Washington residents could be bitten by another’s dog, undergo treatment and be left with the bills. If they file a claim, the process may go more or less smoothly depending on what steps they took immediately after the incident. Below are the essential first steps.

The first step, of course, is to seek medical attention, but if possible, victims should take a picture of the wound beforehand. They should be aware that puncture wounds can become infected if the dog was not vaccinated against rabies. Next, as with a car accident, the victim and the dog’s owner or caretaker must exchange their names, addresses and contact information. One good reason for this is to follow up on the dog’s vaccination history.

If anyone witnessed the incident, the victim should ask for that person’s contact information as well. Eyewitnesses can be crucial in a personal injury claim as they can perhaps give a more accurate version of events. Afterwards, the victim could file a report with the local animal control agency, prompting them to conduct an investigation of its own.

It’s a good idea to document not just all visible injuries from the bite but also the effects, which could range from pain to numbness and loss of mobility. The victim should document any correspondence with the insurance company and witnesses.

Victims who intend to pursue a personal injury case may then wish to consult a lawyer and learn how much they might be eligible for in damages. This could include economic damages, like the medical bills and any lost wages, and non-economic damages, like pain and suffering and emotional trauma. If hired, the lawyer may do much more, including filing the claim and negotiating for a settlement out of court. Third parties may help in gathering evidence.