“Pursuing Dog Bite Claims in Illinois
According to The Humane Society of the United States, there are an estimated 83.3 million dogs living with families in America, with at least 47% of those homes having more than one dog. Yet as friendly as dogs may seem, dog bites are a real danger and problem. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) notes that there are an estimated 4.7 million dog bites a year. More than 850,000 people seek medical attention and in 2012, more than 27,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten by dog. For the victim, dog attacks are traumatic, frightening, painful and often severely damaging incidents.
Dog Bite Claims in Illinois
Perhaps surprisingly, Illinois ranks second for both the annual number of dog bite claims filed. Yet the successful pursuit of justice against owners of dogs who attack unlawfully is no easy task. In order to have a claim against a dog owner in the State of Illinois, a bite victim must satisfy four elements in order to recover damages:
- The injury must be caused by a dog owned by the defendant;
- The victim must have been bitten despite a lack of provocation;
- The victim must show peaceable conduct; and
- The victim must have had the legal right to be on the property at the time of the bite.
Establishing Ownership of the Dog
The Illinois Animal Control Act defines an owner as:
“[A]ny person having a right of property in an animal, or who keeps or harbors an animal, or who has it in his care, or acts as its custodian, or who knowingly permits a dog to remain on any premises occupied by him or her.” 510 ILCS 5/2.16
Essentially, anyone who shows some measure of care, custody, and control over the dog can be held responsible for dog bite injuries.
Demonstrating the Lack of Provocation
The second element that the victim of the dog bite must establish is provocation. Provocation is usually defined as inviting conflict. Dog owners often raise this issue as a defense to escape liability, claiming their dogs were provoked. If someone kicks, pushes, wrestles, or throws objects at the dog, this would invite the dog to attack. Therefore, that person would not be able to recover damages if the dog bites him or her as the dog was responding to that provocation. However, if that person is merely walking by the dog or going down to pet the dog, and the dog bites, that person will have a claim because they did not “invite” the dog to attack.
Proving Peaceable Conduct and Legal Right
Peaceable conduct and the legal right to be on the property go hand in hand. Considered jointly, they mean that the victim needs to show that he or she did not trespass onto the property and were not breaking any laws while being on the property. For example, if a person unlocks the neighbor’s backyard gate without permission and walks into the neighbor’s backyard to borrow a tool, he is considered a trespasser. This means that if the neighbor’s dog comes running out of the neighbor’s house and bites the person in the neighbor’s yard, the person may not have a claim because he was illegally on the neighbor’s property at the time of the incident. In most cases, peaceable conduct and legal right elements are not at issue.
Getting the Right Attorney to Help You
Dog bites can often be very severe, leaving the victim with permanent scars, nerve damage, emotional trauma, and even permanent disfigurement. As personal injury lawyers, it is our duty to aggressively pursue and win such cases for our clients, helping them achieve justice by holding those who have negligently allowed them to be attacked and injured by a dog.
This discussion about dog bites is not meant to be exhaustive and is certainly not a substitute for discussing your injury with an experienced and successful personal injury lawyer.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of a dog bite in Illinois, or in any other state, please call the lawyers at Whiting Law Group on 877-936-7200, or use for our free case review form to ask for a free consultation about your case. There is always an attorney ready and willing to speak with you.