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Dog Bite Basics in Illinois

Sometimes, dog bites are little more than annoyances, but many times, they cause serious physical injuries. It is not unusual for these injuries to be fatal, especially if the victim is an older adult or a younger child.

Animal attacks often cause significant emotional damage as well. Many victims suffer from an unnatural fear of animals, flashbacks, heightened awareness, and other Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms. Time and extensive therapy are the only known cures for problems such as these.

Given the significant damages in these cases, it is little wonder that the value of dog bite claims has increased by over 75% since 2003.

Establishing Liability for Illinois Dog Bite Damages

Many states use some variation of the common-law “one bite rule” in these cases. If this rule applies, these victims must prove the owners knew of the animal’s dangerous propensities.

Illinois has a strict liability dog bite law. Owners are liable for damages whether or not they had any prior notice. There are some other important aspects of the strict liability law. The term “owner” is broadly defined to include not only owners but also custodians, vet assistants, dog walkers, and any person who “knowingly permits a dog to remain on any premises occupied by him or her.” Furthermore, the law applies to knockdowns, scratches, and other injuries, not just bites.

Third-party liability may be available as well. There are many examples of negligence in this area. Negligence is basically a lack of ordinary care. For example, a schoolteacher is negligent if he allows students to play with an unfamiliar animal. Under the respondeat superior rule, the school district may be vicariously liable for damages in cases like these.

Landlord liability may apply as well. Landlords have a legal duty to keep common areas, like pool areas, parking lots, grassy areas, and pool areas, reasonably safe for their tenants. This duty extends to preventing acts like random animal attacks.

Possible Defenses in Illinois Dog Bite Cases

It is not enough for an attorney to build a claim for damages. Your lawyer must also be ready to respond to some common defenses in these cases.

Most insurance company lawyers try to use the provocation defense in these cases. But in this context, provocation means much more than teasing or egging the animal on. Legal provocation means that the victim inflicted so much pain on the animal that it justified a violent response. Moreover, a single incident is usually insufficient.

“Beware of Dog,” and other such signs might also give rise to the assumption of the risk defense. This rule excuses liability if the victim:

  • Voluntarily assumes
  • A known risk.

Essentially, the victim must not only be able to see the sign. The victim must also be able to read the sign and understand its meaning. These elements are usually impossible to establish if the victim is very young, very old, or has limited English proficiency.

Work With an Experienced Attorney

Dog bites usually cause serious damages. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Chicago, contact The Horwitz Law Group. Attorneys can usually connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.




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