Dog bites are somewhat rare. Nevertheless, owners bear a large responsibility to keep their animals from harming other people and can be held legally liable for injuries that result from an animal attack.
Illinois law is stringent about holding owners liable for the actions of their animals. This approach is in place to protect members of the public that have no reason to anticipate an animal attack, as well as to ensure owners take proper precautions to keep their animal from posing a danger. This responsibility is increased if animal control determines the dog should be labeled as “dangerous,” a designation assigned following an attack or threatening behavior.
The standards for labeling a dog as dangerous are set at the local level and the city of La Salle proposed expanding its dangerous dog ordinance to include attacks against other dogs, and not just people, as a qualifying event. The potential physical injury and emotional trauma these attacks can provoke are behind the strength of these ordinances, and victims of dog bites need to understand what their options are when these incidents occur. A look at the owner’s general liability for a dog bite, and what happens when an animal is declared dangerous, will follow below.
Unlike some states, Illinois does not require the injured party prove the owner was negligent, which eliminates the need to prove the owner did not do enough to prevent the injury. Instead, Illinois imposes strict liability for dog bites. Thus, as long as the following facts are established, the owner is legally responsible for injuries his/her animal causes to another person, including any damages the injury caused where:
There is a time limit on how long an injury victim may seek compensation – generally two years for dog bites, and injured parties should meet with an experienced dog bite attorney early in the process to make sure physical evidence is preserved, and witnesses questioned before memories fade.
Some dogs display unpredictable aggressive behavior or have a history of biting, and may be designated as “dangerous” animals per the terms of city ordinance. Declaring a dog “dangerous” is a mechanism cities use to determine if an animal should be euthanized because of the danger it poses, or if not that serious, the precautions an owner needs to implement to keep the animal from harming others. Animal control conducts evaluations of an animal’s propensity for violence and aggressiveness following reports of bites or aggressive behavior from the public.
If found to be dangerous, animal control may order the animal euthanized if it caused a severe injury, and must order it if an attack resulted in death. Otherwise, dangerous dog designations mean the owner must comply with more demanding requirements to legally keep the dog, including:
If a dog bite attack occurs because one of these requirements was ignored or neglected, it will be easier to obtain damages for emotional distress, as well as punitive damages to punish and prevent future attacks.
Dog bites are traumatic events that should not be dismissed once the wound heals. It is important to hold the owner responsible, and the dedicated Naperville personal injury attorneys at the Mevorah Law Offices LLC know how to build a case to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us at (630) 420-0100 for a free initial consultation.
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