With summer around the corner, you're probably busy with the usual reminders to your kids to use lots of sunscreen, swim with a buddy, and avoid potato salad that's been on the picnic table too long. Your litany probably does not cover the prevention of dog bites. So, here is some practical information on how to avoid an attack that could forever impact the quality of your children's lives.
Dog days of summer
The term "dog days of summer" refers to the extremely hot weather that occurred in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea that coincided with the "dog star" Sirius and its alignment with the sun. This term takes on a double meaning when you consider that most dog bites occur during summertime in the United States. Specifically, children are most at risk of attack in warm weather, perhaps because their increased outdoor activity collides with dogs that are irritable because of the heat.
Consider these statistics:
70% of dog bite victims are children under the age of 15
half of all children in this country will receive a dog bite before age 12
children under five and seniors over 65 are most likely to require hospitalization for a dog bite
of those hospitalized, 60% needed extensive treatment including skin grafts and wound debridement
Teach your children well: space, place, pace, face
Just like you have to tell your kids repeatedly to use 30 SPF sunscreen and swim parallel to shore to escape rip currents, you need to drill into your children the following ways to avoid dog bites.
Give strange dogs space. Don't go up to dogs you do not know, even if they appear friendly.
Respect their place. Dog bites most often occur because a dog is protecting its territory; attacks are likely to happen when dogs feel their yards are threatened by people big or small.
Keep a slow pace. If approached by a strange dog, don't run or scream. Move away quietly and slowly. Don't make eye contact with the animal.
Get on your face. If a dog attacks, curl up on the ground with your face down. Stay still.
You can make these reminders into a rhyming game--or even set it to a familiar melody--and have kids recite it in the car or while waiting in line at the store. The more often you review this information with them, the more likely it will be an automatic help in a time of crisis.
My child's been bitten: now what?
If your child has been attacked by a dog, you are going to need a personal injury lawyer to help you recover the medical costs you likely paid for his/her treatment. Additional costs may be looming as well if surgery and therapy (physical and psychological) are needed. Most homeowners' insurance companies cover dog bites, especially if the attack occurred on the owner's property.
However, some insurance companies do not pay for bites incurred by breeds that have been deemed dangerous. Pit bulls, rottweilers, and German shepherds are the breeds most likely to act aggressively and, therefore, may be excluded from a policy.
Unfortunately, insurance companies are often reticent to pay claims; after all, they make money by holding onto as much of their policyholders' premiums as possible. That's why you should make an appointment for a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer in your area. This consultation will provide you with needed information about the legitimacy of your claim and the approximate amount of award for which you may be eligible.
This summer, add reminders about dog bites to the ones you usually give your kids about sunscreen. You just may prevent much more than a sunburn.