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Do victims of dog bites suffer psychological harm?

Dog bites are physically painful and can lead to serious problems, including infection, surgeries, long healing times, and -- perhaps most overlooked -- deep psychological wounds as well.

How deeply someone is emotionally affected by a dog bite usually depends on both internal and external factors:

-- Whether or not the victim continues to fear another attack because the dog is still in the area.

-- Whether or not there's been a fracture within the victim's own family over the bite, which can happen if the dog was owned by a family member.

-- Whether or not there's been a lost friendship, especially a long-standing one, if the dog belonged to a friend.

-- If the dog's owner is angry over the incident and rebuffs attempts by the victim to get his or her medical bills covered, especially if the dog's owner is a relative or former friend now blaming the victim for the dog's action.

-- The ability of the victim to withstand the constant exposure to other dogs, who are heavily integrated in the lives of people and hard to avoid.

-- Any pre-existing psychological problems the victim already had, such as depression or anxiety, which could be aggravated by the attack.

-- The victim's sense of vulnerability based on previous traumatic incidents, including physical abuse, injury, or victimization during a violent crime.

-- The location of the bite. Injuries that are visibly scarring and on the face are more traumatic than probably any other spot except possibly the genitals.

-- The length of the attack. A long attack is more traumatic than one bite.

-- The number of dogs involved. Several dogs attacking is more traumatic than one dog attacking.

Psychological damage is often an under-explored and underestimated aspect of dog bite injuries. It's important, however, to discuss these issues with your attorney, especially if you have become fearful, withdrawn, experience nightmares, difficulty sleeping, have changed your job or residence because of the attack, or no longer feel safe either in public or in your own home because of the attack.

All of these things can require treatment through counseling and medication, but you also deserve compensation for your psychological injuries, not just your physical ones.

Source: DogsBite.org, "Dog bite victims," accessed Feb. 09, 2017

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