Dogs have been considered man’s closest companion for thousands of years. Given the explosion of pet-related services and businesses in the last 10 years, the connection between a dog and its owner is stronger than ever. Most encounters with dogs are pleasant with no real risk of injury; however, dog bites do happen and are often related to uneducated or inattentive owners, or a dog that has not been properly socialized or trained.
Dog bites can inflict significant and permanent damage and should never be taken lightly. According to a report issued by State Farm for 2017, Illinois came in second in the country in terms of the number of dog bite claims filed with this insurer, with 318 for $12.6 million. This is just one insurance company that offers coverage for pet-related incidents. Thus, even more bites and injuries occurred throughout the State that are not reflected in these numbers.
Illinois takes the responsibility of pet owners to control their dogs and keep other people safe from harm seriously, and has laws in effect that govern when these owners may be legally responsible for an injury caused by their dog.
Consider the following information with regard to how Illinois assigns liability for dog bite-related injuries, as well as defenses owners may try to claim in order to escape an obligation to compensate an injured victim.
Every person has a general duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent harm to others, and dog owners have this responsibility extended to acts by their dogs that cause injury, whether it be from a bite or other action, such as knocking and individual down. Illinois specifically states that owners are responsible for injuries caused by their dog if:
Illinois follows a strict liability model for determining owner responsibility for an injury. This is good news for a victim. Regardless of whether the owner had reason to know about a propensity for violence, or was completely taken by surprise when aggression surfaced, the owner is responsible for the dog’s actions and resulting injuries as long as the dog was not provoked. It is important to note that provocation generally refers to abusing or assaulting the animal, committing a crime against the owner, or if the dog was responding to pain or injury of the owner or itself.
Compensation for past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and permanent disability or disfigurement are available depending on the circumstances of the case, but the law does not require the owner be responsible for the full amount incurred as a result of the injury.
While owners of animals that bite will generally be found liable for harm, there are two instances that serve as defenses to these claims: the victim was trespassing, or the dog was provoked. One requirement to succeed in a dog bite claim is to show the person bitten was in a place he or she was lawfully permitted to be. Trespassing is the polar opposite of this requirement, and often indicates that the person not only lacks permission to be on private property, but also usually intends to engage in illegal purposes.
Provocation is the second ground an owner can claim to escape liability and, as mentioned above, it is any action that would prompt the dog to act in defense of itself or another person. An experienced dog bite attorney will know how to address and overcome such claims.
Being bitten by a dog is a traumatic experience and can leave a bite victim with permanent limitations. To ensure the owner is held fully responsible for the harm, work with an experienced DuPage County dog bite attorney who understands what you need to prove to recover just compensation. Contact our office for a free initial case evaluation.
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