Monday, September 8, 2014

What a Dog Bite Costs You

Someone I know got bitten by a dog. He was taking his nightly walk in his neighborhood, and a lady walking her dog did not control the animal. It leaped at him and bit him. He cried out, "Your dog bit me," but the lady said, "No, he didn't, " and she ran away.

It was dark. He didn't know her or the dog. He certainly couldn't chase her. A man chasing a woman on a dark street? The police could have deemed that assault. He never got a good look at her or the dog. So he went home.

After he got home, he collapsed in a faint, and a relative rushed him to the ER. The ER doctors did a nice job, explained that the faint wasn't life-threatening, and shot him full of meds. They told him to come back for the necessary series of rabies shots. You'll be relieved to know these shots were not in his stomach, as legend has it, but in his arm.

Rabies is still a fatal disease, so opting not to get rabies shots is a mortal risk. Especially since where my friend lives nearly an estimated one-third of all dogs have not had their shots. Most jurisdictions offer rabies inoculations free when you apply for a dog license. Free as in free. A pretty good deal to safeguard your dog and your fellow citizens. But many people do not license their dogs.

The bills for treating the dog bite have now arrived. My friend has health insurance with a yearly $2,500 deductible since he's young and healthy. After the deductible was met and insurance paid its share, the out-of-pocket cost of this dog bite was $4,000 for the ER visits and the shots. Bills from the ER doctor and from the hospital are still expected.

That's right. Four grand.

Would there have been any way to get the shots less expensively? Probably not the first set, since they were given in an emergency situation. Perhaps my friend's regular doctor could have ordered the vaccine for the follow-up shots, and they would have cost less. Perhaps not. My own attempts to get my doctor to order the shingles vaccine were fruitless, despite it supposedly being commonly available. With rabies, my friend could not take a chance and wait to see if maybe his doctor could get the vaccine. His other option might have been to go to a freestanding pharmacy that gives shots, but again, whether the pharmacy could obtain the vaccine in a timely manner is a question. Most insurance plans will not reimburse for shots gotten at a pharmacy, at least, not without a fight.

The only sure way around the enormous cost of rabies shots would be to identify the dog and determine if it had been inoculated. I suppose my friend could have gone door to door in the neighborhood and attempted to describe the lady and her dog, but since he didn't really know what they looked like, he thought it was pointless. He could have reported the incident to the police as an act of good citizenship, but that might have been pointless, too. He knows that if identified, the lady could claim that he attacked her and her dog was protecting her. That's a serious charge and he might get arrested and have to hire a lawyer to be cleared. Meanwhile, her dog would be automatically impounded, and if not inoculated, would be destroyed. As soothing as that idea might be, the price my friend would pay would be too high: possible arrest, a police record, and a lady who is really, really mad at him. You're thinking, "Why should a man fear the vengeance of a woman?" Why not? Her dog bit him without provocation. Is she likely to be any nicer than her dog? Dogs don't just bite people; they get schooled to behave badly by their owners.

I advised my friend to carry a stick from now on when he takes his nightly walk. But there is some risk to him to be seen carrying a stick since he is not elderly. As it is, most women steer clear of a man on the sidewalk, just in case. This situation is a tough one, and expensive, too.




Mark Powers said...

Rabies can actually be a fatal disease, especially if it was not treated as soon as possible. Too bad your friend wasn’t able to identify the dog or the owner. If he had, the expenses might have been a lot less, or better yet, none at all. Anyway, thank you for sharing this story. Keep safe!

Mark Powers @ Huppertz & Powers

Stephanie Waters said...

Your friend should notify the neighborhood watch that an aggressive dog is out on the loose. It might help other people who go on walks at night to be aware as well. Anyway, I'm so sorry to hear that your friend had to pay the whole fee. Hopefully, she's doing well by now and that this never happens to her again. Thanks for sharing and take care!

Stephanie Waters @ Chastaine Law