Dogs are generally adorable animals. However, they are animals with instincts and can cause severe injuries and death. These incidents often happen when dogs are not well cared for or properly supervised.
When dog bites or attacks happen in Illinois, the law holds the owner liable. Dog attack injuries can lead to high medical bills, income loss, and emotional distress. For this reason, you should know your legal rights and options if you suffer damages and other losses in a dog attack.
Dog Bite Statistics
More Illinois residents have taken up dog ownership in the past decade, and it's no surprise that dog-related attacks are rising. According to Yahoo Finance, the state had the fourth-most dog bite cases in America in a recent year.
That's a worrying statistic, given that the Prairie State still has one of the lowest rates of dog ownership. The American Veterinary Medicine Association puts the dog ownership rate in the state at just 31 percent. This statistic may leave you wondering; what's the reason behind the incredibly high bite numbers?
Why Dog Bites Are Increasing
Most attacks in Illinois happen due to irresponsible pet ownership. When owners don't take adequate care of their dogs, their dogs are more likely to be hostile and attack other people. With more people owning dogs, there is a high chance that many of the pets fail to get proper training and socialization.
Some pets also suffer abuse and mistreatment and are more likely to be aggressive. Generally, most dog breeds are friendly, but they're all capable of attacking under abusive or stressful circumstances. As an instinctive animal, a dog is likely or lash out when stressed, in pain, threatened, scared, or startled.
Illinois Dog Bite Law
Under Illinois law, pet owners are liable for the injuries and damages caused by their pets. The law defines owners as anyone who rears or harbors a dog. It also includes anyone who knowingly allows dogs to live on the property they occupy.
Illinois law holds dog owners strictly liable for any injuries and losses caused by their dogs. Besides the state-wide laws, local jurisdictions such as counties and cities also have ordinances regarding dog owners' liability for injuries and damages caused by their pets.
Strict Liability and How It Relates to Dog Bites
Dog bite cases in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois fall under two main theories of liability—strict liability and negligence. For this reason, dog owners cannot claim that they didn't know that their pets tend to jump on others, bite, act aggressively, or attack.
Illinois courts consider this knowledge irrelevant and assume that all dogs can be dangerous. Owners might be liable even if their dogs had no history of acting aggressively or injuring anyone because the law doesn't make exceptions for “first-time offenders.”
Claims related to dog bite attacks in Illinois typically fall under the Illinois Animal Control Act. Generally, the dog owner is liable if their dog bites you while you're in a place you have the legal right to be and didn't provoke the animal.
The animal control act also allows victims to recover damages for any dog attack besides dog bites. Thus, you may have a viable personal injury claim if you get scratched, pushed down, or otherwise hurt by a dog.
What Happens When Dogs Bite Children?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), children are the leading dog bite attack victims. Most of these attacks happen when the kids are engaged in their everyday activities within their neighborhoods. Since children are relatively weak and helpless, the attacks can be severe.
Why Dogs Bite Children
Parents are generally encouraged to teach their kids how to act safely around unfamiliar dogs.
Even so, there are several reasons why dogs target kids, including:
- Kids are livelier with dogs, and the animals may react out of fear
- Children are often unaware of the risks of approaching or playing with unfamiliar dogs.
- Since kids are smaller and weaker than adults, they're more susceptible targets for dog attacks.
Dog Bites Can Severely Harm Children
Children who fall victim to dog attacks can suffer severe and even life-threatening injuries. There have also been cases where dog attacks are so vicious that young people suffer catastrophic physical damage and trauma.
Canine aggression injuries range from lacerations and soft tissue damage to PTSD and wrongful death. Given these risks, the child is entitled to compensation for their medical expenses, long-term care bills, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Proving Your Dog Attack Claims
If a dog attacks your child, you may sue for damages. However, proving liability isn't always easy. You may need the advice and insight of an experienced Chicago dog bite attorney. At Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys, we can assist you with accessing your claim and gathering the evidence needed to support it.
We can do the following to help ensure that your child gets compensated for the dog attack they suffered:
- Determine the documentation you need to prove your claim.
- Identify the damages that may be available to you under Illinois law and local ordinances in Chicago.
- Identify and contact witnesses to testify on your behalf.
- Obtain animal authority and medical reports to affirm your claims.
- Evaluate the extent of the dog owner's negligence
The facts surrounding a child's dog attack-related injury are critical to your claim for damages. An attorney from the Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys in Chicago can help build your case and ensure you get the strongest possible verdict or settlement.
Are There Criminal Penalties When Dogs Attack Children?
Negligent dog owners can be criminally liable if the injuries suffered by victims are severe. That's particularly the case when the victims are minors. In this case, the negligent owners must pay the victims' medical expenses and could face prison. The judge may also order euthanasia if the dog has a history of attacking people, especially kids.
What to Do if a Dog Attacks Your Child
Here are the steps to take if your child gets bitten by a dog in Chicago
Seek Immediate Medical Treatment
Seeking immediate medical treatment ensures your child gets treated for possible infections, disfigurement, and emotional trauma. Early treatment also helps you obtain a medical report to prove that a dog attack caused your injuries. Such a medical report can serve as evidence in your claim for compensation.
Establish the Owner
You must determine who owns the violent dog. Also, request proof of necessary vaccines to ensure your child doesn't undergo painful and expensive jabs. The owner should be ready to provide such details. You may also want to establish whether they have homeowners' insurance to cover your expenses and damages.
Report the Incident
Notify local animal control authorities in Chicago about the attack. Since they maintain attack records, reporting the attacks helps to determine whether the dog has a history of attacking people, especially children.
Document Your Injuries
Document your child's injuries right from the time of the attack until they heal. This evidence can come in handy when proving the severity of the attack during an injury claim.
Contact a Dog Bite Attorney
Dog bite claims are relatively complex for anyone unfamiliar with them. A dog bite attorney from Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys can help you maneuver the legal process if you decide to pursue a personal injury claim.
Court Approvals for Dog Bite Settlements
There are special procedures to follow before settling with an insurance company in children's dog bite cases. The court must approve your child's dog bite settlement. Working with an attorney ensures that the insurance settlement is favorable and covers all your losses and damages. Moreover, your attorney will ensure that you obtain the court approval for the insurance settlement within the shortest time possible.
Dog Bites and Homeowners Insurance
When a dog bites someone, both the owner and victim are often unsure of what to do regarding compensation. Owners, in particular, often wonder whether their insurance policy covers these injuries or whether they have to cover the expenses out of pocket.
Does Homeowner Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
Dog bite insurance should be part of a homeowners' insurance liability cover. This coverage protects them from lawsuits besides covering damages caused by their dogs. A homeowner's insurance policy covers damages caused by their dogs within their premises and incidents away from their homes.
Generally, those who own the so-called dangerous breeds should consider increasing their liability insurance coverage. Although their insurance policies provide some coverage, the owners should top it up with umbrella insurance, which extends the liability coverage in the homeowners' insurance policy. This coverage comes in handy if their dog bites someone within their premises and they max out their insurance liability limits while covering the damages.
Those who own high-risk dogs should inform their insurance providers about it. Failure to do so means the insurance company can decline to cover medical expenses related to treatment and other liability costs. Moreover, homeowners can be liable if other people's dogs attack victims on their premises. Homeowners insurance can help cover the subsequent damages and losses.
Making a Recovery After a Dog Bite
When a dog bites you or a family member, one question that will run through your mind is, can I recover damages from homeowners' insurance?
The answer to this question is multi-faceted because it primarily depends on who owns the dog and where the attack happened. If the dog owner rents a house where the attack occurred, the homeowner's insurance policy should cover the damages. Likewise, renter's insurance can also cover your damages.
Given the complexity of homeowners insurance policies, work with an attorney when pursuing your claim. The insurance company may try to avoid liability and blame the dog owner and other parties. Your attorney can hold the insurance company liable for your damages and ensure it compensates you fully.
Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Attacks
Like most personal injury cases, dog bite claims in Illinois have a statute of limitations. You must file your claim or lawsuit within two years of the attack. Doing so outside the time frame may result in automatic dismissal. For this reason, review the statute of limitations that applies to your case and work with an experienced personal injury lawyer to obtain the strongest possible outcome.
What damages can I recover?
You can recover economic damages such as medical expenses, projected care costs, and lost wages. You can also recover non-economic damages such as pain, emotional suffering, and loss of consortium.
Why are children more vulnerable to attacks?
Children are more susceptible to dog attacks because they are generally weaker and more likely to upset neighborhood dogs.
Help Is a Phone Call Away
When a dog bites you or your child, seeking medical attention will be your topmost priority. However, treatment is often expensive, not to mention the other losses you may suffer. For this reason, you should explore ways of recovering your damages.
Homeowners insurance is among the options you can explore to recover your damages and losses by calling an experienced dig bite attorney in Chicago for your free case review.