Personal Injury

How to protect yourself from dog attacks

Each year, more than 4.5 million people are attacked by dogs in the United States, and more than 800,000 victims need medical attention for dog bites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Texas has led the U.S. in fatal dog attacks and ranks near the top in dog bite claims each year. The Lone Star State has followed the “one bite rule” since the 1970s which means owners may not be held responsible for a dog’s first bite. That makes it harder for victims to be compensated for injuries unless the dog has previously attacked someone else.

Why do dogs bite?

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says there are many reasons why dogs attack people, including:

  • Reacting to a stressful situation
  • They are scared or feel threatened
  • To protect themselves, their owners or their puppies
  • They are sick or become startled
  • They can nip or bite during rough play

How to prevent a dog attack

Even good-tempered dogs can be unpredictable, and there are instances when they can become aggressive if they are unprovoked. When you are around an unfamiliar dog, the AVMA recommends:

  • Maintain confident but cautious body language
  • Do not approach the dog
  • Do not run away, panic or make loud noises
  • Do not move and avoid direct eye contact
  • Do not disturb a dog that’s sleeping, eating or taking care of puppies
  • Allow a dog to sniff you before you try to pet it
  • Pet an unfamiliar dog under the chin and not on top of the head
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and cover your ears and neck
  • Contact animal control about stray dogs or those exhibiting strange behavior
  • Do not encourage your dog to play aggressively

Seek legal advice if a dog attacks you

The CDC says one in five people attacked by a dog needs medical treatment, and the average cost of treating a dog bite injury here in Texas is nearly $30,000. If you are attacked by a dog, contact an experienced Austin personal injury attorney who can help you get the compensation you deserve, especially if you have extensive medical bills or lost wages after being forced to miss work due to those injuries.

Understanding your dog’s body language

Because of development, urbanization and the awareness of sheltered pets in need of homes, dogs are more prevalent in our society than ever. A rise in population often is followed by a rise in statistics. In the United States, the land of 78 million dogs, and where 38% of all homes have at least one dog, 4.5 million people suffered dog bites in 2018. Insurers ended up paying out over $675 million to dog bite victims.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III) the number of dog bites decreased by 9% in 2018. While that is good news, there is a dark statistic as well. The number of emergency room visits due to bites doubled from 1,794 in 2001 to 3,125 in 2018 for children ages zero to one.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III) the number of dog bites decreased by 9% in 2018. While that is good news, there is a dark statistic as well. The number of emergency room visits due to bites doubled from 1,794 in 2001 to 3,125 in 2018 for children ages zero to one.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the 10 states that filed the most dog bite claims are:

  • California
  • Illinois
  • Ohio
  • Texas
  • Pennsylvania
  • Michigan
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • New York
  • Minnesota

Dog bites are often due to miscommunication or the person’s inability to read the dog’s signals. A young child and many adults will assume that yawning means the dog is tired and licking means the dog is happy and playful when these actions can mean stress in certain situations. Some other common body language ticks to be aware of are:

  • Narrowed eyes often equals aggression.
  • Winking and wide-open eyes equals happy and playful.
  • Ears flat against the head equals aggression.
  • Ears forward means the dog is paying close attention.
  • Ears back but not flat against the head can mean sadness.
  • Tail down means a relaxed dog.
  • Tail up signals the dog is ready to play.
  • If displaying dominance, your dog will have their ears and tails up and legs stiff.
  • Dominance does not always mean aggression. Watch for added signals.
  • If the tail and head are bent low and ears are back your dog is anxious.
  • If the tail is bent all the way between their legs or close to their belly, their legs are bowed, and ears are back, your dog is scared.
  • If your dog’s ears are back, legs are bowed, and their tail is turned up, your dog is showing aggression.
  • Yawns can signal stress, confusion or sleepiness.
  •  Licking displays a greeting and long sustained licks are a sign of affection.

It’s important to understand our dog’s emotional signals. Even if the person interacting with the dog isn’t aware they are inflicting stress, all breeds, even the gentle breeds will only tolerate so much before they lash out.

When can my child ride bicycle on the street?

For many children, bicycling can be one of the best summertime activities. As a parent, you probably want to be supportive of your child’s interest in this healthy activity, but you may have concerns about your child’s safety.

It is understandable that you may have safety concerns when there were almost 800 bicyclists killed in traffic crashes in 2017. However, as unsettling as that statistic may be, bicycling can be a safe activity for your child.

Each child is unique

Every child has different abilities, so there is no set time when it is appropriate to allow a child to bicycle on the street. To determine if you should allow your child to bicycle on the street, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my child’s bicycle sized appropriately?
  • Is my child’s helmet sized appropriately?
  • Can my child ride predictably?
  • Can my child make safe decisions regarding traffic?

Signs your child may not be ready

To ride safely on the street, a child should be able to behave predictably. If a child’s bicycle is too big or too small, he or she may be more likely to lose control of it, which could be unpredictable to drivers. Additionally, it could be hazardous if your child cannot bicycle in a straight line or does not know hand signals.

Your child should also be able to make safe decisions regarding traffic, like when to stop or when to cross the street. Most young children struggle to determine the source of a sound, evaluate cause and effect, exhibit patience and separate reality from fantasy, which all contribute to making good traffic decisions. Also, children younger than about 8 years old often do not have a sense of danger, so they may not recognize which decisions could be hazardous.

Supervised rides may be a good place to start

If your child can ride predictably, but may not reliably make safe decisions about traffic, he or she may still be able to bicycle on the road with supervision. The first couple times you allow your child to ride on the road, consider asking him or her to follow your lead. When you and your child are comfortable, you may let your child lead as you follow and supervise.

However, sometimes even in the best circumstances, children have accidents when riding bicycle. A properly fitted helmet can protect your child from receiving a severe head injury if he or she falls of the bike, takes a corner too fast or is involved in any other kind of accident.

As a parent, it can be nerve-racking to allow your child to bicycle on the street for the first time. However, by making sure your child is ready and taking steps to promote safety, you can help your child avoid being involved in a traffic collision.

Safety tips for bicycle commuters

If you enjoy the outdoors, there’s no better place to live than Austin, Texas. With enjoyable weather and bicycle-friendly roadways, you may want to experiment with this mode of transportation to commute to and from work.

While bicycling has many benefits, including the ability to save money on gas and protect the environment, there are some safety risks to be aware of. Here are four safety tips you can follow when commuting on your bicycle:

  • Watch for turning vehicles: Even if you’re in a bicycle lane, it doesn’t mean that every driver sees you. Every time you approach an intersection, beware of drivers who are making a right turn. If a driver doesn’t see you, they could turn directly into your path of travel.
  • Avoid the door zone: It’s easy to focus your attention on moving vehicles, but you also need to consider those that are parked. A driver or passenger could open a door in front of you, thus causing you to either swerve or strike the door head-on.
  • Take caution around pedestrians: Drivers aren’t the only ones that can cause an accident. If you spook a pedestrian, for example, this person could jump into your path, thus knocking you to the ground. Take extra caution by always doing your best to pass behind pedestrians.
  • Use a bicycle lane when available: If there’s a bicycle lane to use, don’t ignore it. It’s much safer than driving in traffic or on the sidewalk. If there’s no dedicated bicycle lane, drive among the cars while following all the rules of the road.

What should you do after an accident?

Even if you follow these safety tips, you can never guarantee that you won’t be injured in an accident. If this happens, do the following:

  • Immediately call 911
  • Move to safety, if possible
  • Administer first aid until paramedics arrive
  • Accept transportation to a local hospital from the responding ambulance

Doing these things improve your chance of minimizing your injuries and making a full recovery.

If a negligent driver caused your accident with a motor vehicle, contact your insurance company to learn more about your policy and filing a claim. Also, there are other steps you can take to seek compensation.

Visit our website and read our blog for more information on all types of motor vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian accidents.

How can you and your kids avoid dog bite attacks?

It’s common to see people with canine companions all over Texas. People bring their dogs with them to the park and the beach. Other individuals may have emotional support or assistance animals that go into public businesses with them. It’s also likely that you have friends or family members who have dogs living in their homes.

You probably rarely stop to think about how dangerous dogs can actually be. If you are fortunate enough to have only had positive experiences with dogs, you might not worry about the potential for a dog bite. However, dog bite attacks are relatively common. Their consequences can be severe, especially if a dog bites vulnerable areas like the neck, hands or face.

A dog can also severely injure or traumatize your child, which is something every parent wants to avoid. Learning how to avoid dog bites is a great way to keep yourself and the people you love safe.

Treat every dog you don’t know like a dangerous dog

Looks can be deceiving, even when it comes to dogs. An animal that has perky ears and a wagging tail one second could be snarling and lunging at you the next. Also, certain characteristics like color or fur density may make people consider a dog to be cute or harmless when it actually has aggressive tendencies.

In order to reduce the risk to your face, you should always act as though any dog will want to bite you. Ask before interacting with or attempting to touch a dog. Always approach a dog in a cautious and safe manner. Teach your children to do the same.

Watch for signs of anger or fear

Because they can’t speak, dogs can’t communicate that clearly about their emotional needs with humans. However, carefully watching a dog can help you determine what it’s thinking or feeling.

Certain kinds of body language, such as laying back its ears, pulling back its gums, exposing its teeth and snarling, or crouching down could all be signs of impending aggression. Both you and your children should understand what to look for in a dog nearby.

If you sense potential aggression, move slowly and calmly but directly away from the animal. If the animal is not restrained, alert its owner if possible. Seek shelter in a building or vehicle until the dog has been removed from the space.

Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, a dog does manage to hurt you or someone you love. If that happens to you, it’s important to understand that you do have rights. Laws about dog bites can be complex. Your first step should be to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can advise you of what rights and options you have under Texas laws.