A Delivery Driver’s Guide to Dog Attacks
Delivery drivers often come into contact with dogs. Understanding your rights when it comes to dog attacks can help you stay safe.
Dog attacks are just one hurdle delivery drivers face on the job. Another issue? Finding fast routes. Circuit Route Planner makes life easier by optimizing your delivery routes.
If you’re a delivery driver, hopefully, you’re a dog lover too.
Odds are good that you’ll come across homes that have dogs on the property somewhere along your route. After all, some 69 million US households own dogs!
Encountering canines can be a great perk of the job. You might love having dogs wagging their tails in welcome from the yard or front porch or barking excitedly from inside at the sound of your footsteps.
Often, these interactions can be fun and playful. You may have certain four-legged pals you look forward to seeing on your route, especially if you bring them treats. 🐕
TikTok even has an entire feed devoted to cute, heart-warming interactions between delivery drivers and their canine friends (get a quick serotonin boost 😍).
But let’s get real: Not all dogs are friendly. They can be especially combative and aggressive if they perceive you as a threat.
Since you’re technically a “stranger” on the dog’s territory when you stop through to pick up or drop off a package, it’s understandable that the animal might get protective.
Aggressive dogs can make for scary encounters — barking, snarling, and (in the worst case scenario) even biting unwitting delivery drivers.
Case in point: This postal worker suffered a dog attack so severe that they later died from their injuries.
Given the prevalence of dog attacks on delivery drivers (I’ll give you some stats on that below), it’s important to understand how to protect yourself and others.
Below, I talk about some measures you can take to stay safe when dealing with dogs and explain your rights to defend yourself against aggressive behavior.
You’ll also learn what to do if you are bit by a dog — and find out what kind of damages you can sue for if you’re injured.
Delivery driver dog attack statistics
Every year, more than 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs.
On top of that, more than 800,000 of those people get medical attention for their bites. An estimated 1 in 5 dog bites requires some form of medical intervention.
And these dog bites aren’t cheap: Dog bite-related homeowners insurance liability claims cost homeowners $882 million in 2021.
While kids are the most common dog bite victims, delivery drivers are also common culprits.
For instance, more than 5,800 USPS employees were attacked by dogs in 2020.
And those numbers are just from one delivery service and don’t include others like FedEx, UPS, DHL, and Amazon — whose drivers face similar threats.
Case in point: One FedEx driver’s dog bite injuries were so severe that he had to have his arm amputated.
In fact, dog attacks on delivery drivers are so common that the US Postal Service runs an annual campaign to raise awareness about the threats mail carriers face from dogs during National Dog Bite Awareness Week.
The aim is to educate customers about the threats their dogs may pose and give them tips on how to restrain their animals, keeping postal workers safe.
According to the USPS, dogs can even burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to attack visitors.
They suggest that dog owners firmly secure canines before opening the front door, ideally in a separate room (not just in the front hall) with the door closed.
The USPS even gives its postal workers the option to skip dropoff locations if they feel threatened by a dog or if they have to deal with a loose or unleashed dog on a property.
In these cases, the USPS may ask the home’s residents to pick their mail up at a post office, sparing their postal carriers the possible risk of a dog bite.
What to do if you’ve been bitten by a dog while delivering
In some cases, it’s possible to de-escalate an aggressive dog and avoid a bite (I give some tips on how to do just that at the end of this article).
But it’s not always possible to avoid a dog bite. Knowing what to do if it happens is important if you’re a delivery driver.
Find out what steps to take if you are bitten below. It is important that you act on these steps right away to preserve your memory of the incident and get the wheels of your case moving right away.
1. Get the dog owner’s information
If you’ve been bitten by a dog, get the contact info of the owner of the dog.
If you decide to pursue a personal injury case, you’ll need to be able to serve them with papers.
You also want to make sure that you can contact the owner for health reasons. For example, you want to check that the animal is up to date on basic shots, like rabies.
Ideally, the owner will put you in direct contact with the veterinarian, who can confirm their claims with the right paperwork.
2. Take photos of your injuries
A successful dog bite injury case requires evidence. Get proof of your injuries by taking photos of them.
You can simply use the camera on your phone.
Make sure to back up pictures, for example, by emailing them to yourself.
Taking photos of your injuries can also help track your healing process.
For example, if a bite gets red and swollen, it might be infected. You want to track the inflammation to see if it grows or goes away.
3. Get medical attention
Always go to the emergency room after a dog bite.
Even if the bite seems small, dog saliva carries germs like Capnocytophaga. These don’t make dogs sick, but they can cause illness in humans.
You may also need a rabies shot.
Make sure to hang on to all your medical records and related receipts. They’ll serve as valuable evidence in your lawsuit, proving that you were injured and suffered monetary damages as a result.
Also, save receipts for smaller expenses, like getting antibiotics or painkillers at the pharmacy.
All of this proves that you suffered monetary damages as a result of the dog bite and can help build a strong legal case against the dog’s owner.
4. File a police report
It’s important to file a police report so that there’s an official record of the attack.
Call the police and report the incident. An officer will take down details like the date, time, and people involved. They may also interview witnesses.
This report is important evidence in a potential lawsuit.
You should also contact your local animal control to report the incident. They will take and file a record of the complaint and incident.
In cases where a single dog has been involved in more than one attack, it may need to be removed from the owner’s care.
5. Keep copies of all medical and police information
Keep copies of all documentation related to your dog bite, including the police report, animal control report, and medical records.
A dog bite attorney will want to review this documentation to build your case if you decide to sue.
Based on this information, an attorney can provide legal advice about whether it’s worth pursuing legal action. If you do go ahead with a case, this paperwork can also serve as evidence.
6. Notify your employer
If you work as delivery personnel for a business (not an independent contractor), tell your boss about the dog bite as soon as possible.
They might even be able to help you file a workers’ compensation claim.
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that employers take out in case their workers are injured on the job. This can help cover damages like medical costs and lost wages due to recovery time off work.
I’ll go into more detail about workers’ compensation below.
In many states, though, it’s required that employers of a certain size have this insurance to protect their employees.
7. Contact a personal injury lawyer
Talk to an attorney about your case as soon as possible.
Make sure to bring all of the documentation described above with you to the meeting — from medical records to police reports.
Many personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation before you use their services. This gives them a chance to assess the strength of your case and allows you to determine if they’re the right attorney for your needs.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has a database of legal professionals you can consult, making it easier to find a qualified, Bar-certified dog bite lawyer in your area.
Can you legally use self-defense against a dog attack?
If you’re attacked by a dog, your natural instinct might be to defend yourself.
In some cases, you can justifiably harm or even kill an animal for reasons of self-defense.
But there are also animal cruelty laws that protect animals’ rights, making it illegal to unjustifiably hurt a dog.
Laws regarding animal cruelty and self-defense vary widely according to the location.
For example, in Pennsylvania, you’re allowed to kill a dog if it’s chasing or attacking a person or a pet.
But in one case in New York, a man was charged with animal cruelty for killing a Labrador that attacked his Beagle.
Since the laws are so different and depend on the details of each case, ideally, you won’t have to resort to injuring or killing the animal.
The best thing you can do is get away from it completely.
But if you’re unable to avoid or get away from the animal, there are some steps you can take to help keep it calm (and then hopefully get away from it).
Can delivery drivers sue dog owners for attacks?
Yes, you’re legally allowed to take action against the owner of the dog for failing to restrain their animal.
In some cases, it may also be possible to file a suit against the dog sitter or dog walker if they were watching the animal when you were harmed.
But note that different states have different dog bite laws — some have more strict liability than others.
In 36 states, dog owners are legally liable for harm caused by their animals (note that there are exceptions, for example, if someone is a trespasser on the private property where they were hurt — or if they provoked the animal).
Meanwhile, 14 states don’t have dog bite statutes, including:
- New York
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
Even if your state doesn’t automatically hold dog owners liable for their pet’s actions, though, you can still take legal action.
But you’ll have to prove the dog owner’s liability (it won’t be automatically assumed by the law).
Regardless of where you live, it’s smart to consult a personal injury attorney who specializes in dog bites to discuss your case.
An attorney can advise whether you have a strong case, calculate the amount of damages you should be asking for, and help compile the necessary proof.
They can also represent you in mediation hearings or court.
A lawyer can also help you determine what to sue for.
There are different types of damages you can sue for in a dog bite injury claim — find out more about what they are in the next section.
What can delivery drivers sue for regarding a dog attack?
The goal of a personal injury lawsuit is to get financial compensation for damages that happened as a result of the dog attack.
There are different types of damages you can sue for, both financial and non-financial.
- Financial damages are the types of costs you can prove with a receipt. For example, financial damages could be medical bills you had to pay.
- Non-financial damages are less tangible and require other forms of proof. Non-financial damages could be emotional trauma, such as insomnia, that you suffered as a result of the attack. For example, a psychologist might testify to the emotional trauma after a dog attack and how this impacts sleep.
Here are some common points dog bite injuries may address:
- Medical bills: Dog bites can result in medical expenses. For example, this California delivery driver suffered serious injuries following a dog attack. If the injuries are bad, they can even cause permanent disability. You can sue to recover the money that you spent on medical bills, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, and even smaller costs like filling pharmaceutical prescriptions and transportation costs.
- Reconstructive plastic surgery: More serious injuries may require reconstructive plastic surgery. And often, insurance won’t cover those procedures because they’re considered cosmetic and not medically essential. A lawsuit can help you obtain the money needed to cover the costs.
- Lost wages: Recovering from a dog bite can also leave you unable to work, thus earning less money. You can sue for lost wages as a result. You can also sue for damages due to reduced earning capacity in the future. For example, if you aren’t able to continue your role as a delivery person due to disability, you’ll need finances to make up for the lack of income going ahead.
- Impact on quality of life: A serious injury can impact your quality of life in both the short and long term. For example, a debilitating injury can make it difficult to enjoy active hobbies you once enjoyed, which can diminish your quality of life. This is another potential point you might be able to include in your lawsuit.
- Emotional pain and trauma: Going through something like a dog bite injury and recovery can cause emotional distress. For example, you might experience issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a dog attack and have trouble sleeping as a result. These are also issues that can be factored into damages in a lawsuit.
If a person is killed in a dog attack, their family can still file a lawsuit on their behalf — this is known as a wrongful death claim.
In a wrongful death claim, the loved ones of a deceased person sue the individual or organization responsible for their passing. They can sue for similar damages as described above, like medical bills, plus expenses like funeral costs, loss of income, emotional stress, etc.
The money for a successful wrongful death claim is generally paid to the deceased’s estate. It can then be distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate.
Filing a workers’ compensation claim for dog attacks
If you’re an employed delivery worker — not an independent contractor — you might be eligible for workers’ compensation.
This is a unique type of insurance that employers take out to cover medical expenses and other costs related to workplace injuries.
Ask your employer if they have workers’ compensation (they’re probably required to — here’s a roundup of workers’ comp laws for every state).
The first step in filing a workers’ compensation claim is to notify your employer and fill out a formal accident report.
Your employer will then report the injury and file the claim form with the insurance company (make sure to ask for a copy of the paperwork for your records).
The insurer will then approve or deny the claim.
If they deny it, you can appeal — but at this point, you may want to consult a workers’ compensation lawyer who specializes in dog bite injuries for additional support.
They’ll know what additional documentation you can gather or arguments you can make to improve the odds of winning your claim.
Tips to stay safe from dogs while delivering
As a delivery driver, the last thing you want is to become another statistic when it comes to dog bites.
Ideally, you want to avoid a dog bite altogether.
The easiest way to make this happen is to avoid contact with dogs in the first place. Before you step onto a property, check for signs of canines.
Some homeowners will post a “Beware of Dog” sign, for example.
Other signs that there’s a dog on the property include a dog house, toys, food and water bowls, and a fence.
Before you enter the property, pause for a moment. Look and listen for signs of a dog.
If there’s a pup on the property, it’s good to establish whether it’s friendly.
Now, just because there’s a dog isn’t necessarily cause for concern.
But it’s helpful to be able to read dog body language to determine whether a pup is playful or aggressive.
Signs of dog aggression include the animal’s body becoming still and stiff and the dog showing their teeth. They may also growl, lunge, or snap at you.
If you encounter an aggressive dog, it’s best to avoid it. Don’t sacrifice your well-being just for the sake of making a delivery.
However, you may not always notice an aggressive dog before you’re within reach of it. It can be tempting to run.
But this can cause the dog to pursue you.
When faced with an aggressive dog, follow best practices like:
- Stay calm.
- Don’t yell or kick at the dog.
- Avoid direct eye contact.
- Stand sideways, keeping the dog in your peripheral view.
- If you’re carrying something like an umbrella, place it in front of you to make yourself look bigger and command more space.
The point is to not engage with the animal in a way that it could see as aggressive, hopefully de-escalating the situation.
However, this isn’t always possible.
If you’re bitten by a dog, it’s good to know your rights in terms of self-defense — plus what steps to take after you’re bitten.
Trust the guide above to help you navigate a dog bite incident.