An animal bite is often both a medical emergency and a liability issue. When a dog bites your child, caring for the wound is the priority concern. However, parents may also consider legal action against the dog’s owners.

Follow these steps to seek medical care and document critical details after a dog bite incident affecting your child.

Perform first aid

First, stop the bleeding by applying pressure gently with a clean cloth. Keep the affected area raised if possible to slow bleeding.

When bleeding stops, carefully rinse the bite clean and wash with gentle soap. Dry the area by patting with a clean cloth, then apply an antibiotic ointment and a bandage.

See the doctor

Some dog bites need medical attention. This applies if one or more of the following is true:

  • The dog was a stray and/or you do not know who the owner is.
  • The bite affected the face or neck and/or is very deep.
  • Bleeding continues after 10 minutes of gentle pressure.
  • You notice signs of infection, such as swelling, redness, warm skin or presence of pus.

If you know the dog’s owner, request a copy of the animal’s shot record. If this information is unavailable, take your child to the doctor. He or she may vaccinate your child for tetanus and/or prescribe antibiotics to prevent a potential infection.

Seek legal help

In Oregon, dog bite injuries follow the so-called “one bite rule.” This means that if the dog has never bitten a person before, the law does not hold the owner responsible since he or she did not know the dog would bite.

A lawsuit is valid only if the dog has bitten before and if your child did not provoke the dog to bite. If he or she was trespassing on the dog owner’s property, the owner is not legally responsible for the bite. If you decide to seek legal damages for costs associated with the dog bite injury, you must file a lawsuit within two years of the incident.