We rarely expect cute and cuddly creatures like puppies and adult dogs to attack us, but in Arizona, dog bites are more common than you may think. In 2017, State Farm insurance company reported that payments for dog bite claims are up 15 percent year-over-year. Tucson News Now reports Arizonans pay more than $20,000 more than the national average for dog bites, with victims or dog owners paying an average of $57,000 to treat injuries from each incident. From 2009 to 2014, the number of hospitalizations as a result of dog bites in Arizona doubled. Children make up about 50 percent of victims of dog bites, according to State Farm.

Puppies who are teething, dogs who feel threatened, and rough play that gets out of hand can all lead to serious injury or even death when a dog bites. In June 2017, a 1-year-old was mauled by a dog and later died from the injuries. If you are a victim of a dog bite, or if someone in your family unfortunately dies in relation to a dog attack, you may be entitled to compensation for physical injuries, emotional stress, time missed off work and other damages like wrongful death. An attorney that has dealt with the complexities of dog bite cases will be able to help you sort out what you need to do.

When a dog bite occurs, it can be a terrifying event. Whether it happens at the house of someone you’re familiar with, at the dog park with a strange dog, or when you’re invited to visit someone’s property, it’s important to immediately take these steps to protect your rights.

Assess and Document the Scene

While you may experience shock and trauma after being bitten, it is important to stay calm and gather some important details that will be invaluable in case you experience serious injuries and decide to pursue a claim. Ask for medical attention, and get the contact information of any witnesses around the scene, including their full name, phone number, email address and physical address if possible.

Use your smartphone to document the bite right away and snap a photo. Taking photos of the location is also wise, as well as any ripped or bloodied clothing or items that may have been disturbed around the scene. Ask for the full contact information of the dog owner, including their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance agency. Ask the dog owner what kind of breed the dog is, since that may affect the dog owner’s insurance coverage, and ask for documentation of the most recent vaccines the dog has had. Snap a photo of the documents, or ask for copies. Make sure to remove yourself from the space of the dog. If emergency services have been called, stay in a safe and quiet place.

Get Medical Attention

Even if you guess that the dog bite was minor, it may have inflicted an injury that becomes painful later on or creates worse problems if it goes untreated. It is also essential to get medical treatment to make sure the bite is not infected, and that the dog did not have a disease such as rabies.

Either call emergency services to come to you, which will also allow you to file a police report, or head to a doctor right away. Even a quick treatment will help to ensure your health is protected and will provide you with documentation that will be helpful in a future claim.

Contact Animal Control

Contacting Animal Care & Control after a dog bite is important for your documentation, and it can also help any future victims of a bite from that dog. Some cities like Phoenix, AZ have an ordinance that requires the dog owner to quarantine the dog at a county dog pound, or at a vet’s office at their own expense, for seven days following a dog bite incident. Filing a dog bite report with animal control enables the professionals who work there to take steps to ensure the owner uses safety precautions with the dog and takes actions to prevent another bite from happening.

Your dog bite incident may also not be the first time this dog has bitten someone. If the dog is deemed vicious, animal control can help to ensure it doesn’t harm anyone else.

Write About the Experience

If the police have not been called to the scene and filed a report, it is essential for you to document on paper exactly what happened and also document damage and injuries through photos. In high stress and adrenaline producing situations such a dog attack the exact details may fade quickly causing recall and the possibility for a judgment to become clouded. Consult with a witness if possible about what happened, write it down or take a note on an electronic device. Obtain the contact information of any and all witnesses as you may need to ask the witnesses to recall the situation for your attorney by appearing in court or completing and signing their own written statement of the events.

Even if you have significant documentation from police and animal control after a dog bite, keeping a record of how the inflicted area feels each day can also help a potential case. Pain may worsen over time, or negative effects may show up several days after the incident. Creating your own documentation helps protect you and provide evidence of all the damages that occurred after the initial attack and bite.

Contact a Dog Bite Lawyer

If you have experienced serious injuries from a dog bite or have unfortunately lost a loved one to a dog bite-related incident, you should contact an attorney to learn your rights and what compensation you are entitled to. Arizona accidents occurring from dog bites can be emotional, especially if you know the owner, but your rights and finances are worth protecting.

It is important to get advice from a professional before accepting money or compensation from the dog owner, or before contacting the owner after the incident yourself. Do not use language that assigns blame, especially to any actions you may have taken to provoke the dog. In Arizona, dog bite laws are complex and place responsibility on owners, barring certain circumstances. An experienced dog bite lawyer can help you understand the details in your case and provide information on dog bite or other personal injury information.