Understanding liability if you’re attacked or bitten by a dog

On Behalf of The Law Offices of Goldfine & Bowles, P.C.

February 12, 2018

Dogs are often called man’s best friend, but they can also be a terrifying enemy. Some dogs get raised in a way that encourages aggressive or dangerous behavior. Owners who want a dog to protect a property may train it to attack anyone but themselves. Some people beat, starve or mistreat dogs with the intent of making the dog fight other dogs in an illegal dog fighting ring. Sometimes, dogs that have always seemed like great companions suddenly snap, perhaps due to previous abuse or inbreeding, attacking someone who just happened to be nearby.

Whatever the cause of the dog bite attack, the victims often find themselves in a situation with a lot of medical bills. Thankfully, Illinois law is very clear that owners are responsible for any damage caused by their animals, even if the dog has never attacked anyone before. Victims have a right to compensation after experiencing a dog bite attack.

Any kind of dog can pose a risk of attack

When a dog attacks a human, the potential for damage is very real. Even small dogs, sometimes jokingly referred to as “ankle biters,” can do damage to someone within a few seconds. Tiny toy dogs can severely injure or permanently disfigure babies and children. They can also do damage to a person’s feet, legs and the critical Achilles tendon.

Larger dogs can also do significant damage. A single bite can leave permanent scars on the face, arms, neck or hands. A serious bite to the hand could require surgery and physical therapy. After all, this area has many tiny bones, muscles and tendons that must all work together for optimal function. The list of potential injuries from a bite is very long. Victims may also develop a fear of dogs, open spaces (if an unleashed dog attacked in a public space) or even post traumatic stress after a dog bite attack.

Illinois law holds owners responsible

Due to a high population density and other factors, including the rising popularity in some areas of dog breeds associated with aggressive behavior, Illinois ranks fourth in the United States for the number of dog bite attacks in the state. Little wonder then that the law in Illinois places the burden of responsibility on the owner of any dog that attacks a human, not on the victim.

There is an exception to the law, however. If you intentionally provoked the dog into attacking or were trespassing on the owner’s property at the time of the attack, the dog’s owner won’t be liable for the injuries caused by the dog. Otherwise, you have the right to seek compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. In some cases, you could receive a settlement from a homeowner’s insurance policy. In others, a personal injury lawsuit may be necessary.