Child Dog Bite Victims Often Suffer Psychological Distress

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perroOn April 1st, 2014, a six-year-old boy was just released from the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital where he had been recently flown after being attacked by a pack of dogs on the streets of Donora, PA. The boy would likely have been killed except for the intervention of some neighbors and of a police officer who blasted them with pepper spray. While the little boy has largely recovered from the physical damage, the scars and psychological impact may last for years to come.

Dog Bite Victim PTSD

A 2008 study by a Presidential Task Force covered the effects of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) in teenagers and young children. It found that most people experienced some kind of traumatic event at some point in their childhood, though the severity of it and the long-lastingness of it varied greatly. Sleeping disorders, phobias, obsession with thoughts about death, nightmares, and other symptoms were found to occur in many in connection with some kind of trauma. Most children eventually recovered and returned to a normal life, though some were permanently affected.

One of the most common traumatic events causing PTSD or other psychological distress in young children is being attacked and bitten by a vicious dog. Long after the physical danger has passed, enduring psychological impacts continue to haunt victims. Physical scars and disfigurements stemming from the dog attack may serve as reminders to the child of the horrific event and may cause the child embarrassment and feelings of inferiority when the scars are highly visible and difficult to hide with clothing.

Half of all dog bite victims are children, most of them less than seven years old. Many of these incidents occur when owners fail to properly restrain their dogs and with certain more dangerous breeds of dog, preeminently pit bulls. Pennsylvania has strict laws holding dog owners responsible for the actions of their dogs under most circumstances. Liability for the effects of a dog attack on a child can extend beyond the physical damage and include emotional and mental distress.

Compensation for Psychological Distress in Lawsuits

About half of all compensation awarded in lawsuits is paid to cover psychological distress, normally related to some physical damage done. This is a startling statistic, but it is in keeping with the subject of a famous legal article written 17 years ago that has had much influence and acclaim- Valuing Life and Limb in Tort: Scheduling Pain and Suffering. It was the work of a number of scholars and its point that pain and suffering must be compensated for as well as finances is reflected in the current reality of the U.S. court system. Psychological pain and suffering is a part of the impact an accident can have on one’s total life. This is no less true in the case of a child who was ferociously assaulted and bitten by a dog.

Legal Options for Victims

If your child has been seriously injured by a dog and is displaying signs of PTSD or other stress disorders, it may be that compensation for the psychological effects of the accident can be collected as well as for counseling or other care used to address the emotional and mental suffering that has followed from the incident. An experienced dog bite attorney familiar with Pennsylvania’s dog bite laws and the inner workings of the court system will be able assist you in gaining compensation for not only the physical but also the psychological damage caused by a dog attack on your child.

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