When Is an Animal’s Owner Liable for Dog Bite Injuries in Illinois?
Dogs can be wonderful companions. However, before anyone gets a dog, they should fully understand the liability risks dogs present and get adequate amounts of insurance as well. This is because a dog bite or attack can result in severe, permanent, and life-threatening injuries to victims. This was illustrated recently in an incident that took place in a suburb on the north side of Chicago. In September 2019, a man came to a home to provide a tree-trimming estimate, but when he got out of his truck, he was viciously attacked by the three dogs owned by the family. The man suffered severe wounds to his face, arms, and legs, and he was nearly killed.
Confusion exists about when and to what extent the dog owner is responsible in these types of tragic incidents. Is the owner liable for injuries caused by their dog even if the dog never displayed any dangerous tendencies? What if the animal was a rescue dog, and the owner was unaware of the full extent of the dog’s bite history? As a result, it is important to understand how Illinois law addresses dog bite liability in these cases.
The Illinois Animal Control Act
In some states, a dog’s owner is only liable for injuries caused by their pet if they were aware that the dog was aggressive or dangerous. The laws in these states are often called “one bite free” laws, since the owner will often not be held responsible the first time their dog bites someone. However, Illinois is not one of these states. The law in Illinois is very different, and dog owners can be liable even if their family pet has never attacked anyone.
Specifically, the Illinois Animal Control Act (510 ILCS 5/16) states that if a dog or other animal attacks, attempts to attack, or otherwise injures someone without being provoked, the owner “is liable in civil damages to [the victim] for the full amount of the injury” caused by the animal. This is true regardless of whether the animal had previously bitten someone or displayed aggressive behavior.
As a result, the major issue that can relieve the dog owner of liability for his or her dog biting someone is if the victim was not conducting themselves peaceably. For example, a dog’s owner would not be liable if their pet attacked someone who was trespassing on private property. In the incident described above, the victim had been invited to the person’s home to conduct business, so the dogs’ owners can likely be held liable for the injuries the man suffered and any other damages he experienced.
Contact a Chicago Dog Bite Injury Attorney
Whether a dog bite is severe or relatively minor, it can lead to painful and disfiguring injuries that can affect a victim for years to come. Extensive and costly medical treatment may be required, including multiple plastic surgeries to address the scars left behind by an attack. Sometimes, in these types of cases, the victim suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder following these types of incidents as well. Nightmares, anxiety, emotional outbursts, and depression are all symptoms that can severely impact the quality of victim’s lives post incident. Indeed, many clients have reported that the emotional injury has been the most difficult part of coping with an attack of this nature. The emotional trauma can result in loss of income, or they may be temporarily or permanently disabled, leading to the loss of future earnings.
As a result, people that are attacked by animals often sustain significant economic and non-economic damages. Dog owners must understand this when they decide to purchase their pet. Since they are potentially facing significant liability, responsible pet owners should obtain adequate insurance as well. Many people do not know that their homeowner’s liability insurance policies can provide insurance coverage in these types of incidents. As a result, it is important to carry sufficient insurance and to make sure you pay your premiums in a timely manner. This is because untimely payment can lead to a denial of insurance coverage when you need it most.
At Pullano Law Offices, we have successfully represented dog bite victims for many years. We will work with you to ensure that you are fully compensated for the injuries you sustained. If you have been attacked by a dog, you should speak to the Cook County personal injury attorneys at Pullano Law Offices. To schedule a free consultation and learn how we can help, contact us at 312-551-1100.