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Recovering from Dog Bite Trauma

By Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie on April 4, 2020

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Dog bites, while seemingly simple, can come with a host of physical traumas, including scarring, broken bones, and risks of infections. But dog bite attacks don’t only cause physical injuries. They can also have long-term psychological effects, particularly in children, and have been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The resulting trauma can cause a fear of animals that the victim never experienced before, following them for years if not properly treated with therapy.

How Frequently Do Dogs Bite Children?

An estimated 4.7 million dog bites occurred in the United States, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the most recent year for which published data is available. Of these dog bite victims, 799,700 required medical care and approximately 6,000 were hospitalized. In an analysis of non-fatal dog bite injuries, researchers found that the injury rate was highest for children ages 5 to 9 and decreased in older children. For children less than 4 years of age, 64.9% of injuries were to the head and neck region.

Fear of Animals in People Who Have Been Bitten by Dogs

After a dog bite attack, a fear of animals is not unusual. People, including children, who once loved animals and enjoyed being around them may become anxious and fearful. This psychological effect can have an impact on a person’s activities and quality of life. Some people who have been bitten by dogs thereafter refuse to visit friends and family who have dogs in their homes. Others may become anxious when a dog is passing by, even if it is on a leash.

PTSD in Children after Dog Bites

As mentioned earlier, young children are often bitten by dogs in the head, neck, or face, often because a larger dog’s height is equal to or a little bit taller than a child’s. For comparison, this experience would like an adult being attacked by a bear. The resulting shock and terror of a vicious dog attack can easily overload a child. However, while an adult might talk about an animal attack, a sensitive child may remain quiet and bury feelings associated with the attack. As with any overwhelming trauma, this can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder and leave the child with a life-long fear of dogs.

Long-Term Care for Children with PTSD after Dog Bites

Long-term therapy has been shown to help children suffering from PTSD address the psychological trauma buried within them after a dog bite attack.

  • Post-dog bite PTSD in children can often be addressed by simply talking through the trauma and learning how to cope with it.
  • Another treatment option is exposure therapy, which involves slowly introducing the child to the feared situation (a dog in this case) to help the child overcome the fear, so he or she can once again interact with dogs similar to the one that caused the injury.
  • Play therapy is another treatment option. It uses guided play to help the child express emotions. This approach may involve asking children who have been bitten by dogs to draw pictures or use dolls or stuffed animals to re-enact scenes and better express their fears.

However, psychological therapy can be expensive for most families. If you or your child has been injured in a dog bite attack, you are entitled to pursue compensation for your injuries from the owner of the dog in order to help pay for any medical bills associated with the attack, including therapy. California imposes strict liability on dog owners when a dog bites a person who is in a public place or legally in a private place. This means the owner is liable, even if the dog had never bitten before and the owner did not know it would bite, and their homeowner’s insurance should cover your child’s treatment.

When negotiating a settlement or explaining the case to a jury, a personal injury attorney can argue that your child’s therapy should be included in the compensation owed to them after a dog bite attack. After a dog bite in Orange County, the best course of action is to contact a dog bite attorney at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie. Call us at (949) 752-7474 to schedule a free consultation to discuss the best options for your case.

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