After an Attack, You Need an Experienced Peoria Dog Bite Attorney
If you’ve suffered injuries in an attack by a dog or other animal, you may be entitled to sue the pet owner and recover damages under Illinois law. The path to recovery in an animal attack or dog bite lawsuit is somewhat different than a “standard” negligence-based injury lawsuit. Dog and animal bite litigation may seem straightforward at first glance, but depending on the circumstances, the case can quickly get out-of-hand. At Parker and Parker, your Peoria dog bite attorney will be there to help evaluate your underlying claims, develop an effective litigation strategy, and secure the maximum available compensation for your losses.
Strict Liability for Illinois Pet Owners
In Illinois, dog and animal attacks are subject to strict liability principles. Put simply, the pet owner can be held liable for the pet’s attack (or attack attempt, if it leads to injury) so long as the attack is causally linked to your injury. It is irrelevant whether the owner failed to exercise due care in preventing their pet from engaging in the attack.
For example, suppose that a pet owner is taking their dog for a walk around the neighborhood. They have done “everything right” by having a well-trained dog on a controlled leash, but something goes wrong and their dog suddenly lashes out at a passing pedestrian and bites them. Though the owner cannot necessarily be said to have acted negligently, they can still be held liable under strict liability principles.
Defenses to Dog Bite Claims
Under Illinois law, pet owners have two primary defenses in the event of a dog/animal attack lawsuit.
Trespassing is a complete defense to liability. Pet owners are not liable for attacks if the injured plaintiff was not lawfully on the property. For example, if you pass through a neighbor’s backyard without permission and are subsequently attacked by his guard dog, you cannot sue and recover damages, as you were trespassing at the time of the attack.
If you — the injured plaintiff — provoked the dog, thus leading to the bite/attack incident, Illinois law will bar you from recovering damages. Provocation is a complete defense against liability in the context of animal attacks.
Whether you actually provoked the animal is a factual question that will depend on the unique circumstances surrounding the attack.
For instance, if the owner warns you that their dog is “jumpy” and will react aggressively to petting, then the court might find that you provoked the dog if you ignored the owner’s warning and chose to pet the dog anyway.
Dogs Bites By the Numbers
Dogs are man’s best friends, along with other more exotic animals people keep as pets. Most dog interactions are fun and friendly. However, according to the American Veterinarian Medical Association, citing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
- More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S.
- More than 800,000 receive medical attention for dog bites.
- Almost 1 in 5 people bitten by dogs require medical attention.
- Children are the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured.
- Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs.
What if the Victim of a Dog Bite or Animal Attack was a Child?
Dog bites on children happen more frequently than attacks on adults. Although we can only speculate the reasons for this since we can’t read a dog’s mind, some common theories include:
- Children are physically smaller than adults, and this makes them easier targets and substantially more vulnerable. Plus, the injuries tend to be more severe.
- Children, perhaps conditioned by their interactions with a home pet dog, are commonly more unaware of the dangers of interacting with an unfamiliar dog.
- Children tend to be more playful with a dog, enjoying things like hugging a dog, approaching a dog without fear, which the dog may perceive as aggressive, and other activities that the dog may perceive as aggressive.
Many dog bites occur with dogs that a child is familiar with, often dogs in their own neighborhood. If a dog bites your child, contact your doctor, especially if the dog is not yours. Some dog bites require an emergency room visit, and some dog bites are more severe than they appear, potentially causing deeper internal injuries. Rabies and other kinds of infections from dogs can occur, thus dog bites should be treated immediately. A Peoria dog bite attorney at Parker & Parker can provide guidance on a child dog attack.
Our Peoria Dog Bite Attorney Explains Illinois’ Law Regarding Dog Owner Liability
No, the one bite rule does not apply in Illinois. In Illinois, under Code Section 510 ILCS 5/16, Illinois’ strict liability law for dog attacks means the owner of the pet is automatically liable for any injuries caused by his or her pet. It doesn’t matter if the dog has bitten before, has a propensity for aggressiveness, is a breed with a reputation for aggressiveness, or has never attacked before. The owner is still liable. A Peoria dog bite attorney at Parker & Parker understands strict liability laws and can explain how this affects your claim.
Dog Bites And Homeowners Insurance
A question that arises often in dog bite cases is whether or not homeowners insurance covers these claims. Owners of dogs, especially, want to know if they must come out of pocket for an injury caused by their pet or if their homeowners’ insurance policy will help foot the bill.
The good news is that the liability coverage in most homeowners insurance policies will cover the bites of the homeowner’s dog. To be certain about your particular policy, you will need to look at the verbiage of the policy itself. If the coverage is not there, and you own a dog, it is best to speak to your agent about adding this type of coverage.
Contact a Peoria Dog Bite Attorney at Parker & Parker for Legal Assistance
At Parker & Parker, our attorneys have extensive experience advocating on behalf of those who have been harmed in a variety of injury scenarios, including dog and animal bite incidents. The breadth of our experience has taught us the value of truly client-centered service. We engage closely with the client from an early stage, thus ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the facts and valuable insight into their goals and concerns throughout the litigation process.