Post-traumatic stress disorder is a prevalent, yet often misunderstood, psychological issue in society today. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can come from many different distressing events, including, for example, a dog bite. Dog bites can happen to anyone of any age, and dog bite victims often suffer long after the actual bite occurs. Dog bites are not only physically painful; they can cause PTSD as well. In this article, we will discuss the connection between PTSD and dog bites, as well as your legal rights as a victim.
What is PTSD?
PTSD manifests itself in a number of different ways, but, broadly, the disorder is characterized through three major symptoms: (1) flashbacks, memories, and nightmares that cause the person to re-experience the trauma they suffered, (2) emotional desensitization (often described as a sense of “numbness”) and avoidance of things that may trigger memories of the trauma, and (3) increased hypersensitivity that can cause hypervigilance, problems sleeping and concentrating, and irritability.
Post-traumatic stress disorder in children can appear differently than in adults. Children and teens who experience trauma can suffer later in life if the problem is not dealt with effectively. Of children who experience trauma, 3% to 15% of girls and 1% to 6% of boys develop PTSD. If a child has a lot of family support, peer support, and counseling, he or she will recover better than children with less support and resources to fall back on. In young children, PTSD can sometimes manifest itself in foggy memory, avoidance, and re-enactment of the trauma during playtime. In middle-school-aged children and teens, aggressive or impulsive behaviors may surface.
PTSD after a dog attack is not uncommon, and these symptoms, when applied to a trauma such as a dog bite, can cause serious issues for people who have been victimized.
Those of us who have had a dog know that sometimes, whether it’s because a dog is still being trained or he or she gets overexcited during playtime, a dog will nip or bite. Most of the time, this isn’t an issue, and it can be resolved through corrective training. The dog bites that lead to PTSD (which are the ones we discuss in this article) are much more severe and injurious. The CDC claims that there are 4.5 million dog bites in the U.S. each year, with 20% of those bites becoming infected. Children and men are the most likely demographics to be bitten by a dog.
According to DogBites.org, a site that collects news articles and statistics about dog bites, there were 34 dog-bite-related fatalities in the US in 2015. Pitbulls and Rottweilers caused 91% of those deaths. Another 6% came from bulldogs. The majority of the victims were children under the age of 10, and of the adults killed, the majority were older than 65. Surprisingly, the majority of these attacks involved just one dog, as opposed to a pack, and most attacks also came from non-family related dogs—i.e. dogs owned by other people.
According to an article in The Seattle Times, dog bite victims aren’t thought of as likely candidates for PTSD, but the devastating impact of the wounds, as well as the violence of the attack from an animal that is supposed to be “man’s best friend” leaves a long-lasting impact. One victim, 63-year-old Ona Deane-Gordly, had to receive thousands of stitches and staples for a dog attack that left her riddled with seventy deep, ragged bite wounds. She claimed that both the trauma of the event and the difficulty healing—particularly the itching that so often accompanies the reknitting of wounds—made her contemplate suicide. The terror of the attack and the disfigurement victims may suffer leads to long-lasting psychological problems.
PTSD due to dog bites might manifest itself through flashbacks and nightmares about the bite, hypervigilance when outside, and an intense fear of dogs (cynophobia). People may avoid places where they think dogs will be, and, since 37% to 47% of US households own at least one dog, this can have a dramatic impact on the person’s social life and restrict their ability to go out and feel safe. Counseling may be required, as PTSD victims will likely be in need of professional help in order to recover from such an attack.
Your Legal Rights
If you have been attacked by a dog, you deserve compensation for the injuries—physical and emotional—that you have suffered. A negligent owner should be held accountable, and if you feel that you have suffered wrongfully yet did not receive just assistance from the owner of the dog that attacked you, you should contact a legal firm.
Dog bites are, unfortunately, a very common ordeal that can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder for victims. Injuries can be physical and psychological, requiring a long recovery process. If you’ve been a victim of a dog bite and feel that the guilty party hasn’t been accountable, call me to determine what your rights are for recovery!