Illinois courts apply a strict liability standard in almost all dog bite and animal attack cases. That means that a dog owner is liable for any harm that their dog causes, regardless of whether the owner had any reason to know that the dog was potentially dangerous or prone to biting. However, there are two exceptions that may derail a victim’s path to recovery under this theory of law: provocation and trespassing.
Provocation happens when a person teases or antagonizes a dog into behaving violently. They may hurt the dog by hitting it, pulling its tail, getting in its face, or engaging in other hostile or aggressive behaviors. If a dog bites a person only after being subjected to provocation, then the owner may be released from their liability and requirement to provide for the victim’s damages.
Additionally, trespassing can undo an owner’s strict liability with regard to their dog. If the dog is in the owner’s yard and bites someone who trespasses onto the owner’s land, then the owner may not be liable for their harm. This is because trespassers have no reason to be on the land that they have entered and, therefore, may not have an expectation of safety when they go where they are not permitted to be.
If a victim trespasses or provokes a dog, then they may not be able to recover their damages if they are bitten. It is important for victims of this special type of personal injury to work closely with attorneys to develop and argue their legal strategies for damages.