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Dog Bite Claims

Casey Woodruff

dog biteChicago Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been attacked by a dog or other animal, you may incur costly medical bills, or even suffer permanent injuries. Fortunately, in Illinois, you may have the right to seek compensation for your injuries from the animal’s owner or possessor. If you have been attacked, an attorney can help you recover damages to cover your expenses.

The Statute

Under Illinois law, the owners of pets are generally civilly liable for injuries to others caused by an animal’s attack. To recover damages, the victim must show that:

  • A dog or other animal attacked, tried to attack, or otherwise injured the victim;
  • The victim did not provoke the animal;
  • The victim was conducting him or herself peaceably; and
  • The victim was in a place where he or she was legally entitled to be.

If all those conditions exist, the owner of the animal will be strictly liable for the full amount of the victim’s injuries. The injured party need not prove negligence to recover damages.

Owners

For purposes of the animal attack statute, a person is an owner of a dog or other animal when he or she either owns or controls the animal. Owners are not restricted to those who legally own the animal. This is because the law is designed to protect innocent bystanders. If a person begins acting like an animal’s owner, and is then attacked, that person is no longer an innocent bystander, and so the law does not protect him or her.

A person may be deemed an owner under the law if he or she:

  • Has a right of property in an animal
  • Keeps or harbors an animal;
  • Cares for an animal;
  • Is the custodian of an animal; or
  • Knowingly permits an animal to remain on his or her premises before the attack.

For example, a person may become an owner by walking an animal, feeding or watering it, or letting it roam on his or her property.

Provocation

Because the law is designed to protect innocent bystanders, if a victim provokes the animal, he or she is no longer innocent of responsibility in the situation, and cannot recover. To determine whether an animal was provoked, courts consider whether the victim did something that a reasonable person would anticipate would provoke an animal, and also consider how an average animal would react in that situation. Provocation can include teasing, poking, or abusing an animal.

Unintentional provocation is still provocation under Illinois law. For example, if a person accidentally steps on a dog’s tail and the dog attacks, the victim will not be able to recover, even though the provocation was inadvertent. But if an animal’s attack is vicious and out of proportion to the victim’s provocative acts, the court does not consider that to be provocation, and the victim can still recover damages.

Peaceable Conduct and Lawful Places

Finally, in order to recover, a victim must be acting peaceably in a place where he or she is lawfully entitled to be. These are similar requirements, and mean that the victim must not be trespassing or breaking any laws. A trespasser attacked by a guard dog, for example, would not be able to recover damages.

Further, it is important to note that if a victim allows an animal to stay on his or her premises, the victim becomes an owner for purposes of the statute. Thus, if the attack occurs on the victim’s property, the victim may not be able to recover if he or she permitted the animal to be there.

Damages

If a victim is injured by an animal and recovers under Illinois’s dog bite law, he or she can get compensation for the full amount of the resultant injuries. This can include compensation for medical costs, pain and suffering, disfigurement and scarring, and lost income.

If you have been attacked by a dog or other pet, please contact a personal injury attorney at Woodruff Johnson & Evans for a free initial consultation in Aurora, Chicago, or Champaign.

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