Thousands of people spend time in the hospital every year due to dog bite injuries. That’s not much considering the tens of millions of dogs in the United States, but it’s still a significant number. And if you’re one of them, the odds against it happening don’t matter anymore.
At Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys, we realize that a dog attack in Joliet, IL, can be a terrifying experience. In particular, an attack upon a child can leave lifelong emotional as well as physical scars. Naturally, you cannot sue the dog. But you can file a claim against the dog owner, and you can win without proving the dog owner was at fault.
Our team handles all Illinois personal injury matters. It has decades of experience representing clients for truck accidents, Joliet motorcycle injuries, Joliet wrongful death claims, brain injuries, Joliet Uber accidents, and more.
How Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help After a Dog Bite in Joliet
At Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys, we’re passionate about helping personal injury victims in Joliet, Illinois, including those suffering from a dog bite or other similar attack. Our Joliet personal injury lawyers have decades of combined experience and have recovered more than $100 million for our clients to date.
Following is a listing of some of the highlights of how we can help with your case. Try to think of it as just the tip of the iceberg:
- Conduct a free initial consultation, where we can listen to your story and explore your options.;
- Gather evidence;
- Assess the true value of your claim;
- Negotiate with the insurance company;
- File a lawsuit to beat the statute of limitations deadline (and strike fear into the hearts of the opposing party);
- Engage in pretrial discovery;
- Recruit expert witnesses and bring them up to speed on your case;
- Advise you against mistakes that could harm your claim, like talking about your case on social media; and
- Represent you at trial if necessary.
Contact our law offices today to get started. Your initial case review is free of charge.
Illinois Dog Bite Law: The Animal Control Act
The Illinois Animal Control Act is the primary Illinois statute governing dog bites (as well as animal behavior in general). The first fact you need to remember about Illinois dog bite law is that Illinois, unlike many other states, does not have a “one bite rule” that allows the owner to escape liability if the dog has never acted aggressively before. The owner is liable the first time, even if the dog had been perfectly behaved in the past.
The Elements of a Claim
The following elements trigger dog bite liability under the Animal Control Act:
- The dog belonged to the defendant;
- The victim suffered an injury;
- The dog caused the victim’s injury;
- The victim did not provoke the dog (any breach of the peace might constitute provocation, even if not directed at the dog); and
- The victim was not trespassing at the time.
You have to prove all of the foregoing elements to win. Failure to prove even one of them will defeat your claim.
The “Preponderance of the Evidence” Standard
The “preponderance of the evidence” standard applies to personal injury claims. It is much easier to meet than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies to criminal prosecutions.
All you need to do is to prove that the claim you are asserting (the defendant owns the dog, for example) is more likely than not to be true. A 51% likelihood is enough. The “preponderance of the evidence” standard, however, applies to every single element of a claim.
Damages Available in Joliet Dog Bite Cases
The State of Illinois allows you to seek the following types of economic and non-economic damages for a dog bite claim:
- Medical expenses past, present, and future);
- Lost earnings;
- Diminished earning capacity (diminished ability to work in the future);
- Out-of-pocket expenses such as house cleaning, child care, and medical equipment;
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress and mental anguish (a lifelong phobia of dogs, for example);
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Your parent, spouse, or child might also file a “loss of consortium” claim for the loss of love, care, companionship, intimacy, and more. This claim is for your loved one to file, not you.
Special Case: Punitive Damages
You might qualify for punitive damages if the owner’s acts were intentional or extremely negligent. A perfect example would be if the owner “sicced” their dog on you without provocation.
Courts award punitive damages in addition to the other forms of damages listed above. Most Illinois courts are reluctant to award punitive damages.
Special Case: Wrongful Death
If your loved one died as a result of a dog attack, the executor of your loved one’s probate estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Damages can be immense, but they are different from personal injury damages.
The Statute of Limitations Deadline
The statute of limitations, which is different in every state, sets the deadline by which you must either file a lawsuit, finalize a settlement, or abandon your claim. Under the Illinois personal injury statute of limitations, you usually have until two years after the accident.
Exceptions apply under exceptional circumstances. The two-year wrongful death statute of limitations clock begins ticking on the day of death if it is different from the date of the dog bite. An attorney can help you confirm the appropriate deadline for your case.
Should I Settle or Go to Court?
The best answer to this “yes or no” question might just be “both,” depending on the circumstances. It’s true that almost every dog bite victim prefers settlement over trial. It’s quicker and easier that way. Some defendants, however, stubbornly resist settling. That’s when it might be time to roll up your sleeves and file a lawsuit.
Filing a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll go to trial, although it could mean that. It does, however, offer intimidation value because it sets the clock ticking towards a trial. Filing a lawsuit might just result in exactly the kind of “attitude adjustment” that you need to get negotiations rolling again.
There are two other reasons why you might want to file a lawsuit over a claim that you eventually intend to settle:
- To beat the statute of limitations deadline. Once you beat it by filing a lawsuit, you will never have to worry about it again.
- To qualify for the court-supervised pretrial discovery process. Pretrial discovery offers you several legal weapons that can help you gather enough admissible evidence to win your case.
Pursuing a personal injury claim in court is easier if it qualifies for Small Claims Court ($10,000 or less). If your claim doesn’t qualify for Small Claims Court, you will definitely need a lawyer.
Suppose your child suffers a serious dog bite while you are visiting your best friend Joe’s house.
Since the average dog bite claim is worth nearly $50,000, your claim could be substantial. Nevertheless, you do not wish to drive your best friend into bankruptcy with a claim so large that it might cause him to have to sell his house to pay for it. So what do you do?
Fortunately, Joe’s homeowners’ insurance (or renter’s insurance if he rents) will probably pay your claim. Homeowners’ insurance even pays out if the dog bite occurs outside the home.
Previously, some Illinois insurers would refuse to cover injuries inflicted by certain breeds of dogs thought to be dangerous. The Illinois legislature ended this practice with legislation that prohibits it. In Illinois, homeowners’ insurance policies must treat all dogs the same when it comes to insurability.
The real problem you might face is limitations on the amount of the claim that the homeowners’ insurance policy will cover. Some policies limit dog bite coverage to only $5,000, which might not be nearly enough.
What Does It Cost To Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer in Joliet?
Joliet personal injury lawyers work on the same terms as personal injury lawyers all over the United States do. Unlike most lawyers, personal injury lawyers do not charge by the “billable hour”.
Instead, they calculate their fees as a pre-agreed percentage of whatever amount they are able to win for you (a “contingency fee”). The typical contingency fee ranges from 30% to 40%, depending on whether you eventually go to trial.
Under the contingency fee system, you pay nothing upfront-–and nothing, ever, unless you get compensation. All you need is a promising claim, meaning one that is likely to win and one that is likely to win a lot of money.
Insurance Company Tricks
Watch out for the following “dirty tricks” from the insurance company:
- Arbitrary denial of your claim;
- Asserting that your injury was pre-existing;
- A “lowball” settlement offer;
- Taking a recorded statement from you and then using your own words against you;
- Infiltrating your social network accounts, looking for evidence to use against you; and
- Lulling you to sleep with numerous small delays, hoping that you will miss the statute of limitations deadline.
These are only six out of hundreds of tricks that the average insurance adjuster might have up their sleeve.
Contact a Joliet Dog Bite Lawyer Today for a Free Case Review
We understand the pain, fear, and uncertainty you might be experiencing in the aftermath of a dog bite attack. We believe in justice, and we are here to offer you our guidance and support.
Let the Joliet dog bite lawyers at Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys provide you with the peace of mind you deserve. Call today to schedule a free initial case consultation.
Visit Our Personal Injury Law Office in Joliet, IL
Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys
195 Springfield Ave
Joliet, IL 60435
Monday: 8:30 AM – 5 PM
Tuesday: 8:30 AM – 5 PM
Wednesday: 8:30 AM – 5 PM
Thursday: 8:30 AM – 5 PM
Friday: 8:30 AM – 5 PM
Saturday: 8:30 AM – 12 PM