While burgeoning online retail sales is good for businesses and the U.S. Postal Service, there seems to be another consequence – dog bites. According to news reports, dog attacks on postal workers skyrocketed last year to 6,755, which is up 206 incidents from the previous year and the highest in three decades. Internet shopping booms and consumers increasingly demanding round-the-clock package and grocery deliveries are contributing to this rise in dog bite incidents, officials said.
The Problem of Dog Attacks
The all-time high for dog attacks was back in the 1980s when there were more than 7,000 reported. That was even before pit bull maulings and aggressive dogs became a public issue. Among the cities, Los Angeles topped the 2016 list with 80 attacks on mail carriers followed by Houston with 62 and Cleveland with 60. This month, the U.S. Postal Service released these numbers as part of National Dog Bite Prevention Week. The agency said medical expenses and workers' compensation costs involving these dog attacks cost the Postal Service millions of dollars every year.
Overall, about 4.5 million Americans suffer from dog bites each year. A majority of these victims tend to be children. In the last year, dog attacks on mail carriers rose 3 percent nationally. Dog bite claims are also increasing nationally. The average cost per claim declined last year by about 10 percent, according to the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm. Postal Service officials say that even if only 2 percent of mail carriers were bitten in 2016, every postal worker often has some kind of “dog experience” to talk about from outrunning a dog to trying to cajole a territorial pet.
Preventing Mail Carrier Attacks
The Postal Service is hoping that these public awareness campaigns help people understand the seriousness of an issue. After a 14 percent increase in dog attacks in 2015, the post office launched an app called “Trip Hazards” to help warn carriers about dangerous dogs. Customers are asked on package pickup applications if they have dogs. In extreme cases where dangerous or hostile dogs are involved, residents will be told to pick up a mail or package until a repeat offender dog is restrained.
Here are a few steps homeowners can take to prevent attacks on mail carriers or those who deliver packages:
- Obedience training can go a long way in terms of teaching dogs proper behavior. It can also help owners better control their dogs in different situations.
- When the letter carrier comes to your home, keep your dog inside, away from the door. If possible, keep your pet in another room, or on a leash.
- Do not take a letter or package directly from the mail carrier in your dog's presence. Dogs can get protective about their own territory and may interpret the actions of letter carriers as a threat.
- Spay or neuter your dog. Such pets are less likely to roam or bite. According to the Humane Society of the United States, dogs that have not been spayed or neutered are up to three times more likely to be involved in a biting incident compared to neutered or spayed dogs.
- Dogs that have not been properly socialized or that receive little attention or handling, or are left tied up for long periods of time often turn into biters.
Dog Bite Injuries
There are a number of injuries that could occur as the result of a dog attack. Dog attacks can lead to many types of different injuries and can vary in degrees of severity. Some dog bites may cause permanent scarring, disfigurement or even nerve and tissue damages. Some of the most common dog bite injuries include:
Puncture wounds: These types of injuries often don't bleed as much and normally close on their own, but they still need treatment. They can also be serious because they are prone to infection. They could lead to serious nerve damage and cause other conditions such as rabies and blood poisoning.
Nerve damage: It is important to remember that dogs have strong teeth. Some breeds such as pit bulls can inflict a lot of damage with their bites. Sometimes, powerful dog bites can also cause nerve damage affecting victims' abilities to perform everyday tasks. Nerve damage could result in chronic pain, lack of sensation or in extreme cases, even paralysis.
Scarring and disfigurement: Dog bites often result in severe scarring and disfigurement. Victims have a tough time getting insurance to pay for surgeries to repair these scars. In some cases, the scarring is permanent.
Facial injuries: Injuries to the face, head and neck are also extremely common in a dog attack. You may have to undergo multiple surgeries and procedures to fully heal from such injuries.
Broken bones: Victims may also suffer broken bones in the case of severe bites and also when they are pushed to the ground during an attack. Broken bones often require extensive treatment and rehabilitation.
Psychological issues: In addition to physical injuries, dog attacks can also leave a victim with serious psychological issues such as paranoia, anxiety and even post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Compensation for Injured Victims
California has what is known as a “strict liability statute” when it comes to dog attacks. Dog owners in such cases can be held financially responsible for the injuries and damages their pets cause. Injured victims can seek dog bite compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, cost of cosmetic surgery, psychological counseling, pain and suffering and emotional distress. If you have been bitten by a dog during the course of your employment, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the dog owner in addition to seeking and obtaining workers' compensation benefits from your employer.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack, the experienced dog bite attorneys in Huntington Beach at Timothy J. Ryan & Associates can help you better understand your legal rights and options. We will fight hard to secure maximum compensation for all your losses including any cosmetic procedures you may need. Call us at (800) 838-6644 for a free and comprehensive consultation.