raccoon that delivered animal bitesAnimal attack cases are not uncommon events and the resulting bites are one of the most common workplace injuries. In a typical year, about 4.7 million dog bite incidents will occur, and more than 800,000 of these will require medical attention. In 2011, there were 31 fatalities in the United States due to dog attacks alone. The problem of canine attacks was severe enough that Pennsylvania adopted a “dangerous dog” law, only to find that many dog owners were willing to pay to register their pet as dangerous.

Conventionally, a person injured by an animal would have a potential legal case against the animal’s owner, or possible against the owner of the premises where the attack occurred. Things get complicated, however, if the person has been injured in the course of his work. Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law provides medical and income benefits to a person hurt or sickened while working, without consideration of who might have been at fault. In some cases, a worker injured by a dog bite in Pennsylvania may have dual legal rights for financial recovery both from his employer and from a pet owner.

The workers at risk

We know that any worker can be vulnerable to any type of injury while on the job, but each type of injury has its own distinctive incidence pattern. As workers’ comp lawyers in Pennsylvania, we have kept detailed records of the injuries suffered by our past and current clients. Among the workers most vulnerable to insect stings, animal bites, and pet attacks, we find the following:

  • Building workers. Both construction workers and installers can encounter nests of stinging or biting insects in the course of their jobs, as well as den’s of raccoons, opossums, rats, skunks, or other wild animals adapted to urban living.
  • Delivery Workers. Food delivery and package delivery drivers often are required to enter other peoples’ homes, where they can be bitten by vicious dogs or attacked by other household pets. Wasps, fleas, mosquitoes, hornets, and other stinging and biting insects can present a threat to delivery workers as well.
  • Medical Professionals. Home health care workers and nurses who visit home-bound patients can receive serious wounds from animal attacks. They are also exposed to insect bites and stings that can spread infections and viral disease.
  • Union Workers. Schoolteachers, especially in the elementary and middle school grades, are the union workers most vulnerable to animal and insect bites. A teacher can be injured by contact with a classroom pet reptile or by spiders from a science exhibit.
  • Veterinary Professionals. Understandably, veterinarians and animal care assistants are the health care workers who have the greatest amount of contact with pets and their insect parasites. Although veterinarians are trained in animal handling techniques, a normally docile dog or cat can suddenly turn violent in unfamiliar surroundings.

The Variety Of Injuries

As you would expect, bite injuries are the most common result of an attack by a household pet. Maulings by dogs and some other pets can inflict severe and even deadly wounds that may permanently disable or disfigure the person attacked. But bite attacks from pets are not the only animal-related incidents that can result in Pennsylvania workers’ comp claims. Serious on-the-job injuries, infections, and complications caused by insects and animals include:

  • Infected wounds. Pets’ mouths and claws typically teem with bacteria. A bite or scratch injury can spread bacterial diseases including brucellosis or campylobacteriosis, or parasitic diseases such as cryptosporidiosis. The rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria makes even Staphylococcus aureus infections potentially deadly.
  • Cat scratch fever. The Bartonella henselae bacteria causes cat scratch disease, which can be transmitted to humans from a feline bite or claw scratch. Typical symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, fatigue, and listlessness. Severe cases can lead to bacillary angiomatosis (the growth of tumor-like blood vessel clusters) and Parinaud’s oculoglandular syndrome (an eye condition similar to conjunctivitis).veterinary professional and kitten
  • Insect and spider bites. A few varieties of insects and spiders have a venomous bite that can cause dangerous-or even fatal-reactions in some vulnerable persons. A few species of biting insects carry bacterial or viral pathogens that can be transmitted to humans during a bite; these infectious agents are responsible for grave diseases, including Lyme disease, West Nile disease, and LaCrosse encephalitis.
  • Lyme disease. The Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium is responsible for Lyme disease. Ticks carry the bacteria from animal hosts-dogs, horses, or rodents are the most common-to humans. Many people who are exposed have no symptoms at all, and many get mild effects: a distinctive “bull’s eye” rash, muscle or joint aches, fever, and headaches. A few patients develop serious complications in the heart, nervous system, or joints.
  • Psittacosis. Although Chlamydia psittaci was first found in parrots and parakeets, we now recognize that many varieties of birds can carry this bacterial strain and transmit it to humans through bites, scratches, or even by casual contact with feathers or droppings. Psittacosis, sometimes called “parrot fever,” can cause flu-like symptoms or pneumonia, but intense cases can damage the heart, liver, and nervous system. Psittacosis is sometimes fatal.
  • Rabies. A bite from an infected animal can transmit the rabies virus to humans. Many dogs and cats kept as pets have been immunized against the disease, but wild animals-including raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, squirrels, and other mammals-can transmit the disease. The virus acts very slowly, often taking months or years before neurological symptoms develop. Unfortunately, the disease is usually fatal once those symptoms are evident.
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Tick bites transmit the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii from infected dogs to humans. The earliest symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever develop in a week or two: rash, chills, fever, muscle pain, and confusion. Complications can include heart, kidney, or lung failure; meningitis and brain damage; pneumonia; and shock. About three percent of patients die.
  • Toxins from stinging insects. Bees, hornets, wasps, and some ants have stings at the end of their abdomens. These stings inject a venom that can paralyze or kill other insects, but would normally be only a mild irritant to humans. For some people, exposure to an insect toxin can trigger a severe allergic reaction, ranging from hives to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. Yellow jackets-a variety of wasp-are responsible for most of the stings to humans.
  • West Nile virus. This viral disease is transmitted by bites from infected mosquitoes. Most people who contract West Nile virus have no symptoms at all, but about one-fifth of all human cases will involve fever and intense flu-like symptoms. For about one percent of the people who are exposed, the disease can trigger life-threatening neurological complications, including meningitis and encephalitis. There is no treatment for West Nile virus other than palliative care for the symptoms. For some people with serious reactions to the pathogens, symptoms can persist for as long as five years.

Getting treatment for animal bite injuries

If you have been injured on the job from a stinging or biting insect or an animal attack, it is important that you report the incident to your employer and seek immediate medical care. This is an emergency situation and prompt medical attention is vital.

Your medical bills for workplace injuries should be covered by Pennsylvania workers’ compensation benefits. Your out-of-pocket costs for medical care should be reimbursed, and-if you are disabled from working for more than a few days-you should receive partial payment for your lost wages. Depending on the severity of your injury and the treatment your doctor advises, you also may receive compensation for surgery, prescription drugs, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

These are benefits you deserve under state law. If your employer or the insurance company is balking at paying the benefits you’re entitled to, call the Bulldog Lawyers toll-free at 866-462-8553 today. Jay Shor and Larry Levin are ready to stand up for workers whose benefits are being delayed, denied, or terminated too early. Contact them today! Their team of Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys is waiting to hear from you now.

Animal Bites On The Job Are No Joke

Share this Image On Your Site