With about 78 million canines in the U.S., it is obvious that Americans love their dogs. Unfortunately, too often, owners fail to properly train or control their pets, potentially leading to aggressive or violent behavior toward others, and even an otherwise well-behaved dog may bite unexpectedly. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that, each year, more than 4.5 million Americans experience a dog bite injury and about 1 bite in 5 requires medical care. 

An aggressive attack may easily lead to serious injury, but even a seemingly minor bite may become infected and require specialized treatment. In addition to medical costs, a severe dog bite may result in lost wages during recovery, psychological harm or even permanent disability. In many cases, individuals may be able to recover some or all these costs by filing a claim with the pet owner or keeper’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance company. When preparing a claim, it is important to gather as much information about the injury as possible. 

Document the injury promptly 

Make sure to take photographs of your injury as soon as you can showing the extent of physical damage. While the incident is still fresh in your mind, write out a full account of the events as you remember them. If other people saw what happened, you may want to ask whether they would be willing to provide a statement. 

Keep track of medical records 

If a bite breaks skin, it is important to get immediate medical attention. According to the CDC, nearly 18% of dog bites result in bacterial infection. From emergency room care to prescriptions or follow-up treatments, make sure to keep all medical records related to your injury. 

File a report of the incident 

No matter how minor the bite, it is important to contact either animal control or the police department and report it. In addition to potentially helping to protect others from injury, doing so may help to make your case stronger if you file a claim. 

In some cases, the pet’s owner may not have an insurance policy that covers dog bites. Fortunately for those who experience injury, Illinois has strict animal liability laws. Those looking to recover financial and other costs may be able to bring a case against the owner, even if he or she did not behave negligently.