Chicago is famous for its dogs. No, not just the ones sporting peppers you can buy at Wrigley Field!
We are also well-regarded for being a dog-friendly city — the fifth-best in the world, in fact, according to a study by the website Protect My Paws. The study ranked Chicago as the #1 dog-friendly city in the U.S., beating out the likes of New York, Philly, and others because we have the highest density of dogs and a wide range of available pet amenities.
Just because we are dog-friendly, though, doesn’t mean that every dog is friendly. While many of us love to take a bite out of a famous Chicago hot dog, sometimes real dogs would love to take a bite out of us instead!
The results are often no laughing matter–severe injuries, damage to tendons and bones, and possible infections. Some dog attacks are fatal, especially when minors are involved.
The Fakhouri Firm Accident and Injury Lawyers take your health and your finances seriously, which is why we fight hard for our client’s legal rights when they have been viciously attacked.
Illinois imposes strict laws on dog bites, meaning you could be entitled to compensation regardless of whether or not the dog was known to be dangerous prior to their first bite.
Find out more about your legal rights and what damages you could be eligible to pursue during a free, confidential, no-obligation case review. Call 312-999-9990 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation with an experienced attorney today.
Why Hire a Chicago Dog Bite Attorney?
Dog bite claims have several challenges, even in a state like Illinois, where they can be pursued under a strict liability system. Injury victims must be prepared to document the full extent of their medical condition, including projecting the future costs of any needed care.
They must also be ready to handle common defenses to dog bite injury claims, such as by demonstrating that they did nothing to provoke the animal and that they had a right to be in the location where the attack occurred.
While dog attacks can be severe, insurers and even sometimes juries act like they expect injury victims to prove that their condition is severe enough to warrant a claim. The burden can then fall on the plaintiff to illustrate the seriousness of their injuries and show a clear connection between their condition and the attack.
Dog bite claimants may be eager to settle their case quickly — even embarrassed at the circumstances leading up to their injury — and, as a result, fail to seek the full amount of compensation to which they should rightfully be entitled.
Don’t trust a dog owner, property owner, or even an insurance company to make the situation “right” purely out of the goodness of their own heart. Take steps to explore the full extent of your claim with the help of a professional attorney, who can assist you with determining appropriate sources of compensation and calculating the full extent of damages you have suffered.
The Fakhouri Firm is ready and waiting to assist new clients who have been hurt by a dog or any other animal. When your financial and medical future is on the line, we are here to represent you and protect your legal interests.
Important Illinois Dog Bite Laws to Know
The most important law to know in Illinois, one that has been mentioned previously, is that the state imposes a strict liability system for any “animal attack.”
“If a dog or other animal, without provocation, attacks, attempts to attack or injures any person who is peaceably conducting themselves in any place where they may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in civil damages to such person for the full amount of the injury proximately caused thereby.”
This statute indicates that an owner (or other person responsible for handling and controlling the dog) is liable for the damages their dog inflicts, even if they had no prior knowledge that the dog was dangerous or could be dangerous.
In other states, dog attack victims may be forced to prove that the owner had knowledge of the dog’s aggression based on prior incidents or, at the very least, had reason to assume that the dog was capable of inflicting harm.
This negligence-based tort system shifts the burden of proof even more heavily upon the plaintiff, who is then forced to examine the owner’s actions and history of the dog’s behaviors prior to the incident.
Many attorneys refer to this type of system as a “one bite” rule because it effectively requires the dog to have bitten (or shown undue aggression towards) another person or animal before the owner can be considered negligent.
Dog Bite Claimants Should Prepare for Two Common Defenses
Illinois, fortunately, allows someone to file a claim without having to prove that the dog had acted dangerously before. At the same time, the language of the statute opens up the possibility of defenses for the dog owner in certain situations.
Meeting the minimum level of proof that either of these situations can be tricky, sometimes requiring the services of an attorney to adequately document and argue that the attack was improper and unwarranted.
Proving the Attack Was Unprovoked
Illinois law, including case law established from prior rulings, makes room for a dog to rightfully defend itself in the face of an obvious provocation. A “provocation” can include any situation where the dog was attacked first without sufficient reasons or where a dog would be expected to defend itself in response to the plausible threat of an attack.
What’s key here is not the mental processes of the dog itself but whether or not a “reasonable person” would know that their actions are likely to result in an animal attack. This can include situations where the person was teasing the animal or, in some cases, when they approach an animal that is vulnerable or guarding resources like food.
It is much less likely to include situations where a person is completely ignoring the dog or conducting a routine they have known to be safe before, such as walking past a fenced area.
When seeking a dog injury claim, Illinois law places the burden of proof upon the injury victim from the onset to establish that the attack was unprovoked. Doing so may require both material evidence and an understanding of the law and things like jury instructions in order to construct a solid and compelling legal argument for liability.
Proving You Had a Right to Be in the Area
Some dog attack claims may be dismissed by a judge if the claimant cannot prove that they had a legal right to be in the area where an attack occurred.
Naturally, proving that the injury victim had a right to be somewhere is easier when they are in a public area or an area of their own property. It can also include common areas shared between a small group of individuals, such as an apartment building hallway.
In most cases, an injury victim is also considered to have the right to be in publicly accessible areas within or adjacent to private property, such as the walkway up to a house or areas of an alley they have legitimate reasons for crossing through.
Clear signage or markings that a dangerous dog is nearby can make it less likely that the injury victim can claim that they were within their rights to be somewhere and attacked unprovoked.
But even when this is the case, if the signage was vague or the animal had escaped from its confines, that sort of defense may not hold water.
Indirect Injuries and Non-Physical Injuries
A dog owner can still be held liable for the costs of an injury that occurred while the victim was defending themself or trying to escape from the attack, even if the dog itself wasn’t the actual cause of the injury.
For example, if someone scaled a fence to avoid a dog and fell off or cut themselves badly, the dog may still be considered to be the primary cause of the injury. What’s important in this type of claim is that the victim had a credible fear that they would be hurt and that their actions to defend against or avoid the attack would not have been necessary otherwise.
A dog owner may also be liable for non-physical injuries if the attack victim was placed directly in a “zone of physical danger” and can prove that their emotional distress or mental anguish led to significant and lasting harm, such as the development or worsening of a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) condition (see Allen v. Otis, 206 Ill. App. 3d 173, 563 N.E.2d 826, appeal denied, 141 Ill. 2d 535, 580 N.E.2d 107 (1990)).
However, it may be difficult for the injury victim to receive damages for this type of injury without the accompaniment of a medically diagnosed physical injury
Liability for Someone Other Than the Owner
The person considered most responsible for the animal attack was the person responsible for the animal at that time. That can include a caretaker or family member present at the home while the attack occurred, and it may also include a professional dog walker or dog daycare in some circumstances.
A property owner (i.e., landlord) may be considered responsible for an attack only if the attack occurred outside of the dog-owning tenant’s property as a result of the property owner’s own negligence.
For example, if a property owner failed to install a sturdy door after a tenant notified them of needed repairs, and an animal escaped into the street or a common area and bit someone, it may be possible for the property owner to hold complete or partial liability for the incident.
Will a Dog Be Euthanized If It Bites Me?
No. It is standard procedure to observe a dog for ten days after it has bitten someone to screen the animal for rabies. Once it has been cleared, it will likely be released back to its owner.
A dog will only be euthanized if it is ordered by a judge, who will only do so when it can be established to be extremely dangerous and likely to cause major harm again.
Damages Available in a Chicago Dog Bite Case
While every case is unique, most will include some or all of the following types of damages:
- Repayment of medical bills made necessary by the attack, including the projected costs of future injury treatment.
- Lost wages for the time needed off work to recover or attend appointments can also compensate for the difference in earnings if an injury leads to an inability to perform prior job tasks, either permanently or temporarily.
- Out-of-pocket costs, including transportation costs to medical appointments and the costs of over-the-counter supplies needed to treat and dress the injury.
- Damage suffered during the attack, including any ruined clothing and accessories, as well as damaged devices, vehicles, etc.
- Pain and suffering, which can be substantial in these cases because of the terror an attack can inflict, including long-term trauma and phobias
What to Do If You Have Been Hurt by a Dog or Other Animal
There are a number of steps you should take in the event of an attack by a dog — or any other animal.
1 Get to a safe place where the animal can’t reach you, or take steps to have the animal safely restrained.
2 Get the contact information of the owner or person in charge of the animal immediately. If possible, see if the animal is current on vaccinations for rabies.
3 Get contact information for eyewitnesses, and document the scene of the attack if you are able. You will want photos establishing the location as well as photos of your initial injury.
4 Seek immediate medical attention. If you aren’t sure if you’re seriously hurt, still go get a diagnosis and evaluate your condition fully. Some injuries can worsen, and dog bites have a high risk of major infection.
5 Reach out to an attorney who can see what insurance or other sources of compensation are available.
The most common source of compensation will be from the dog owner’s property insurance, but some homeowners’ policies won’t cover animal attacks, especially when they occur off the owner’s property.
An experienced dog bite attorney can review all insurance policies available and fact-check the language of the policy to statements made by the dog owner or insurance representative.
Importantly, protect your right to seek a claim by not admitting fault or otherwise discussing the case with anyone beyond what is necessary. When possible, defer all communications to your attorney and remain quiet about the case throughout its duration.
Ready to Have a Chicago Dog Bite Law Firm Get You Back on Your Feet Financially?
The costs of treating a dog injury can be high, and you may lose income, especially if the injury harms your ability to ply your trade. Hiring an attorney gives you the best chance at recovering all compensation possible in order to help you recover from this traumatizing event.
When it comes to Chicago dogs, we never put ketchup on the culinary kind, but we also want everyone to be safe from the harm the actual animal can cause. As a dog-loving city, we want every animal to be protected and safe, and that can’t happen when they are allowed to be out of control and capable of hurting other people, pets, or wildlife.
The Fakhouri Firm Accident and Injury Lawyers is eager to represent you and protect your legal rights. Reach out to us today at 312-999-9990 or contact us online to schedule a free, no-obligation attorney who can help you recover.