An introduction to liability for dog bites in Illinois

Dog bite injuries should be taken very seriously both from a medical standpoint and a legal one.

Illinois ranked second in the nation among states for dog bite claims with State Farm, according to the Olean Times Herald. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that 4.5 million people are bitten annually across the nation.

The Herald reports that kids are at highest risk, receiving over half of all bites, especially those from five to nine years old. Home service providers, including mail carriers, and the elderly are also at high risk.

Justice for Buddy Act

On January 1, 2019, a new law became effective in our state: The Justice for Buddy Act. The law deems a dog owner to be reckless if they let a dog run without a leash when the dog is known to be dangerous because it has killed another dog in the past year. A reckless dog owner can have their dog taken away for potential rehoming and may not own another for up to three years.

Animal Control Act

Under the Illinois Animal Control Act, if a dog attacks, bites or injures someone without any provocation and the person was acting peaceably in a place not illegal for them to be, the dog owner or person in control of the dog is liable for damages for the “full amount of the injury proximately caused thereby.” There is no requirement that the owner knew the dog could be vicious or even that the victim prove the dog was dangerous.

Personal injury lawsuit

In addition to a lawsuit under the Animal Control Act, Illinois also allows a common law negligence claim for a dog bite injury. There must be some fault on the part of the owner such as neglect of the animal, failure to keep control of the dog or not taking precautions when the dog has a tendency toward aggression. The negligence must have caused the bite and injury for liability to attach. The plaintiffs, however, are not required to show that the dog had a vicious nature.

Dog bites can cause serious injuries and long-term effects

Dog bites can be devastating, so in a dog bite suit, the plaintiff must submit extensive evidence of the injury and its ramifications. For example, bites may cause:

  • Puncture wounds
  • Lacerations and cuts
  • Bruising
  • Injury to eyes, ears, noses and mouths
  • Falling injuries, including bone fractures
  • PTSD, anxiety or depression
  • Scarring
  • Facial and neck injuries
  • Severe pain
  • Infection, including tetanus, rabies, MRSA, Pasteurella and others
  • Injury to muscle, nerve, tendons and blood vessels
  • And others

Damages awarded should be enough to cover past, current and future medical care as well as potentially:

  • Reconstructive and cosmetic surgery
  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Counseling or psychotherapy
  • Medical equipment
  • And more

Anyone in Illinois who is injured by a dog or whose child or other loved one is injured should seek legal advice from an experienced dog bite attorney as soon as possible to understand the legal options available for recovery of damages.