity of a dog bite and the implications thereof is the first step in ensuring that you receive the necessary medical and legal support. By being vigilant about the signs of a severe dog bite, you can take the necessary steps to protect your health and legal rights. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case and learn how to file a dog bite injury claim.