From sprawling off-leash parks to pet-friendly cafes, Americans love their dogs. Unfortunately, poor training and negligence may easily lead to aggressive behavior that endangers others, and even the best-trained dog may sometimes bite. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are over 4.5 million such incidents in the U.S. each year. Of that number, about 1 bite in 5 requires medical attention.

An aggressive dog attack may cause serious injury and lead to steep emergency medical expenses, lost wages during recovery and even psychological trauma. In many cases, the pet owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance may provide compensation for these costs. However, in order to receive an insurance settlement, it is important to gather as much documentation as possible to support a claim.

Retain all medical records

Make sure to seek medical attention immediately if a dog bite breaks the skin. In addition to the risk of transmitting rabies, nearly 18% of dog bites become bacterially infected. Save all medical records related to the incident, from bills for emergency care to follow-up recommendations from your physician about ongoing treatment.

Document the injury early

As soon as you are able, put down an account of the events as you remember them in writing. Take pictures of the injury to show the extent of the damage. If others were present to witness the incident, it may be helpful to ask them for a statement and request their contact information.

File an incident report

Even if a bite seems minor, it is important to file a report with either animal control or the police department. Getting an incident on record may help to protect others in the future and may strengthen your claim. When you file, check to see whether the dog has been violent in the past. If so, make sure to request a copy of the report.

A serious dog bite may lead to expensive medical treatment, a lengthy recovery time and sometimes irreparable damage. Making sure to maintain a detailed set of records regarding your injury and any follow-up care may be essential to help you regain financial and emotional stability.